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YDA’s upcoming trip to Washington DC featured in the Gazette




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Four student filmmakers from Youth Documentary Academy head to Washington, D.C.
By: Jen Mulson
May 15, 2016 at 2:55 pm
Antreise Lacy, a 17-year-old Widefield High School junior, was so frustrated with the negative stereotypes about the skin color of black girls that she made a movie about it.

“Shade,” a 10-minute film Lacy produced and directed last summer during the Youth Documentary Academy, is one of four films produced by YDA graduates that were selected for a Congressional screening Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Bailey Francisco, a Fountain-Fort Carson High School graduate, Madison Legg, a junior at Cheyenne Mountain High School, Stevie Earnest, a senior at Sand Creek High School, and Lacy participated in the first two summer sessions of YDA, a free intensive seven-week filmmaking class held at Bemis School of Art in association with the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute.
They’ll spend four days this week meeting with U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and members of nonprofits who work on issues that the students’ films touch on. Also on the agenda: A question and answer session about their films, a White House tour and a potential meeting with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

“It’s going to open so many doors that I have yet to see can open for me,” said Lacy, now 18 and set to graduate this week. “It’s one step in the right direction for me. Not that many people get to meet with Congress or organizations like this. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

The students headed to Washington didn’t shy away from divisive topics in their movies – it was those topics that prompted the YDA team to select their films for the screening.

“The social issues they deal with are relevant to hot button social topics and issues the congresswoman resonates with,” said Tom Shepard, a documentary filmmaker and director and founder of YDA. He’ll accompany the kids to Washington. “Particularly the mental and health issues.”

Francisco’s film “After War” chronicled his father’s post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury and how it impacted his family. Legg’s “Under the Wire” examined teen suicide through the lens of his brother’s attempted suicide and Earnest’s “Both Genders” introduces audiences to a transgender youth who faced resistance from his family and community.
“Bringing the films onto a national stage is huge,” Shepard said. “It’s a huge opportunity for the kids to engage nationally and it’s also a way for YDA to launch a community outreach program and get the films out into the world. We’ve been getting feedback that the films could be useful outside of the Springs.”

A dozen Southern Colorado students ranging in age from 14-18 were accepted into the first YDA in 2014. They spent most of June and July learning about documentary filmmaking from professional filmmakers, faculty and guest artists and in the process created their own film.

Word has gotten out about the program since then – out of about 45 teens who applied for this summer’s session a dozen were accepted. The academy starts June 1.

“It gives youth a voice,” Shepard said. “When you think about an election year, in electoral politics youth are disregarded, but when you watch the films you see young people have strong ideas about issues politicians are talking about. Anybody watching the films will walk away with a more thoughtful, deeper understanding of really complicated social issues.”

Major funding for the program is provided by the Russell Grinnell Memorial Trust.
“Most of these programs exist in San Francisco and L.A. and few of them exist in the Midwest or the South,” said Shepard. “Often even here they tend toward advantaged families. But this is a fully subsidized program. We’re trying to level the playing field and give young people tools. And they’re courageous. They’re bringing to the table their own stories in many cases. We give them the technical skills and they just soar.”