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Shooting for the Stars

By Karen Thurm Safran

The magic of the camera in the hands of great directors makes kids all over the world dream of stardom. However, the world of cinematography is notoriously difficult to break into, but young, aspiring filmmakers take heart!

The Windy Hill Kids Film Festival, debuting this spring, is on a slightly smaller scale than the larger festivals in New York and Hollywood"for now. Opening in Menlo Park on April 9th, Windy Hill will showcase films by young film producers in 4th grade through high school. The festival organizers are expecting several films this year throughout the South Bay Area. And with inspirational leaders like its young founder, Shelby Rachleff, the sky's the limit. Better watch out, Hollywood - this kid is dreaming big.

A 7th grader from Menlo School, Shelby has taken on no small challenge. Brought on by her love of the cinema, Shelby's film festival will be the first of its kind in the greater Palo Alto San Mateo area. The festival will encourage dialogue between filmmakers and community members in a supportive setting.

Shelby first decided to organize a film festival after attending the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. "This summer, I went to see the Telluride Film Festival with my parents and was inspired to try to emulate what I saw, said Shelby. "I thought there are so many of my friends who like to play around with Apple's easy-to-use iMovie and digital cameras - if they could share their movies with other kids, it might inspire them while also being tons of fun!"

This future producer caught the bug for filmmaking at a young age. Even as a little kid, she would think of ways to translate her favorite books into screenplays.

"I'm a pretty voracious reader, said Shelby. "I would make notes on which of the books I read might make great movies. I'd ask my parents how I could make a career out of that when I was older."

In pursuit of this dream, Shelby attended iD Tech Camps, a weeklong summer technology program for students ages seven to 17 at Stanford University and other prestigious universities nationwide. At camp, Shelby took Web Design and Digital Video & Movie Production courses.

"At camp, I worked in a group to produce a movie. We edited it with help from our instructor, said Shelby. "It was really exciting using professional products like Canon digital cameras, Adobe After Effects for special effects and Apple Final Cut Pro for professional movie editing. We had a blast, learned so much and were definitely inspired to produce more films. It was a great experience to get us started."

Shelby's exposure to cutting-edge movie software and hardware helped focus her interest in movie making and raised the bar of her expectations. After attending camp at Stanford University, she became inspired to try new things in her movies.

"Going to iD Tech Camps made me want to use Final Cut Pro to incorporate more awesome stuff into my movies to make them more sophisticated, said Shelby. "It was my first real introduction to using specific techniques, such as imported sounds, different logos, and experiments with lighting. It has definitely spurred my interest in filmmaking."

"But Shelby soon learned that running a film festival is more than just producing great films. As April approaches, she is busy calling schools to confirm their participation, sending emails about the festival, checking the sound system and viewing the entries. She is also preparing her welcome speech and her introductions of the various films. The guest speaker at the festival will be Gardner Loulan, a Portola Valley native and VJ for MTV's mtvU show.

"Gardner is really cool and will be inspiring to kids, said Shelby. "We wanted to make this festival really non-threatening for kids - even though there's a judge, it will be really non-threatening and a supportive environment for kids of ALL levels to show their entries. The idea is to get everyone involved and hopefully build up momentum so we can follow up with this festival in years to come."

The Windy Hill Kids Film Festival is off to a roaring start. And with up and rising film producers like Shelby leading the way, who knows? One of today's entrants could be inspired to be tomorrow's big star.

About The Author
Karen Thurm Safran writes for iD Tech Camps which is the nation's leading and most recommended summer technology camp. They offer day and overnight camps in weekly and multi-week sessions for kids and teens ages 7-17. They are hosted at premiere universities including Stanford, Princeton and MIT and include video game creation, digital video, programming, robotics, Flash animation and more. iD Tech Camps website is

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