Brooklyn Youth Make Seven Short Films Through Reel Works

Young filmmakers from Brooklyn and their mentors ham it up at the Reel Works priemiere.

Reel Works made a big time this week as Manhattan’s prestigious Paley Media Center hosted the non-profits annual Narrative Lab Premiere, showcasing seven short films made by Brooklyn youth. 

Reel Works, 540 President Street in Crown Heights has as its mission to mentor, inspire and empower underserved NYC youth to share their stories through filmmaking, creating a springboard to successful careers in media and beyond.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) is one of the biggest supporters of the organization – both with city arts funding and helpful in connecting it with other like-minded non-profits.

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo

“I am a believer that sound arts programming should be a critical part of a child’s upbringing. Reel Works carries out this notion in impressive fashion, by immersing young creators in filmmaking. I have been a proponent of their afterschool labs since my first term in office.  Our young people in Crown Heights deserve the opportunity to develop skills that will positively influence their lives and lead them to be quite impactful on our city,” said Cumbo.

The Narrative Lab is a series of three- to four-week-long workshops that lead up to the production of short narrative films, written, directed, produced, and edited by teenagers and young adults from Brooklyn.

The program is the second stage after Summer Lab or Documentary Lab, where students are tasked to create documentary shorts relating to personal moments of their lives.

Patrick Harrison from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“Reel Works keeps students in the lab. It helps build communities, friends, and mentors, while helping kids get jobs,” said Reel Works Co-Founder John Williams, who also served as the main instructor for the Narrative Lab. “When we change storytellers, we change the world”.

The films’ themes ranged from domestic violence to social gentrification, operating in different genres of comedy, drama, and satire. 

“This lab is important for teens who don’t have that ‘uncle’,” said Stephanie Walter, artistic director and co-founder. “We want to diversify the industry”.

Recently, the program partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the honorary organization responsible for the Academy Awards.

“This is our filmmaking future,” said Patrick Harrison, director of New York Programs and Member Relations for AMPAS.

During the course, students crew for each other, working as boom operators, cinematographers, and even extras on their peers’ projects. The program partnered each Reel Works Narrative Lab student with a mentor experienced in film production.

Anaiis Cisco, a mentor and current graduate student at California State University, reflected from her mentee, Deborah Miller, and other young filmmakers, “one thing I learned is to be as ambitious as [Deborah] tried to be. Stick to it because it’s really possible”.

Film buffs watch the work of young Brooklyn filmmakers.

The seven films presented that evening were: Merry Makers by Elena Goluboff, 17; When Two Ends Meet by Deborah Miller, 18; In the Dark by Larry Cruz, 20; The Invasion of the Culture Snatchers by Jaire Marshall, 17; One Thousand by Gabriel Fanelli, 18; Who is It? By Marcus Cochran, 18; and Milk & Eggs (don’t mix) by Pearl Scott, 16.

“Reel Works helped me be confident in being a filmmaker,” said Jaire Marshall, who will be studying cinema at University of Hartford, Connecticut this fall. “It’s pretty cool, yet a little jarring for people to watch and celebrate your work.

Reel Works offers other filmmaking programs for underrepresented youth such as Reel Works Fellowship, Viacom Reel Impact, and Gender Empowerment Groups.

To learn more about Reek Works programs, volunteer opportunities or how to lend your support, call 718-768-9000.