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Thanks in part to a generous grant from Fox Vets, four aspiring filmmakers received scholarships to the “Art of Visual Storytelling (AVS) Workshop in May and June. In this intensive nine-week film lab, Barbara Autin,  Heraclio Aguilar, Jr.,  Sheryl Shaffer and Mikal Vega each wrote, directed and edited two short films, AND assisted their other 11 classmates in making their films.

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The film labis taught by award-winning Director Miles Watkins.  In addition to decades of experience directing everything from educational films to network television series’ and feature films, Professor Watkins also teaches directing at the world-renowned University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts.

Watkins stated,  “[All the vets] have experience-rich lives, and had stories inside them they wanted to tell.  They just needed the tools and encouragement to tell them. I was genuinely impressed with how each of them proved to be an asset to our group dynamic overall.”

According to Sheryl Schaffer, “This course has been the best learning experience of my life. Now I know I can do this.”   Mikal Vega compared the military structure to film production: “ The director is like the platoon chief managing all the departments. Not only does he need the front and side focus of how to get from point A to Z, he’s got to be ready for all the stuff that has to happen in between”.

 Professor Watkins called the VME VFT projects “…imaginative, creative, and heartfelt”.  Fellow student and non-veteran Deja Soufka said, “They were on a mission to tell a story beyond just entertainment.”   Shaffer’s movie about her father’s military service during WWII was especially moving.  Soufka explained Sheryl’s movie “… connected us to an era that we don’t think much about any more.  Sheryl kept that story alive.”

The “Art of Visual Storytelling” Film Lab is part of VME’s initiative to partner with established educational programs, placing vets alongside civilian counterparts with top-notch instructors in short-term, hands-on workshops.  “Everyone felt they learned a lot and forged some great working relationships.  We’ll most likely be offering scholarships to this workshop again next summer,” according to VFT Programs Director Abe Bradshaw. “Meanwhile, we are looking into doing a Screening Night for the VFT Films made during the 2017 AVS Workshop hosted at Post 43 in the near future.” 


Post Date: Monday July 31, 2017

Rebecca Murga