Children, Cameras, and Cryptozoology

By Dominic Lazzini – 10th Grade, South Fayette Township High School

It was a quiet, sunny afternoon in early July. The temperature was in the low-eighties, there were some clouds in the sky, and in the yard of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, six children sitting on blankets ate their lunch and conversed while one child and the camp instructor played a game of chess. If what is being described right now does not sound like it has much to do with Cryptozoology, which is the pseudoscience of trying to prove/document monsters, ghosts, or other seemingly other-worldly phenomena, then that is because it is the camp’s break for lunch. However, things would soon get very interesting.

Walking back into the room, which was on the second floor of the Scaiffe Building in the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the kids were eager to continue on what they had been examining: pictures taken of them that when developed, would show a mysterious man who wasn’t present when the pictures were taken. The kids and the instructor would enter the darkroom to print and develop pictures and then be shocked to see the man (or “ghost”) pop up.

Because not much was known about this “ghost”, the campers planned to interview and film people to discover information about this “phantom” (named Frank) and to provide good footage for the mockumentary they were creating. The campers first decided whether or not they believed “Frank” was real. Then they started to interview people, starting it off with their own instructor, Tim Israel. After they interviewed him, both the instructors and the kids walked down to the other building of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the Marshall Building. Here they asked some of the employees and other campers if they had ever seen or heard of “Frank,” all while documenting the interviews on a video camera. They did this until near the end of the day, in which they took a break to play some capture the flag.

What is interesting about this camp is that the focus is not on Cryptozoology, but actually on filmmaking and the use of the video and cameras. While the day was centered around trying to find out who, or what, “Frank” was, the kids also not only developed film, but utilized the video-cameras and learned how to improve their interviews. This camp, run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media, is actually designed to teach the use of movie-making and explore media-centered exercises. Why? According to Tim Israel, who is this camp’s instructor, “Video is the best form of expression.” But why Cryptozoology, exactly? Tim Israel pointed out that growing up, we all were familiar with ghost stories and monsters, and that makes this camp more interesting. He explained that the camp is not so much about monsters, as it is about media literacy. The children in this camp, who are aged 11-13, will be not only making mockumentaries, but also developing photos and working with different kinds of media. The campers themselves have also taken a liking to the camp.  Katie, 12, decided to do this camp because she has an interest in filmmaking, and she thought that it would be fun. She especially liked developing the photos. Gavin, 13, decided to do the camp because of his interest in movie-making, and he liked using the cameras. What both of these kids had in common, besides the fact that Bigfoot is their favorite monster, is that they hope to learn about filmmaking and videos from the camp.

Overall, while the Cryptozoology camp is truly about filmmaking, it also provides a very enjoyable, relaxing day to the campers, whether that is through the camp activities, the fun breaks in-between, or both.

Dominic Lazzini 1Dominic Lazzini is a 10th grader at South Fayette Township High School. He resides in McDonald, PA and is part of the high school’s media club. He enjoys painting, playing lacrosse, history, and geography. In Dom’s freshman year, he was on the highest honor roll.

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