'The power of true stories': Documentary filmmaker teaches teens at Arlington Heights library
Cesar Toscano, 17, of Mount Prospect loves science fiction and action movies -- think "Aliens" and "Godzilla" -- and he would love to one day be involved in the industry, he says.
Last week, he took a first step. Toscano was one of a dozen teens who signed up for a moviemaking workshop offered by the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
"I like films and talking about movies," Toscano said, "but I want to learn the technical aspects. I've attempted making a few movies with my friends, but I want to learn more about storytelling."
The workshop was offered as part of the library's first filmmaker-in-residence program, designed to help patrons of all ages explore the world of storytelling and film.
Matt Lauterbach, a La Grange Park native and documentary filmmaker and editor with Chicago's Kartemquin Films, is at the center of it all.
"As a documentary filmmaker, I want to convey the power of true stories," Lauterbach says. "There are plenty of opportunities for teens to make movies and write scripts with their friends, but there's not a lot of guidance on storytelling, asking open-ended questions to elicit a response and just how to create a narrative."
Teens started by breaking into pairs. Armed with the library's GoPro cameras, they sought out quiet places in the library to film each other's answers to this open-ended question: "What's your calling?"
Over the course of four days, Lauterbach instructed them in camera techniques and how to frame shots, as well as to how to gather sound, interviews, shots for storytelling and finally, his specialty, editing footage.
One day they even ventured outside the library -- over to nearby North School Park in Arlington Heights -- to shoot some B-roll footage, or supplemental shots to give some variety to their films. The goal was to create a film for the library's first film showcase in May.
Toscano was one of the oldest in the group. In all, these student filmmakers ranged from seventh grade through high school.
Samantha Patterson, 14, of Arlington Heights has her own YouTube channel where she has created some how-to videos, but she lacks the technical expertise, she said.
"I'm really enjoying using the GoPros," Patterson said, "and getting to know more about the creative aspect, and just bringing a story to life."
Likewise, Adi Roura, a freshman at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, said he has tried his hand at making a few videos, mostly around memes, but he signed up for the workshop to learn more about framing shots and about the editing process.
"It's really cool to work with someone with this type of professional experience," Roura said.
Lauterbach launched a similar workshop for adults that meets for two hours every Sunday through April. The adults are focusing on telling a true story and are encouraged to incorporate photos and other artifacts into their narratives.
"One of the things I'm trying to impart to adults is that anyone can make a movie," Lauterbach says. "I'm self-taught and I've been able to make it my career."
Lauterbach is the second "in-residence" artist sponsored by the Arlington library. Last year, officials welcomed a visit from Caldecott award-winning illustrator Chris Raschka. Through the program, they hope to introduce the community to a single body of work -- and encourage patrons to actively create.
"It was important to us to introduce a second artist to the Arlington Heights community," says Jennifer Czajka, programs and exhibits manager, "to broaden the concept of art and creativity by extending it to include film."
Look for Lauterbach to headline a variety of other events over the next month or so, including hosting the library's "Wider Lens Takeover" series, which features the showing of a documentary followed by a Q&A with Lauterbach.
Next week, Lauterbach will host the showing of "All the Queen's Horses," a documentary filmed by his Kartemquin Films that he worked on. The film explores a scandal in Dixon, Illinois, and Lauterbach will give insights behind its filming.
To find out more about the library's filmmaker-in-residence program, visit ahml.info.