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Making Movie Magic

Young filmmakers' camp puts children in the director's chair
by: JAIME VALDEZ, Adam Thomas (left) gets some pointers from Greg Winterrowd on how to take still shots that will later be used to create a claymation flick.

While it may look like any other house on Sherwood Boulevard, the one that sits at 21859 actually holds the keys to an alternate universe.

And that's just the way Amy Taylor likes it.

Taylor is the co-owner of Burnit Studio, a business focused on helping people keep video record of the most important events in their lives. The building is filled with advanced computer software, giving consumers an abundance of options for how to preserve their precious memories. That same software is used to give local 9- to 14-year-olds the chance to experience a little Hollywood with a young filmmakers' camp.

During the weeklong camp, children learn about lighting, makeup, scripts, camera angle, sequence and music; they are also given the chance to create a short mini-film, complete with music they composed themselves.

As a former film editor, Taylor said she first started thinking about opening a place like Burnit Studio when she stepped back from the film industry in order to be a full-time mother. Her children are now 9 and 7, but she said ever since they were really young she loved to videotape with them and teach them the rules of filmmaking. When she and her husband opened the studio a few months ago, she thought it would be good to give other children the chance to explore the world of film much in the same way her own had been able to, thus bringing the young filmmakers' camp to life.

Vanessa Rice, a 9-year-old Tigard resident, said she came to the camp because she thought it sounded like fun. Throughout the course of the week Rice learned about makeup by being transformed into a zombie, shot some footage at the park and worked on original music for a claymation film she and another camper were putting together. She also learned about blue and green screens, as well as what really happens when actors film fight scenes for movies (hint: they don't really hit each other).

While she said she had fun working with video and music, the experience as a whole was something she enjoyed.

'I don't really have a favorite part,' Rice said. 'I like all of it.'

An interest in filming is what led Adam Thomas to join the camp. Thomas, 13, had used Legos and an old videocamera to make films at home; at the young filmmakers' camp he was able to use more elaborate equipment and props to make a claymation film titled 'From The Ground Up.' He also picked up tips and ideas to use as he contemplates a career in the film world.

'Making this movie, actually setting it up … I learned a lot,' Thomas said.

The camp takes up five full days, running Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Taylor said many times the students are having so much fun they do not want to go home. Because she only runs the camps when there are four or more students, Taylor has had to postpone a couple in order to meet the minimum requirement. Even so, she and all the participants for the two sessions she has booked have had a lot of fun.

'It's been a hit all the way around,' she said. 'It's just been a total blast!'

Greg Winterrowd, a 2006 graduate of Montana State's film program, helps out with running the camps. Winterrowd said he and Taylor collaborated on the idea of the camp, and so far he has been very pleased with the result.

'I've been really happy with the way it turned out and I'm excited to see where it goes from here,' he said.

Winterrowd has experience working with gifted children, so the filmmakers' camp is right up his alley. Plus, he is excited about giving children an opportunity to explore in ways he was never able to.

'When I was a kid this is what I was interested in. I never really had an outlet, so I want to make sure other kids do,' Winterrowd said.

Besides the camps that run during the summer, Taylor said she is working on the details of having some after-school camps that would take place a few hours a week for four or six-week stretches. There has even been talk of the possibility of some classes geared specifically toward adults. All these rumored expansions are even more ways for Taylor to be involved with the industry that captured her imagination more than 20 years ago.

'(Working with film) is still fun for me after all these years,' Taylor said.

For more information on the young filmmakers' camps or any of the different services offered by Burnit Studio, call 503-925-8611 or visit the Web site www.burnitstudio.com.