Maddie Peckenpaugh was already a seasoned filmmaker when she enrolled
in the Movies by Kids camp this summer.
For a recent class project, the Newport Heights Elementary School
sixth-grader made a live-action thriller entitled "Rich Girl Ransom,"
in which two girls become friends after being kidnapped by gangsters.
So when she entered the weeklong Movies by Kids class at the West
Newport Community Center, she was ready to try surrealism. Her
group's animated film, "Eaten," features a plot that would make David
"A guy takes his hamster out to play with him, and the hamster
eats him," said Edy Manetta, 12, one of Maddie's partners on the
project. "He finds his long-lost girlfriend inside the hamster's
stomach, so they live happily ever after. But outside, in the real
world, somebody's buying the hamster."
Just one question: How did the hero's girlfriend end up in the
"The hamster ate her, too," Edy explained.
The 34 participants in the Movies by Kids camp had only a few
minutes of footage to work with, so they got creative. Another short
film featured living French fries that construct pyramids.
During the class, 7- to 12-year-olds blazed through the steps of
creating a motion picture -- two motion pictures, in fact. After
outlining plots and drawing storyboards on Monday, the crews cut and
pasted construction-paper scenes, filmed them in stop motion and
recorded voice-overs. Midway through the week, they started the
process again using clay.
Megan Moricca, 8, of Newport Beach, enrolled in the class after
her mother learned about it on the Internet. Among the unusual
images in her group's film is a reporter with a typewriting dog as a
"I got it from a movie on [the website] Fastplayer," Megan said.
Tobin Felfe, the camp's advisor, managed to keep his
air-conditioned classroom as Hollywood-like as possible.
When the talking got too loud, he shouted, "Quiet on the set!" and
the students provided an echo, yelling back "Quiet on the set!"
A film major at UC San Diego, Felfe served as an instructor in
the Movies for Kids program in Los Angeles last year and decided to
bring it down to his hometown of Newport Beach this summer. Last
week, he led the camp in digital animation and claymation; digital
filmmaking will follow on Aug. 8.
In the end, each participant in the class will receive a DVD with
a copy of his or her film. Felfe and Frank Yannarella, the assistant
instructor, allow almost any subject matter as long as it maintains a
"We don't allow any violence," Felfe said. "All the movies have to
be age-appropriate. When we announce that at the beginning, we always
get moans and groans."
* SCHOOL'S OUT is a weekly feature in which education writer
Michael Miller visits a summer camp and writes about the experience.