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About Us


Founded in 2013, the Youth Documentary Academy (YDA) trains young people how to direct and produce their own documentary films.  For seven weeks, students learn all aspects of documentary filmmaking from professional filmmakers, faculty and guest artists.  At the end of the program, students complete a film, receive a certificate, and learn how to distribute their films to film festivals, community organizations and television outlets.

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More about YDA

The Youth Documentary Academy (YDA) is housed at the Bemis School of Art in Colorado Springs.  Students from the ages of 14 to 18 are encouraged to apply to one of two summer sessions. What kinds of stories are ideal to explore in the Youth Documentary Academy?  The answer is: personal, family or social-issue stories that tell us something we don’t know, especially something about diverse communities.

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It might be a story about coming from a first generation immigrant family or about growing up as an LGBT person or coming from foster care or from a less traditional family.  It could be a story about living with a disability or living with a family member who has a disability.  Or maybe it’s a story about growing up with few financial resources or feeling discriminated against because of your religion or the color of your skin. Or even how a social or environmental issue may have affected you or your community.


leftWhat Students get from YDA

YDA offers up to 30 fellowships per year in Colorado Springs and the Bay Area to support training, equipment and facilities. At the end of seven weeks, YDA graduates learn to make a short documentary film, be exposed to professional filmmakers in the area, make connections with other young filmmakers, and visit local colleges and universities to learn more about careers in documentary filmmaking and storytelling. The program is intensely fun but also very rigorous. YDA is looking for young people who are willing to share their stories with each other, who are deeply respectful of others’ differences, and who will work very hard.

What an honor to be part of this year’s launch of the Youth Documentary Academy.  From original concept to finished films, community response has been tremendous.  We look forward to partnering with YDA well into the future.

Linda Broker, Director, Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute

YDA students develop original approaches to telling stories that matter to them and will matter to a broad public audience. They succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.

Kathryn Eastburn, Writer and Instructor