Middle Schoolers Make It Onto the Big Screen at Tribeca Film Festival

Nolan Caile and Imogen Roche in a scene from "Silent Sounds," produced during a five-day Manhattan Youth filmmaking workshop.

Apr. 15, 2016

For some young movie makers,the Tribeca Film Festival was a lot more local than its name. They were the creators of three narrative shorts made in Manhattan Youth’s filmmaking programs at I.S. 289 in Battery Park City and chosen for a big-screen showing at Regal Cinemas.

The films were among nine picked by the festival as part of Downtown Youth Behind the Camera, a series screened at the theater on April 17.

The filmmakers are middle-schoolers who must do it all: write, shoot, act and direct, at a breakneck pace. Out of a five-day spring break came “The Bank,” a parody of “The Office” about a blood bank run by vampires whose thirsty staff exhaust the inventory. The idea grew out of a first day of brainstorming, with a script and list of shots ready by the next day and shooting and most editing finished by Friday morning.

“I was completely astonished by the level of coordination between the students, knowing what they needed to do,” said Julian Gerera-Quinones, the teaching artist who oversaw the kids. “I was there to guide them, to push them, to focus them when they were kind of scattered.”

Gerera-Quinones runs a video production company, Create the Remarkable, with his wife, Shirley Rodriguez, the teaching artist who worked with the three boys behind “The Rich Wind,” another of the films selected by the festival. Created in Manhattan Youth’s four-week Writer-Directors Summer Lab, “The Rich Wind” silently portrays an unusual act of sacrifice and generosity toward a needy stranger.

Another silent film, “Signing Sounds,” tells the poignant story of a friendship between a deaf boy and a girl and the changing pressures on relationships between boys and girls that comes with adolescence.

The idea grew out of the statement by a girl in the workshop. “She was saying it’s really difficult, once you turn 13, you can’t be friends with boys anymore,” recalled Julian Klepper, the teaching artist on the film.  

“For me, teaching film is all about how do we take these emotions that overwhelm us when we’re kids, and put that into our work,” Klepper added. “How do we have a safe vehicle for us to understand that.”


Theseus Roche,  Manhattan Youth's director of after-school programs, said he is "amazed" at how seriously many of the kids approach their projects and express issues they face daily: fear of peer rejection, worries over thoughts that can't express, the feeling that they don't have a voice.

"We try to scratch below the surface of their frame of reference,” he said. We ask them, “What do they want to express, to blow up 40 feet high for your family and friends and other people to really consider?"


Eighteen films from Manhattan Youth’s after-school filmmaking program will be screened in a loop in the Manhattan Youth tent at the Tribeca Film Festival Street Fair, Greenwich and Harrison Streets, on Saturday, April 23.