West Side Studios (WSS) is being proactive in ways that are helping to develop a capable workforce in the local film industry. If Buffalo is going to continue to grow as a film city, then we need a lot more than amazing backdrops and a committed Film Commission. We need a workforce that is at the beck and call of filmmakers – skilled young people who are familiar with the ins and outs of a film set.
Students from WSS recently attended a one-day certification program held by the Buffalo Niagara Film Office. By the end of the program, 10 students emerged with the skills to become production assistants (PAs). That means that the next time a local film is announced, or a feature film comes to town, there will be certified PAs waiting in the wings. Just as important, these certified film hands will become mentors for the next wave of aspiring PAs who attend WSS.
WSS came about as a partnership between People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo) and Squeaky Wheel. The idea behind WSS is to provide young westsiders (ages 13-19) with real field work opportunities that will help to develop their skill sets, while building their professional portfolios. These opportunities are being made possible thanks to The New York State Council on the Arts and The New York State Regional Economic Development Council.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have our senior students and teaching assistants gain this valuable accreditation to take them further into the professional film industry and become mentors and role models for our younger students to follow,” says Maiko Tanaka, Executive Director of Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center.
Instructors Rich Herbeck and Jamie Steinberg have worked with a number of the students. The curriculum was developed by Squeaky Wheel Director of Education, Kevin Kline. Additional teaching help was provided by assistants Aweso Salim (21) and Malik Chaney (23), who are employed at the Grant Street Neighborhood Center by PUSH. Rounding out the artistic end of the instruction was Lorna C. Hill (Ujima), who worked with the students to enhance their public speaking, theater, and interviewing skills for documentary production. All of these efforts, leading up to the one-day certification program, have helped these young people to advance their capabilities when it comes to increased communication skills, computer literacy, critical thinking, and team leadership.