White House recognizes film by Cincinnati teens

Mar 20, 2015

A screenshot from the student produced "I Am Urban Art."
Credit Provided / Stages for Youth

A short film shot in Northside has received an honorable mention in the White House Student Film Festival.  "I Am Urban Art" was produced as part of Stages for Youth.  Frank O'Farrell founded the program last year to teach video production.

“The purpose of the program is as much about teaching kids skills that they will need in the workplace as it is about the art form itself,” O’Farrell says.  “Many of our employers are looking at the emerging workforce and are basically saying they are not as prepared as they need to be.  Not academically, but from the other applied skills, or what some people refer to as the 'emotional IQ.'”

O’Farrell says Stages for Youth was a one-time project.  The film camp brought together 24 teens from 10 different Cincinnati neighborhoods.  The students were broken up into six separate production teams, and each team was assigned mentors and had to make a short film.  Two films from Stages for Youth were submitted to the White House Student Film Festival, including “45223,” which was not accepted.

O'Farrell says the students learned not only technical production, but also life skills like planning, time management, and collaboration.

O'Farrell says the film was inspired by a defaced Shepard Fairey mural in Northside.  “The taggers were known to the community and have created quite a debate and stirred a lot of controversy in the Northside neighborhood about the value of urban art.” 

He says the taggers’ argument was “'If it’s a Shepard Fairey piece, it’s okay.  If it’s a graffiti artist, it’s not'".

So the teens took that concept and gave it their own spin.

“What they did was they took the idea of urban art and personified it," O'Farrell says. "And gave urban art a voice, as if urban art is looking out on the community and making a statement about what it sees.  And the value of its place in the community.”

More than 1,500 films were submitted to the festival.  Only 15 were chosen as winners. 

Watch the winning short film, "I Am Urban Art" below.