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Local filmmaking community sees, develops potential in Minnesota’s 4-H youth

4-H youth in classroom planning their video project
David Aguilera (left) of the Buena Vista Bear Tracks 4-H Club in Beltrami County, strategizes with his filmmaking group before hitting their location: the Minnesota State Fair.

David Aguilera, age 13, finds inspiration in the documentary series “World War II in Colour.” The 4-H member from Beltrami County was one of 28 youth to sign up when University of Minnesota Extension’s 4-H youth program and the local filmmaking community offered a film immersion experience like no other.

Every August, the University's St. Paul campus becomes a gateway to the Minnesota State Fair. After David’s first full day, he’d become a part of a new filmmaking community, spending the whole day learning and turning the fair into a creative backdrop for making films in genres like mystery and mockumentary. The group planned an evening of watching and discussing movies together before bunking for the night in the University's dormitories.

One day in, and already David had insights. “Our group was good at thinking on the spot, like deciding what to shoot when we found out our camera was going to die in seven minutes.”

videographer pans across group of five youth in front of Minnesota State Fair sign
Panning with the camera takes practice. Photo courtesy of Emily Conroy

"But we also all need to listen to each other more," said another participant, Andrew Berger of the Pleasant Valley 4-H club in Carver County, who wants to build his YouTube travel channel with his brother Isaiah. Reflections like these are a part of the learning process in 4-H. 

“Filmmaking is a good match for 4-H’ers and what they already do because it’s all about collaboration—really learning to work together,” says Ace Allgood, founder of Channel Z Films who has several production credits, including the film “Sweet Land.” Allgood has been volunteering with and judging 4-H videography projects for 12 years. “We want them to go back to where they live and share what they learned. You make better films when you work with your buddies.”

Filmmaker coaches five boys and girls near ferris wheel
Local filmmaker and 4-H volunteer/judge Ace Allgood and youth scout their location for a ferris wheel mockumentary.
film equipment 4-H
Merrick Jensen of Washington County and Charisma Brickford of South St. Paul got to know their video equipment.

Allgood and another filmmaker, Rich Dreher, have been garnering financial support from donors from across their Twin Cities filmmaking community for 4-H videography. Other support has come from the Kiwanis Club, the Midway Men’s Club and individual donors.

Anne Stevenson and Carol Skelly, two longtime Extension educators who led photography projects in Anoka County and statewide for three decades, had heard from video project volunteers that today’s generation needs to learn film basics in cutting-edge ways to stay engaged because they are already so exposed to a dynamic modern media landscape. Skelly and Joyce Strand, Extension 4-H program coordinator, brought in film directors and producers, editors, and motion graphics creators.

The first day of the fair began with a class taught by Film North. While many were just learning video, or transitioning from photography to video, others were already brainstorming about concepts like green screening, film noir, and the difference between a bird’s and a worm’s eye view.

They continued to shoot and edit their films and presented them to a crowd on the Leonard Harkness Stage in the 4-H building on Aug. 24. To see the films, visit the Minnesota 4-H YouTube channel

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