New documentary contest calling for submissions

Project REEL Life is accepting youth documentary-style digital media projects and plans to hold a festival June 19.

Project REEL Life (PRL) is calling on local youth with an aptitude for creative storytelling to participate in its inaugural documentary contest.

PRL will accept documentary-style digital media projects focused on stories from our community until a “soft” deadline of June 7, PRL coordinator and Ladysmith Secondary School drama teacher Bill Taylor said.

Submissions of “any digital product that tells a story” will be taken into consideration, Taylor added, and PRL’s contest is open to local youth between the ages of 13 and 24.

Taylor and his fellow PRL mentors will review contest submissions and screen a select few at a festival scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, June 19 at a venue that’s yet to be determined.

The “live” festival will highlight youth talent through “spoken-word poetry, some live music, some of the documentaries and an interactive hands-on session where adults and youth can hang out and make some media products in the moment,” Taylor added.

The goal of the festival is to help PRL complete its mission of connecting “youth with their community and with mentors” through the production of digital media projects, Taylor said.

To boost participation from local youth, young filmmakers, bloggers, poets and photo-narrators will be eligible to receive PRL T-shirts provided their submissions are deemed publishable.

In addition, works submitted by June 7 will render their creators eligible for prizes including a GoPro Hero3 — a compact, high-resolution digital video camera with a waterproof casing.

Several current and former students have committed to producing media for the contest.

Kat Cunningham is producing a documentary on how students benefited from their participation in the LSS production of Cage Birds last year, a performance that earned the cast a spot at the provincial theatre festival, and 18-year-old former LSS student Hilary Jahelka — who learned of the project for the first time May 22 — plans to submit “something to do with feminism,” Jahelka said.

In an effort to encourage Stz’uminus youth to participate in PRL, Taylor met with members of a Stz’uminus First Nation youth group Wednesday, May 22.

PRL will provide equipment and coaching on documentary filmmaking to Stz’uminus youth whose first project will document a series of canoe races.

PRL will work with Stz’uminus schools and youth to host a second festival, but they’ve yet to finalize a date.

Taylor described the current contest as a “first wave of storytelling,” adding that PRL will continue its contest through the summer in anticipation of a second festival “in the fall.”

By focusing initially on community stories, PRL has embraced a “straightforward” approach to introducing local youth to the project, Taylor said. Generalized storytelling poses fewer risks to youth — and at-risk youth in particular — than personal storytelling in terms of emotional triggers, he added.

“Once we get the youth connected with mentors, if the youth want to do work that’s more personal they can,” Taylor said, “but at the start we’re keeping it fairly general.”

Regarding guidelines for PRL submissions, Taylor said that for now, they’re trying to keep it “as open as possible.”

“We’re looking [for] any sort of story about the community that celebrates the community,” Taylor said. “That’s the spirit of the contest. Tell us something about the community that you enjoy, or like, or think should be celebrated, or that’s noteworthy to you. And that can include people, places, events or even ideas from the community.”

Aspiring contestants are required to respect all “copyright, trademark, privacy and personality rights,” states PRL’s website, and refrain from producing work that is “threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane or indecent.”

Contestants under the age of 19 are required to obtain parental consent to participate.

For more on PRL’s inaugural “doc fest,” click here.