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Last year when Anna Johnson, artistic and managing director of Cadence Theatre Company, asked a group of teen leaders involved in Kdents TV what project would interest them, they overwhelmingly said they want to create original content to be shared on YouTube.
“We [adult leaders of Cadence] love to support the work of young artists. We have the ability to pool resources and contacts to help youth succeed creatively by offering support for their ideas,” says Johnson.
After the group’s first series, The Twelve Days of Quaranteens, which documented life in quarantine, “the group decided to make the YouTube channel official and give it a name —KdentsTV,” says Johnson.
Cadence Theatre Company’s KdentsTV hosts many shows and competitions. The group of teen leaders is involved in creating the shows, contests, and series. They are currently filming Season One of an original thriller web series called Bloodlines.
Creator Contests Showcased at KdentsTV
This year the group developed four contests: the Summer Palooza Music Festival and Contest, the Horror Film Festival and Contest, the ROM-COM Zoombirds Screenplay Writing Festival and Contest and The Documentary + Mockumentary Film Festival and Contest, which will stream films entered in the contest on April 23 and 24 and announce winners for each category on April 25.
“One of the first things we did was the Horror Film Festival. It was really fun to help put it together, and it was fun to take part in it,” says 15-year-old Marcus Dowd, a sophomore at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford and one of the co-creators of The Documentary + Mockumentary Film Festival and Contest as well as a screenwriter for the series Bloodlines.
“We had lots of people saying they wanted a similar competition for documentaries and mockumentaries, so we took that and ran with it.”
“I think that was really cool to take something that people were interested in and make that a reality,” he adds. “We were so inspired by the fact this was suggested by the creators that we didn’t want to put any restrictions on it. It’s an opportunity to just create or document something.”
The contests are free and offered to anyone under 18. “So far we have reached youth from across the Commonwealth. We also offer prizes, usually a cash prize and a prize that could help a student make more films, such as film equipment and computer software,” Johnson says.
Cadence also sends notices to school teachers in case they want to consider the contests for an in-classroom project.
Dowd took the documentary/mockumentary competition as a writing challenge. “It isn’t something that I would generate on my own, and I think that is what makes the competition and Kdents TV so special,” he says. “It is an open invitation to learn something new by trying something new. It might not be my best work as an actor or a creator, but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.”
He hopes to discover more of his capabilities as a filmmaker through this process. “I also hope that I can discover others discovering the same thing. I just had fun making my documentary, and I think discovering a new medium and having a great time is a pretty powerful thing,” he says.
Creative Learning During the Pandemic
Finding ways to keep students engaged and keeping activities equitable and accessible has been “extremely challenging during the pandemic,” says Taylor Bernard, theatre teacher at the Specialty Center for the Performing Arts at Thomas Dale High School. “My students were so excited to participate in the Horror Film Competition Cadence hosted in the fall so I knew they would love this documentary + mockumentary film competition as well. The parameters are just enough to be motivating without eliminating anyone’s ability to participate.”
Several of his student’s films placed in the horror films contest. “They all had a great time creating their pieces. They also learned a lot about the history of horror films, film production and acting for the camera,” he says.
Johnson plans for the Documentary + Mockumentary Film Competition to become an annual event. “We are eager to see what young people care about,” she says about this year’s competition. “You would be blown away by what a teen can do on an iPhone.”
Dowd hopes the competition inspires people to try making a documentary and “maybe even inspire them to keep making films. I also hope the competition can reward young creators for their effort. The goal is also to highlight young people who can create really good films. The goal is to have fun. The goal is whatever you make it,” he says.
The Documentary + Mockumentary Festival and Contest can be seen on several platforms:
KdentsTV YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/kdentstv
KdentsTV Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KdentsTV/
KdentsTV Instagram: @kdentstv
Cadence Theatre Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CadenceTheatreCompany/
Cadence Theatre Company’s Instagram: @cadencetheatre
Cadence Theatre Company’s KdentsTV web page: https://cadencetheatre.org/kdentstv