Actress Trisha Mann (center) poses with Kids in the Spotlight filmmakers before the screening Photo Courtesy
From narrowly missing cancelation to a sold out production at Sony Pictures, this year’s Kids in the Spotlight (KITS) Film Festival proved what persistence, determination, and the power of prayer can do, according to KITS Executive Director Tige Charity.
On Saturday, October 26 KITS held its fourth annual Film Festival featuring, as tradition, movies for kids, by kids. The months leading up to the event however were nerve racking for Charity and KITS board members who were unsure whether or not their budget would allow them to secure a venue.
“I honestly didn’t think we were going to be able to produce a festival for you this year,” an emotional Charity told the crowd at the festival, “but I fought, and I would not give up. I kept saying, ‘some door has got to open for these kids, I cannot disappoint them, we have got to give them their day.’”
KITS is a program designed to empower kids in the foster care system through the art of filmmaking. For ten weeks, kids ages 11-17 attend a filmmaking workshop afterschool and on weekends where they are trained by industry professionals in virtually every facet of filmmaking, from screenwriting, to acting, to casting, to wardrobe. Over the course of the workshop the students create a short film. The program culminates with an annual film festival red carpet style and with celebrity hosts and attendees. The students films are screened and awards are given with their families in the audience, making the showcasing of their films, a true day in the spotlight.
Eventually it was a call from KITS board member actress Claudia Wells to a friend at Sony Pictures Studios that lead to the securing of a venue for this year’s festival. Sony donated the use of its Holden Theatre on the company’s Culver City lot to screen the films made by the kids.
Charity made it clear in her festival closing speech, that the entire event, everything from the securing of the venue to the stuffing of gift bags, was made possible through donations of time and resources from individuals who believe in the cause.
In the same way KITS a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, which was founded by Charity in 2009 has operated through donations of time, skills, money, and resources. A relatively new organization, KITS does not rely on grants; funding rather is the result of Charity and fellow board members “pounding the pavement” in search of donations.
This year KITS founder and number one champion didn’t have the same amount of time she’s had in years prior to round up funds. In addition to working on her MBA in non-profit management, Charity who recently gave birth, had a new baby to take care of making fundraising this year more of a challenge. A firm believer in God, Charity never doubted KITS ability to thrive even with her increasingly full schedule.
“I know our God is able,” said Charity, “I don’t put limits on what He can do, because I know through Him all things are possible.”
Right now Charity is waiting on that “connection” with a consistent large donor, “one that makes sense,” she says. Whether it be a company, group, or individual, any entity that sees what KITS is doing, sees the vision and is inspired to help in a big way.
Until that connection is made Charity and her colleagues will continue to pound the pavement, knocking on doors, making phone calls, sending emails and doing whatever it takes to bring together the resources necessary to serve the kids.
“Because we’re working with foster children stability is a priority,” says Charity.
“Due to the financial situation I had people saying, ‘Tige let’s just forgo the festival this year, it’s not a big deal.’ But I couldn’t accept that, it was a big deal. When we told them about this program we sold them on the whole idea, these kids are so use to people telling them things and disappointing them,” Charity explained. “I just couldn’t feel comfortable giving up without having exhausted every possibility.”
That perseverance kept the promise of the film festival alive; it brought the fourth annual screening and award ceremony to fruition and gave students like Yvette Meza the opportunity to present their work to a grand audience.
“I really want to thank Kids in the Spotlight, they changed my life and helped me get my story out,” Meza told the audience as she introduced her film. “This movie that I wrote and starred in is about me, it’s a little section of my life, about how I took risks and became a better person, the person that I am today. I really hope you guys enjoy the film.”
Meza’s film You Are Not Alone told the story of a young girl who faced the difficult choice of whether or not to tell her school counselor that her mother was a drug addict. The decision would cause her to face separation from not just her mother, but her infant twin brothers as well. The story was based on Meza’s real life journey into the foster care system.
Following the screening the kids were called up one by one to receive their official certificates showing that each of their films have been registered with the Writers Guild of America.
“It was a great experience,” said Meza, “and I got to have a taste of the acting life which I never thought I could do.”
For more information on Kids in the Spotlight, and ways to donate visit www.kidsinthespotlight.org