OLD FORGE — It’s your typical summer camp scene: The sun is shining, the water sparkling, there are teenagers scattered all over the grounds with smiles on their faces as they participate in various activities.
But there’s something a little different about the camp running from Aug. 6-18 at Camp Mark Seven in Old Forge: It’s Deaf Film Camp.
About 26 teens, ages 13-16, spend two weeks immersing themselves in the art of deaf filmmaking, learning everything from acting all the way through finishing a film. The campers learn from acting coaches, professional videographers and professional producers.
“I think that the students are to hopefully take away that they used their skill sets that they’ve learned here at camp, and that the campers learned that they can go to college and that, that may be a potential major," said camp director Michael Kaufer, through an interpreter. "We’re empowering them to go out and fly and, hopefully, by the time they graduate college, they might take over the program.”
All of the students and staff that spoke with the Observer-Dispatch about their camp experience spoke through American Sign Language interpreter Jennifer Place-Lewis.
This is Kaufer’s second year running the camp and he has decided to make a change in what the campers focus on. Instead of making an American Sign Language version of a music video such as the teens did in 2014 and 2015, this year things are a little different.
The focus has been placed more on learning the craft and honing skills, along with acting lessons and learning about Photoshop and Final Cut Pro.
“We have a different vision,” Kaufer said. “I’m more of a teacher, so that’s where my heart is, it’s more about the students and learning the craft. So from there, as of last year, we wanted to empower the opportunity to teach them how to edit and look at the film aspect of things and Photoshop and utilizing the technology that’s out there and the art of acting. (I want to teach them) to utilize all of those things to create the craft of media based on the deaf interests.”
The chance to work on all of the different skills involved in becoming an actor or filmmaker is what drew Brian Jimenez, 15, of Massachusetts, to come back to the camp.
“My lifestyle really fit well with the camp and all of the equipment. I really felt like this was where I belonged,” he said. “The best part (about camp) is the interlogue. The idea is a challenge for me. I love that dialogue, talking about the project. The video aspect of it is a collaborative effort. … I like the experience of it all.”
Rose Crisman, 15, of California, already has started her acting career, having landed a role on the ABC show “Speechless,” which will bring her away from camp for a few days for filming.
Crisman said even though she’s already in the industry a little bit, she chose to come to Deaf Film Camp to hone her skills in acting and Photoshop.
“I’m hoping to gain the skill from Photoshop and editing, the movies, the acting, learning the lines of the movie, everything related to the acting aspect of it — some things that I’m not maybe skilled at yet. I’m hoping to learn everything and maybe even take it forward and apply it to the field.”
Ellie Lister, 14, of Rhode Island, is enjoying the acting and wants to improve, but really wants to learn the photography parts of the industry.
“I’m thinking about maybe becoming a photographer in the future, maybe pick up some of those Photoshop skills,” she said. “I’m hoping that maybe I’ll benefit from taking the classes, like the photography classes. … Maybe I can even learn from the experience and take that as a motivator, and just basically learn, that’s what I came for.”
Follow OD_Madison on Twitter or call her at 315-792-5015.