Winston-Salem organization Authoring Action is accepting referrals for their fall session of the Just Us filmmaking program. 

Over the course of 16 weeks, those involved in the program will write and produce short films to be shown at a/perture Cinema. 

Participants are primarily young people facing barriers in their lives, whether they've been involved in the juvenile justice system or are at risk of getting there. Court counselors, school resource officers, social workers, teachers and parents can refer students to the program if they see a need. 

Authoring Action Executive Director Lynn Rhoades says that the students are required to reflect on their lives throughout the program — where they are now and what they need to do to reach their destiny. 

The process starts with creative writing. The students write three pieces related to the theme of destiny and bridging the gap.

"We feel that the arts are a really important vehicle for giving teens the tools they need to really be able to look at their lives," she said. "At that age, they don't have a lot of connection with consequences for the choices they make. And through our writing process, we're really getting them to consider their lives, and really write about it and think about it."

Rhoades recalled one student created a piece about “the court.” She spoke about how the basketball court was where she wanted to be, but how she'd also had the experience of going to court. 

Once their pieces are written, the students develop scripts for the film as well as shot lists, which map out each scene. Then with the help of professionals, the teenagers learn about costumes, props, makeup, music and more.

But Rhoades said that the program teaches students about more than just filmmaking. 

“They're learning to work as a team. They're learning to start something and finish it. They see a completed product,” she said. “They learn problem-solving skills, critical thinking.”

When their films premiere at the theater, Rhoades said the students are prepared to answer questions from the audience about their film. They receive a certificate and a stipend for the hours they spent working on their film. 

Through this process, Rhoades said the teens learn that they have something important to say. 

“It's really life-changing. We have kids who come to us who are very shy and unsure of themselves and they leave with a sense of themselves and determination and more strength and power,” she said. “They get in touch with their own power, build their own esteem.”

More information about the program is available on the Authoring Action website. 

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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