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Tell your story at the 2017 Summer Film Intensive

Tell your story at the 2017 Summer Film Intensive
By Noelle H. Lowery
“The ability to see our lives as stories and share those stories with others is at the core of what it means to be human.” (John Capecci and Timothy Cage in Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference)
This is the philosophy at the heart of the Summer Film Intensive program, a two-week summer filmmaking class open to Kodiak middle and high school students and hosted by the Baranov Museum, Kodiak Island Borough School District and AKTEACH. The 2017 program will be held June 5-16, and will culminate in a public film premiere at the Kodiak Public Library on Friday, June 16, at 7PM. Applications now are available at
In its sixth year, the 2017 Summer Film Intensive’s theme is "Becoming Kodiakan: Kodiak as an International Crossroads,” and will challenge students to create 3-5-minute documentary films focused on topics related to how they, their family or other community members are connected to Kodiak whether they are Sugpiaq, descendants of distant Russian immigrants or have recently come to Kodiak Island from another state or country. “Kodiak has long been a frontier, its resources and peoples are deeply connected to international currents, and the community’s events have significance beyond our island home,” explains Sarah Harrington, executive director of the Baranov Museum. “Kodiak’s resources are desired around the world, and as a result the world has come to Kodiak’s door. Kodiak’s story is multi-national, complicated and ever-changing.”
The Summer Film Intensive is the brainchild of See Stories Owner Marie Acemah, who combined her love of education, moviemaking and working with teens to launch the program in 2012. At the time, she was the curator of education for the Baranov Museum, and realized there was no documentation of the history of the Filipino community on Kodiak Island.
Students are responsible for all aspects of the film’s creation, including researching the film’s topic, conducting interviews, shooting footage, creating a storyline and editing the film.  Participating students also have the opportunity to receive high school credit for their work.
The Summer Film Intensive gained national recognition last year when it won a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (NAHYPA) from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and its cultural partners — the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The award is the highest honor of its kind in the United States, and recognizes 12 out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people by opening new pathways to learning, self-discovery and achievement. It comes with a $10,000 grant and a full year of program capacity-building and communications support.
Over the course of the last five years, students in the program have produced some 45 films about life on Kodiak Island, including Kodiak’s Filipino community, the 1964 Earthquake and Tsunami, the 25th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, the impact of climate change on the island community and the fishing industry — effectively filling Baranov Museum's research gap with new historical information and personal accounts of major events and daily life on Alaska’s Emerald Island. 
Great examples of this came out of last summer’s film intensive. The theme was Kodiak’s “Fishistory,” an in-depth look at the island’s long tradition of relying on the Pacific Ocean’s bounty for its financial and physical survival. Students spent two weeks pounding the pavement and digging for the best fish tales Kodiak had to offer.
Canneries, hatcheries and harbors were the backdrop for countless hours of film, interview and research. Students were able interview people actively working in Kodiak’s fishing industry and those with vast experience fishing the island’s waters, like one Kodiak elder who had been a subsistence and commercial fisherwoman for more than 40 years. Eighth-grader Janny Eng did a film about immigrants who ventured to Kodiak to work in the fishing industry. While she called every cannery twice, visits to the canneries gleaned an interview with one Laotian man who slowly made his way to Kodiak after escaping treacherous conditions in his home country. She also interviewed a group of immigrant teens who spend their summers working in the canneries. 
The entire film collection is slated to be part of the permanent exhibit at the Baranov Museum. The exhibit will encompass the last 200 years of Kodiak’s history through the “eyes” of its oldest building — the museum’s home, the Erskine House, which also is the oldest Russian-built structure in Alaska. Films from past intensives can be found online at
According to Acemah, this summer’s program is asking students to study their own personal or family narrative in relation to Kodiak. Students will ask themselves: How did my family come to Kodiak? From what state or country did my family come? What brought us to Kodiak? If my ancestors have been on Kodiak for thousands of years, how have they been impacted by immigration through the centuries? If a student does not want to explore his or her own family story, program facilitators will help them identify another local person or family on which to focus.  
“The intention is to find where the personal and historical narrative overlap,” says Acemah. “We are hoping that students can connect with their topics on a more personal level this year, rather than only an academic level. We expect them to connect their personal stories to historical and economic trends, and believe this will help them better understand themselves, their community and their individual importance in the community.”
Winning the NAHYPA motivated film intensive organizers elevate the program to the next level of quality and depth of experience for students through the use of professional video, audio and lighting equipment. This will allow students to learn cutting edge recording techniques. 
“We expect that not only will the student experience be richer but also the quality of their films enhanced,” notes Acemah.
There are 12 spaces available for the 2017 Summer Film Intensive, and applications are due to the Baranov Museum at 101 Marine Way or via email ( by Friday, May 5. Students will be selected based on their ability to commit during the full two-week duration of the intensive. Classes will be held Monday through Friday, 9AM-12PM each day, but students also will be expected to conduct interviews, shoot additional footage, do research, attend presentations, and participate in other activities after class, every day, including on the weekends. This means students must be prepared to commit themselves full-time during the two-week period of June 5-16.
If more than 12 applications are received from students who can commit the time required, preference will be given to those who have not previously taken the film intensive, and if there are still more than 12 applicants, students will be selected based on their answer to the question: “Why are you interested in participating in the film intensive?” 
For more information, visit, or contact the museum’s Curator of Education Laurie Madsen at 907-486-5911.