Filmmaking For Young People Becomes A Real Thing In Los Alamos

Working to make filmmaking for teens happen in Los Alamos are, from left, Erin Scott, Kyrene Sehorn, Jean Gindreau, George Marsden and David Daniel. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


If you’re a teen in Los Alamos with a dream of becoming a filmmaker, this is your chance! A collaboration involving the YMCA Los Alamos Teen Center, Fuller Lodge Art Center, PAC-8, the Los Alamos Creative District and the Youth Activity Center means that during a two-week intensive session in July, young, aspiring film students ages 13-18 will be tasked with writing, directing, filming and acting in their own short films. And, there is no cost for the classes.

From July 12-16, from 9 a.m. to noon, the students will participate in a class on the Basics of Screenwriting by local author and director David Daniel where they will learn how to structure the script for a short film. They will examine industry standard structures such as 3 Act and Save The Cat, all while working to produce their own short script to be filmed during the second week of the session.

From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the first week, students will learn the Basics of Film and Editing, also with David Daniel. This class will focus on developing familiarity with various pieces of video equipment and editing software. It will be led by instructors from PAC-8 and will help the students to develop comfort and mastery with basic tools of modern filmmaking.

From July 19-23, students will take two classes as a single all-day course running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a break for lunch. The first class is Acting for Film where the students will work with their scripts and participants will take on roles and learn the basics of acting for camera. The second class will involve the students working together to direct, perform and produce their short film scripts.

An exciting follow-up to the two-week session will be an evening showcase in the community where the participants will present their films and have the opportunity to discuss their work.

Instructor David Daniel explained to the Los Alamos Reporter that part of the reason for the collaboration on the filmmaking course was to bolster community networking and building shared interests between the teens and the community. Daniel had just finished up some coursework in screenwriting.

“I thought, why don’t we see if Jean Gindreau at PAC-8 is willing to partner with us because I know a lot about acting and I know a lot about screenwriting now, so with her film editing and filming skills we could throw together a collaborative project,” Daniel said.

That’s when the idea of producing a program where young people would learn all the pieces of filmmaking but more importantly would produce their own 3-5 minute short video. Teen Center director George Marsden then had the idea to host a follow-up gala-type event. The group also looked at the possibility moving forward of submitting some films to teen filmmaker festivals where they could earn awards.

“It’s really about starting to craft an identity about what happens here in Los Alamos. And there’s cool, exciting things happening here – more than things we can’t talk about,” Daniel said.

He noted that the toughest challenge could be finding students that could commit to the entire two-week session. He said six students would be a great number for the pilot project, meaning that 30 minutes of unique film would be produced.

“We want the students to be able to express themselves the way they want to because we many have great ideas but they may come in and blow us away with theirs,” Daniel said.

 Everyone the group has talked to about the project has been excited, Daniel said, and they are always open for new collaborators. Piloting a program like this sometimes breaks down some of the issues that can keep people from working together to begin with, he said.

 Marsden said the Teen Center has realized through talking to folks from the Youth Activity Center that not everything for their programs has to be done in-house.

“One of the things we talk about in the community is not duplicating services .We want to be additive not duplicative with things and if we have someone who has far more experience, why would I take business away from someone else who is serving the community. Why recreate something another group can do when I can collaborate with them and then maybe find ways to grow stuff and figure out ways where we can use the materials we need,” he said. “Everything we have was largely paid for by the County. It does nobody any good sitting on my shelf but could do a tremendous amount of good if we work with our partners.”

The group agreed that there has been a shift of thinking since the beginning of the pandemic as to how they can reach out beyond themselves and partner with other groups.

“COVID reminded us how important cooperation is to us as a species. I see that happening in a lot of places. I would never have wished COVID to happen, but if we can continue to put energy and momentum behind the positive things that came out of it, we can really build a better world and I’m excited by that possibility,” Daniel said. 

The PAC 8 collaboration with the Teen Center for example started with an Introduction to Video Production class that over spring break.

Daniel said his broader interest as an educator in the community who’s working in some ways non-traditionally to help continue to educate is the idea that one thing the public education system can struggle to find time to do is really finding  time to teach people the artistry of what it takes to create film, books and works of art.

“There’s a certain set of skills that have to be taught and it’s a little slow and a little messy from one way to another but I hope programs like this can help people to start to develop those skills. By developing the ability to make a short film you’re also developing a lot of the underlying capacities to develop other things in your life,” Daniel said.

PAC-8 executive director Jean Gindreau said the spring break class with the Teen Center was a trial run. She said she has always wanted to collaborate with other organizations and is happy that it’s now happening. Gindreau has worked with local government, the chamber of commerce, the historical society, the school district and others since she joined PAC-8 in 1996.

Kyrene Sehorn of Fuller Lodge Art Center said FLAC has always been passionate about working with youth.

It’s exciting to have the chance to step into the future adding a digital component – becoming an even more popular artistic outlet is very exciting,” she said.

Erin Scott, class coordinator at Fuller Lodge noted that art doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

“This collaboration brings so much potential for the youth of Los Alamos and for everybody in the entire community, so as an artist, it’s really exciting,” she said.

To register for the two-week session, go to