iMovie Magic

An Apple store, with its neatly organized displays of high-tech gadgets and funky piped-in music, hardly seems like the type of place a typical summer camp would be held. There are no tents, no s’mores, no campfire sing-alongs (don’t worry about the lack of bonfire…there’s an app for that). But here, among the iPads and MacBooks, camp is in session. 

From mid-July to early August, Apple’s retail stores across the globe serve as “camps” for kids ages eight to 12 with an interest in filmmaking and learning more about Apple’s range of products and software. Over the span of three 90-minute classes, Apple store employees teach campers how to use Apple programs like iMovie and GarageBand to create short movies that they write, film, edit, score, and sometimes even star in themselves. The camps are short and free, a welcome addition to any hectic summer activity schedule. But don’t let their brevity fool you; like the camp’s slogan says, the kids are there to get down to business and “make movie magic.” 

The Apple Store in Uptown Minneapolis has held camp each year since it opened in 2010. The store operates as usual while camp in session, with campers grouped around one of the massive display tables to work on their projects and learn that day’s lesson. Apple Camps encourage kids to bring their own Apple devices with them, if they own any. If they don’t, the store offers iMac and iPads for the kids to use in the store.

Siblings Wyatt and Bria Budziszewski were already plugged in and intently focused on their iPads before the session even began, playing around with apps and games. They were both first time filmmakers, but like many of the other campers they were certainly no strangers to using Apple products.

Day one of each camp session begins with the fundamentals of filmmaking, like the basic parts of a story and popular movie genres. To spark inspiration, the instructors asked what good movies the kids had recently seen. Answers ranged from Despicable Me 2 to Star Wars, which the campers then broke down into genres. The instructors explained that genres like action, sports, and how-to videos were popular with young filmmakers at past camp sessions, but that kids were free to create their film about whatever inspired them.

Each camper then received a piece of paper to use as their storyboard, where each scene would be sketched out into a cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end. Pen and paper in hand, the campers began drawing. 

On the first day of Apple Camp, parents are invited to stick around while their kids work for a free parents workshop. There, they can learn how to set time limits and parental controls on Apple products. In addition to attending the parent workshop, many parents stayed in the store during the camp session to lend their kids a hand with the brainstorming process. 

Steve Kinny, dad of first time campers Dylan and Maddie, watched as Maddie sketched out a story about the family’s pets texting each other. Dylan had previous experience making videos in his fifth grade class, but Maddie’s tale of texting pets was her first foray into filmmaking. 

“It will be fun to see what she does with it,” Kinny said. 

Lights, camera, action!

Within minutes, several distinct stories had been sketched out on the campers’ storyboarding sheets. Wyatt planned an instructional video explaining how to build an underwater observatory on the popular building block-based computer game Minecraft, while his sister had sketched out an adventure story that she would animate with Legos. Siblings Kaitlyn, Eric, and Briana Terry would be teaming up to create a bowling movie, to be filmed that afternoon when the family used their pass to a local bowling alley.

All of the camera work for the films happens outside of the store, between the first and second sessions. Campers are encouraged to use their iPads, iPhones, and digital cameras to shoot video, and gather old photos and video that can be edited in if their story revolves around a past event. The editing happens during the second session, using iMovie and the iMacs available in the Apple store.

After planning out their stories, campers are shown how to create songs using the music program GarageBand. They use the touch screen on the iPads to play a variety of virtual drums, guitars, and pianos to create a looping track that would serve as the score to their film. The Terry siblings each had their own ideas for the score, which they hoped would mesh later in the filmmaking process.

“I have lots of drums, kind of hip-hop,” Briana said. “[Eric] has jazz, so we’ll try to put it all together.”

After two sessions of working on their films, the campers returned to the Apple Store the next Saturday morning with their families in tow. But this time, there would be no brainstorming or editing. The kids walked past the giant table where they had brought their ideas to life, and headed towards three giant built-in screens at the front of the store.

Apple Camps culminate on Day 3 with a short film festival, a chance for campers to show off their creations to family and friends. Unlike the first two sessions, the film festival takes place before regular store hours, giving campers a place that’s solely dedicated to showing off their work. 

Up first is Bria, whose Lego action flick expertly utilized sound effects to bring its jungle setting to life. The counselors admitted that one sequence involving a boat chase and clever use of fishing line had them stumped when they first viewed it. Her brother Wyatt was next, with his how-to Minecraft guide that used text subtitles to explain each step of the project. 

Between each film, the counselors pointed out cool tips and tricks that the kids had learned during camps and put to practice in their projects, like adding text, sparkly special effects, or title screens throughout the film.

The films continued, ranging from one about horseback riding to an intense movie trailer-style film about one camper’s promising baseball season. The filmmaking team of Briana, Eric, and Kaitlyn Terry did agree on a cohesive soundtrack in the end, with instant replay shots of their bowling games set to jazzy, upbeat music. 

Maddie and Dylan Kinny’s film became a family affair, not only starring the family’s pets but their parents and grandmother as well. In it, the family’s dog and cat appear to be texting back and forth (on iPhones, naturally) about their humans’ crazy party lifestyles. The texting looked so realistic, one counselor couldn’t help but ask Maddie’s special effects secret.

“We put gravy on the screen,” she said.

When the last of the credits rolled, Apple Camp officially came to an end. As the campers left with their families, the counselors encouraged them to return to the store with any questions they have about future projects, which may come in handy; some campers had already made more films in the time between the camp sessions and the festival, inspired by what they had learned in store. 

Apple Camps are definitely not your typical summer camp. They’re free, short, and take place in a space that’s usually reserved for shopping or camping out for the latest Apple product. But in just two short days, Apple campers had created something awesome that was entirely their own. They left the store with not just a basic knowledge of filmmaking, but the skills to use their Apple devices to bring any story they can imagine to life.

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