There were six yellow chairs that were placed in a circle inside of the Best Buy Teen Tech Center located in the MLK Center. Sitting in those chairs were six young adults who had embarked on the first day of a six-week course in filmmaking.
Sitting in the front of the room was instructor Ira Mallory. He explained the significance of film to the students and how important it is to always have a desire to learn something new when it comes to filmmaking. Mallory then played a film that he wrote and directed titled “Hadassah Queen Ester The Prologue.”
40 West Digital is a program that gives students from ages 17-24 a six-week paid apprenticeship where they learn about the process of filmmaking including scriptwriting, writing for the screen, lighting and cinematography.
Students will also turn in a final project at the end of the course. After the program, qualifying participants can stay on as an employee at the MLK Center as a resident videographer.
The program was founded by Douglas Morris, who is the program director, and Allison Luthe, who is the executive director of the MLK Center. Both began the process of creating the program in 2021 when they received a grant through Lilly Endowment. With a mission to build young filmmakers into professional writers, directors, videographers and producers, the program started as a pilot in September 2022 and currently are on their third cohort.
Morris said he wants the program to allow students to “take back and control of their own narratives.”
“We hear a lot of complaints about negativity that are pushed on our community as people of color whether it’s through film or music,” Morris said after the class.
Another one of the program’s main goals, according to Morris, is to “create social enterprise” that allows them to follow their passions. Morris noticed young people have passions for multiple things and want to create a space where they can discover their voice and have a space to be themselves.
Chicago native and program student Deveon Cal, 19, said he is looking forward to learning about different styles of film editing.
“Editing is the most important thing about any content you create,” Cal said.
After the program, Cal wants to start his own YouTube channel which will include his vlogs, podcast and skits.
Damani Gibson, 22, is also a student in the 40 West Digital class. Gibson’s passion for film work started in middle school at the age of 12 where he noticed his teacher did some film work. Gibson got his own laptop and began to create videos. Gibson said he “thought it was cool to create something on camera.”
“Portraying a message on camera is a beautiful thing,” he said.
In the future, Morris wants 40 West Digital to be a “full production house” where students not only do film but will also do photography, videography and more.
The program goes every six weeks with the next one expected to start in February. For those who are interested in joining, email the director at email@example.com.
Contact staff writer Timoria Cunningham at 317-762-7854 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @_timoriac.