You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Camp Reel Stories Gets Girls Into Filmmaking

If women and girls are better represented behind the scenes in the media, will they also be better reflected on-screen?

Yes, believes Esther Pearl, who founded Camp Reel Stories five summers ago as a series of filmmaking camps for girls and young women, where attendees write, shoot and edit their own movies while being mentored by industry pros.

Since then, the camp has grown from five-day classes attended by some 30 girls to sometimes four-week sessions that include 200. And after years of operating in the Bay Area only, the organization has added a stop in Los Angeles this summer, setting up shop at Glendale Community College for a weeklong session starting July 24.

Pearl began her career in the film industry at 16, working on her first commercial when she interned at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. She spent nearly a decade at Pixar as a production manager, working on such films as “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Incredibles” and “Wall-E.” Previously, she had worked in visual effects.

During those years, on many occasions she was acutely aware of being the only woman in the room.

Aiming to change that, in 2013 she came up with the idea to offer a weeklong summer camp that aimed to get girls excited about the idea of being storytellers and media and content creators. “We wanted to put accessible technology in their hands and then bring in women that had made this their career, in order to show all the different roles that it takes to put on a show or movie.”

Sixty professional women asked to volunteer that first summer. That made it clear to Pearl that she was onto something.

Those attending Camp Reel Stories range in age from 12 to 19. At the end of each session, they present their work in a mini film festival. “We have girls that have flown in from all over,” says Pearl. “We have girls who have come two years in a row. This summer, we have someone from Dubai attending for the second time. And while they have to find their own sleeping accommodations, we offer need-based financial aid. We’ve been very fortunate to subsist on private and individual donations.”

Many Camp Reel Stories graduates have gone on to attend film school and now come back to volunteer. One example: Norma Anaya, who was one of the first campers. Now she’s making documentaries while attending Chico State University.

Another alum, who didn’t want her name published, aims to create a video blog interviewing young women in Iran.

“Instead of waiting until after college to try to make it in this industry,” explains Pearl, “we want our girls to realize that they have the technology right in front of them — their iPads and smartphones and YouTube. There’s no longer a huge entry barrier. They have a better camera on their phone than most of us had in film school.”

More Artisans

  • Ridiculous Six

    Netflix Benefits From Changes in New Mexico's Production Incentives

    When New Mexico’s new governor, Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, signed SB2 in late March, the headline was that it more than doubled the annual cap on the state’s 25%- to 30%-per-project refundable film and TV tax credit, from $50 million to $110 million.  Arguably more noteworthy, however, was the new law’s provision that the cap [...]

  • Home Again Trinidad and Tobago

    Trinidad and Tobago Attracts Producers by Adding Hefty Cash Incentive to Visual Lures

    A dual-island Caribbean nation that fits fulfills the all visual requirements of a tropical paradise, Trinidad and Tobago offers a striking variety of shooting locales ranging from azure waters, white sands, thick jungle, sprawling savannahs and – on the urban side – bustling cities. Though the islands have predominantly housed local films, they are now [...]

  • Netflix Our Planet Sophie Darlington

    Netflix's 'Our Planet' Roars to Life With Work by Top Wildlife Cinematographers

    In terms of scope, production time and — very likely — budget, Netflix’s “Our Planet” is one of the most ambitious projects from the streaming service to date. Narrated by David Attenborough and made available worldwide on April 5, the goal of the eight-part series is to capture diverse habitats across the globe and highlight [...]

  • Les Miserables BBC

    BBC's 'Les Miserables' Recreates the Dark World of Victor Hugo's Novel

    Director Tom Shankland didn’t want his “Les Miserables” to be anything like the stage-musical version of Victor Hugo’s sweeping historical novel, nor like the 2012 Tom Hooper feature-film musical.  For the BBC limited series — a drama starring Olivia Colman, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo and Dominic West, which aired the first of its six episodes in [...]

  • Marsai Martin Little Movie

    How the 'Little' Production Team Created Look of Marsai Martin-Regina Hall Comedy

    What if you could return to a time in your childhood and relive your life from that point knowing what you know now? That’s the fantasy at the core of Universal’s “Little,” released April 12, in which Regina Hall’s Jordan Sanders, a character overwhelmed by the pressures of adulthood, gets the chance to relive the [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 BTS

    How 'Game of Thrones'' Locations Have Expanded With the Series

    When the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” debuts on April 14, the show’s millions of followers will once again be transported to the exotic lands and sweeping landscapes where the saga is set. From King’s Landing to The Wall, stunning locations have been woven into the fabric of “Thrones” since its [...]

  • In The Dark CW

    How 'In the Dark' Trained a Regular Dog to Act as a Guide Dog

    There used to be an adage in show business about never working with animals or children, but for Violetta Hessing, there’s nothing more fulfilling than finding a dog that wants to be on set and training it to deliver just as much emotion as its human scene partners. Hessing owns and is the head trainer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content