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Spotlight on Light House Studio

The youth nonprofit film center serves as a beacon of creativity for the Charlottesville community

<p>Not only does Light House work with local Charlottesville schools and organizations, they also organize and operate their own annual film festivals and programs.</p>

Not only does Light House work with local Charlottesville schools and organizations, they also organize and operate their own annual film festivals and programs.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Light House Studio, a Charlottesville organization that seeks to remove barriers to access and provide film education for youth.

Program Director Rachel Lane explained how — through programs and projects — Light House is able to uphold its mission of fostering collaboration, creativity and community through film. 

“Teaching community members storytelling through filmmaking is the heart of what we do,” Lane said. “We have over 50 community partnerships every year, so that includes going into schools as an arts elective during the school days and teaching filmmaking.”

In these school programs, filmmaking is often paired with another subject, resulting in a combination of curricular and cinematic focuses that allows for students to meld work with play, picking up valuable skills both academically and artistically.

According to Lane, film is a particularly powerful medium for keeping young students engaged and excited both intellectually and imaginatively.

“I always love being in a classroom and seeing students laughing and working together in positive ways and feeling proud of the stories they're telling and proud of the skill sets they're learning,” Lane said. 

The biggest program organized by Light House each year is their summer Film Academy — an eleven-week film workshop for children of all ages. The workshop is hosted at Light House’s own Vinegar Hill Theatre, and is staffed by college students with film and production experience — some even from the University — who are looking to share their knowledge with a younger generation. 

“Students, even the youngest ones, will learn everything from creative collaboration [to] writing stories together in small groups [to] cinematography,” Lane said.

Lane explained that the academy gives students the opportunity to hone both their hard and soft skills, allowing them to work with their peers to write, direct and edit a three-to-five minute short film. 

In addition to programs like the Film Academy, which is more based in production, Light House also aids in the presentation of films, organizing and operating their own annual film festivals and programs. 

The Odds and Ends Film Festival receives submissions from all over the world, allowing the festival to highlight a diverse and innovative range of voices. Conversely, the Climate Film Challenge draws more closely from specific Charlottesville programs that produce climate themed films and PSAs.

“It's a cool way to expose people here to perspectives and subjects and from people that they might never have the opportunity to access otherwise,” Lane said, adding that both festivals are great opportunities to highlight new voices and new ideas.  

Another program organized through Light House is the Adrenaline Film Project, a three-day filmmaking competition that culminates in a screening at the Vinegar Hill Theatre. Third-year College student Quinn Smith has served as an events coordinator for the competition for the past two years.  

According to Smith, Adrenaline Film Project participants are put into teams and given 72 hours to create their own short film. These teams are composed of members spanning geographical locations and generations, with filmmakers coming from all over Charlottesville and Virginia to participate.  

“It was really cool to have such different ages working together … we've had high schoolers all the way up to people in their 50s and 60s joining us,” Smith said. 

For Smith, this is part of what makes Adrenaline, and the Light House community at large, so special.  

“The whole point of Adrenaline Film Project is collaboration, learning to work within the … confines of the filmmaking industry process, the studio filmmaking process,” Smith said. “But also it's learning to work with other people … and it's really cool to be able to see everyone collaborating and bouncing ideas off of each other.” 

Lane added that her favorite part of Light House is seeing the sparks fly within children through their exploration of new mediums and media. 

“Working with kids who are really excited about their ideas and their stories, it's just a great way to add a kind of sense of humor and levity to my own life. Sometimes as adults, we lose that sense of excitement about things and optimism. So it’s really fun to kind of always be around that energy.” 


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