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Thanks to two of the Verde Valley’s educational heavy hitters, area high school students will soon get an education in movie-making.

On Monday, July 11, Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education officially partnered with Yavapai College to allow students to take film and media arts program courses at Yavapai College at no cost. The event, hosted by Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus, included an informational address and a question and answer session.

“It went quite well, with about 13 interested people attending,” Yavapai College film and media arts director Helen Stephenson said following the event. “We need a minimum of eight students to launch the program. I think this will be extremely popular as the word gets out … It’s a fantastic opportunity for students, and a huge financial bonus for parents.”


According to Stephenson, even if students do not plan on majoring in film in college, the program is an opportunity to take electives toward degrees at no charge. In addition, students will gain a “fantastic and useful” skill set.

“The advance of the digital world in the last decade has brought with it a proliferation of content providers,” Stephenson added. “The growing need for digital content — on websites, in marketing and for online film distributors like Netflix and Amazon — has created a demand for media-savvy graduates.”

The opportunity will be open to public Verde Valley high school students, Verde Valley charter high school students and Verde Valley home-schooled high school students. Camp Verde High School has arranged to bus its students to Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus for afternoon classes.

Yavapai college is providing all instructors, facilities and filmmaking equipment. Tuition will be paid by VACTE.

“The people attending felt the film and television program was exciting and a great opportunity for their children and the Verde Valley,” VACTE Superintendent Bob Weir said. “We’re working on getting the information out to other prospective students. VACTE is excited to work with Yavapai College to increase opportunities for the youth in the Verde Valley.

“This is an opportunity for the youth of the Verde Valley to work together, learn from talented Yavapai College staff and receive a certification from the program, paid for by VACTE. It’s the first of several other joint classes and programs to be offered by VACTE and Yavapai College.”

According to Weir, students who start the program in their junior year have the chance to graduate high school with their film and media arts production certificates, become Avid- editing-program certified and be well on their way to obtaining animation certificates in the program.

Classes taken by high school students on a college campus are known as concurrent enrollment classes, Stephenson added. When concurrent enrollment is practiced, the funding amount that VACTE receives is tripled, and is then available for students in the community.

For more information about VACTE, visit vacte.com. To learn more about the film and media arts program at Yavapai College, visit yc.edu/fma.

Stephenson talks about film, media
Helen Stephenson is Yavapai College film and media arts director:
Q: What is your background, from a film standpoint and a teaching standpoint?
Stephenson: My bachelor’s degree is from California State Long Beach in radio and television. It was there I caught the film bug. I plan on completing my master’s degree from Arizona State University in American media and popular culture next year. My thesis film is a documentary on Lassie Lou Ahearn, one of the last remaining silent film stars in the world. I am YouTube certified, the first person in Arizona. I teach the YouTube content and marketing class, which is all online.
I moved to Yavapai County in 1995. I knew about the original Yavapai College film program and visited with the folks there when they first opened. Also, I have been going to the Sedona International Film Festival since either the second or third year, and continue to attend …. So I have been somewhat in the loop of the film scene in the Verde Valley for many years. When the door opened to explore a re-imagination of the film program at Yavapai College, I stepped through.
Q: The Zaki Gordon name still resonates for many in the Verde Valley How is your general vision different from the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking that was set up at Yavapai College the turn of the millennium?
Stephenson: The world of content creation and delivery has changed since 2000. YouTube is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s a completely different content creation, marketing and delivery model. Websites, marketing, industrial videos — all these are important outlets for filmmakers. Yes, they may want to go to Hollywood and create the next blockbuster, and that is absolutely fine. The importance of commercial work, however, is to be able to practice your craft while making a living.
So, we have included that part of the film industry in our class content. We also do a service-learning project each year. Last year we did an informational film for Friends of the Verde River Greenway. This summer we are shooting a training video for Yavapai College Campus security, “Campus Safety During an Alien Invasion.”
When we spoke with former students we discovered that some of them loved filmmaking, but didn’t want to be on the sets. They wanted to be writers and producers. Some have a high interest in animation. Some want to focus on screenwriting. The film and media arts program has an overarching focus on storytelling, so everyone takes Screenwriting I. Students can then specialize by taking one of our three certificates: Animation, production or screenwriting.
We have looked at the demographics of Yavapai County and find that most of our students work part-time, so we scheduled the hands-on classes so they will only need to come to the Verde Valley campus one day per week.
Another change has been to the delivery and credits. Students don’t have to take the entire certificate in one year. Also, all film and media arts classes now count as electives at Yavapai College. Additionally, we have worked with Northern Arizona University to take almost all of our film and media arts classes as transferable as core classes in their film program, as opposed to being transferable as electives.
Q: What is your general ambition for the film and media arts program?
Stephenson: I would like to continue to grow the program, and offer more dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment across Yavapai County …. Whether you are writing a screenplay, producing a documentary, doing a web series, commercial, industrial video, you are telling a story. The color palate you choose, camera angles, lighting: Those things help tell a story. Our students learn how to tell stories across platforms, visually and through spoken work and editing techniques.

 

 

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