By Steve Wilkins
Yes – I’m one of those fathers who lead their sons’ Boy Scout Troop and that means we go on awesome trips together. This spring, our troop was invited to participate in a Moviemaking Merit Badge Day at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles. My two young sons and I – along with the rest of the troop – were going to visit a famous studio lot for the first time. It would be an understatement to say that we were excited. I was particularly excited because my kids, Isaac and Isaiah, might even discover a new passion that could lead to a career.
We kicked the day off at Stage 48, a new facility at Warner Bros. that truly takes you behind the scenes. We started by learning about screenwriting, casting, storyboarding, and working in each of the key departments on a movie set that bring an idea to life. The Scouts ran from exhibit to exhibit, recognizing costumes, props, scripts, and sets from their favorite films and TV shows. They were thrilled when they posed for photos inside Central Perk, the coffee shop set from Friends. Then, they heard from cinematographer Jeffrey Norvet, who taught the Scouts how cameras work and how the individual scenes of a movie are shot. After watching a demonstration of the various layers of sound mixing on the movie Gravity, each Scout got to hold an Oscar® and pose for a photo.
In addition to the cinematographer, there were many other volunteers from the film and television union on hand throughout the day. We learned that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) represents an amazingly diverse membership of craftspeople, including the cinematographer, storyboard artist, and construction foreman who all shared stories about their work with the 60-plus Scouts present that day.
After Stage 48, it was off to the mill (where a lot of what you see on camera is built) to hear from Mike Smith, a Set Construction Supervisor who has worked at Warner Bros. for 40 years. Next, it was the picture car vault where my kids eagerly posed for photos next to all of the Batmobiles. And finally, we visited the prop house to see all of the tiny details that go into making a set look real.
In the afternoon, the Scouts split up into six groups to write, storyboard, and film their own short films. Using smartphones and iPads, the Scouts shot their films, giving careful thought to camera angles and cuts. Even though the films only ranged in length from 43 seconds to two minutes, it took several hours to go from storyboard to script to screen. The experience showed all of us how difficult and time-consuming making a movie can be. Seeing what it took to create two minutes of footage showed us why it takes months and hundreds of people to make a feature film.
All of this had a huge impact on the Scouts. From location scouting to sound mixing, they learned about the hundreds of jobs behind the scenes that they could one day pursue as careers for themselves – helping to make the movies and TV shows that they love. I don’t think they ever dreamed they would spend a full day at Warner Bros., much less film their own short movies on that historic lot. But now a career in the entertainment industry is no longer a dream, it’s a possibility for their future. It was an amazing experience for the Scouts and me – and I’m thrilled my son Isaac is now considering a career in sound mixing.
CreativeFuture was one of the sponsors that made this Merit Badge Day possible. We watched their “Value of Creativity” video. We learned how piracy jeopardizes the rights of creatives and puts jobs at risk – that it’s not a victimless crime. We realized that all those different jobs we learned about are at risk. Scouts believe in making ethical choices and living a moral life. We learned that the choices we make online are just as important as the choices we make in real life.
In thinking about how my family and I watch movies and TV shows online, one thing that stood out for me is we’re not always certain if where we are watching is a legitimate site. Where you choose to watch really does matter, and my troop now knows www.wheretowatch.com will help each of them avoid illegal pirate sites.
Our visit to Warner Bros. was not only the day 60 Scouts earned their Moviemaking Badge, which was 57 more than the previous year, but also the day their eyes were opened to an entirely new way of thinking about where their lives could go. I hope that opportunities like this will help younger generations appreciate the amount of work, passion, and effort that goes into making a movie or television show. Most importantly, I hope it inspires them to dream BIG, with new and exciting dreams for themselves.