[From the Archives: Dec 20, 2021]

Reel Youth had a year of in-person programming scheduled when the pandemic arrived, in March 2020. Everything had to be cancelled.

“We quickly realized that we had to try something new, to innovate,” explained Mark Vonesch.

Photo: Screenshot of Cortes Island ferry from ‘What is now will soon be past‘ by Ester Stijbos

In the fifth of a series about Reel Youth, Vonesch and Erica Køhn explain how this local media company flourished.

They have made over 250 films since the COVID 19 pandemic started.

“We had to figure out a new way to operate and zoom seemed to be the way so many people were communicating. So, we turned to some of the work that we had done before in schools and in communities with a poetry based program,”said Køhn.

“Within a week of COVID we released a new program called ‘Together Apart.’ And it was bringing you people of all ages. We had people 12 to 77 years old join the program.  They made short films about their experience of COVID and the current cultural phenomenon of what we’re all experiencing,” added Vonesch.

Cortes Currents has already introduced Seren Anderson’s film ‘Where I am’ as an example of the kind of film high school students will be making through the ‘Partner’s in Education program’ this January, 2022.

Ester Stijbos, editor of the Tideline, produced another of the films in this series. She describes herself as being from the West Coast of BC, from Tofino, Cortes Island and Victoria.

Danielle Weiss was among the other Cortes residents who made a film.

“It was exciting to work our first program. I think all of us at Reel Youth joined in the program to be all hands on deck because we just really weren’t sure what to expect. Then we slowly finessed it into the current programming, which often uses two, sometimes three facilitators,” said Køhn.

She added that some of the youth have become ‘serial participants’ who now enrol whenever they have a new program.

Vonesch describes Reel Youth’s next step as persuading the organizations they normally work with to go online.

“We use zoom to bring everyone together instead of us going to the community and providing all the equipment. The youth are using their cell phones or whatever cameras they have at home. We’re still able to have the same impact as far as giving kids increased confidence, and new filmmaking skills,” he explained.

Many of these bring together people from widely dispersed locations. Interviews are conducted in ZOOM rooms and incorporate video footage shot on cell phones.

Top photo credit: Photo credit: screenshot from ‘I Will Remember This‘ by Danielle Weiss