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Former Pixar Manager Opens Filmmaking Camp, Inspires Girls To Career In Movies

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Esther Pearl says she doesn't want to read another study or report telling her that women are underrepresented in the film industry. She wants to do something about it. (Published Thursday, Jun 26, 2014)

    Esther Pearl tries her best to make sure Camp Reel Stories, the week-long, film-making summer camp she runs in Oakland, is as much like the real world of movie-making as possible.

    There are, however, a few noticeable exceptions.

    Deadlines, for one.

    When Esther was a department manager at Emeryville's Pixar Studios, she once spent six years working on a single movie (The Incredibles). She now gives her campers five days to make theirs.

    Then there is the fact that throughout most of Esther's film career, she was surrounded mostly by men.

    Camp Reel Girls is 100% female.

    "It's a big problem when only 16% of the decision makers in the media who are women," Esther says, "you are not going to have a media that reflects society."

    Esther Pearl created Camp Reel Stories as a way to get more women interested, and involved, in the film industry

    The desire to change that imbalance is what inspired Esther last year to invite three-dozen girls, and an equal number of volunteers, to put on the first Camp Reel Stories.

    When the camp recently opened on a Monday, the girls broke into teams and were paired with a female mentor, one with experience working in the film industry.

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    Together they storyboard, shoot and edit an entire short film by Friday, then screen the finished product for the rest of the campers and mentors on Saturday.

    "They have to answer some really tough questions about the decisions they made," Esther says.

    The all-female campers are broken into groups and paired with a mentor with experience in the film industry. They storyboard, shoot, and edit a short film in just five days

    That first year, Esther had no idea what to expect when it came to the finished films. "We were really surprised at the quality of the work considering none of the girls had any film or video experience," Esther says.

    Esther was encouraged enough by the experience to not only bring Camp Reel Stories back for a second year, but expand to a second week.

    Many of the girls who participated last year, like Norma Anaya, are back for another go. Norma, a high school senior from Oakland says she had never considered film as a possible career choice for her, but does now.

    It's a field she also thinks she can change, "At first I really didn't think about how people were portrayed in the media," Norma says, "but we don't really look like that, women don't act like they are in the media. We're different"

    At the end of the camp the teams screen their films for the other campers and mentors