Read how filmmaker Tamika Lamison mobilizes celebrities to help children become filmmakers.
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Current Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Founder/Exec. Director of Make A Film Foundation and filmmaker
Area of Focus: Non-Profit, Service, Filmmaking
For people who are unaware what the Make A Film Foundation is, could you please tell us what it is all about?
Make A Film Foundation teams children who have serious or life-threatening medical conditions with film industry professionals to help them create short film legacies. These unique children get to write and star in their own short films with the help of well-known actors, writers and directors.
We also have another arm of our program called “Vidz 4 Kidz”. This program allows us to impact more children. We go to various hospitals and facilities, team the children with hand-held video cameras and film mentors, and help them to create short films/docs that share their voice, vision and story.
There are numerous mentors involved in the foundation that help with all aspects of film making, what exactly do these mentors do? And how much of blessing is this to have the generosity of these big names?
Make A Film Foundation could not exist without the service, talent, skills and heart of its film mentors. These mentors volunteer their time in various capacities that include mentoring in and serving in directing, script writing, editing and acting.
For our short narrative films, they actively engage in directing and acting in the kids films and in every other aspect of creating a Hollywood level short film that helps manifest the dream of the participant.
In addition, Film Mentors actively participate in the “Vidz 4 Kidz” program as directing mentors. They help to guide kids as they create a story that they want to tell. They show them how to use the cameras and equipment so that they can
shoot their own film/story. They sometimes interview the kids/parents as part of their film. And they inspire/motivate the kids to really create a story that represents them and to share their true voice. They, in essence, mentor the film process with these kids to make sure that they have a cohesive story/film to share.
You have some pretty big names involved with the foundation like (Laura Innes-do not include, has not yet worked with organization-Other celebs include: Sean Austin, Kerry Washington), Elijah Wood, Isaiah Washington and the list goes on. How did these guys get involved?
Many of our celebrity volunteers have gotten involved through personal contacts or recommendations by friends. Those that haven’t gotten involved through personal contacts have been invited to be a part of MAKE A FILM FOUNDATION through the usual contacts- managers, agents, publicists. We are not at all shy about using IMDB Pro to find out who represents an actor, writer or director that we’re interested in participating in our organization. We’ve had really great luck using the regular channels. Some celebrities like Isaiah Washington& Ernie Hudson, I knew previously. Michael Ealy and I shared the same manager. And I knew our first writing mentor, Don Scott because we were both in the ABC/Walt Disney
Screenwriting fellowship, but at different times. My producing partner, Debi Hughes, enjoys making the calls to get the big names interested and she’s very good at getting a ‘Yes’ so she’s often very instrumental in that area as well.
Could you tell us about some of the children involved in the foundation?
We’ve worked with so many amazing children. Our first participant, Jabril Muhammad, has Sickle Cell Anemia. He was 18 when he was introduced to us. He was a product of the foster care system and had a very intense story to tell that was
loosely based on his own experiences. He wanted to share a story about being thrown into a world of gang violence, and yet being able to choose a different path. Jabril’s film, “Put it In a Book” went on to screen in many festivals and won several awards.
“Deep Blue Breath” is our current project. It was written by Clay Beabout at 11 years old. Clay starred in the film with Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Natasha Gregson Wagner (High Fidelity) Miguel Sandoval (Medium) and Ernie Hudson
(Ghostbusters). Clay has Vater Syndrome which is a disease which shows up as various defects and abnormalities that are often life threatening. Clay has had over 40 surgeries. When asked how making the film has affected his life, Clay said,
“Making my film hasn’t made my surgeries easier, but it has given me hope for when I come out of them.”
We have been touched by so many children in our “Vidz 4 Kidz” program but one child in particular was 9 year old Christina. She suffered from Leukemia and was one of the funnies, brightest souls we’d ever met. Her film was called “Princess Christina” shot at the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. Unfortunately Christina passed away shortly after making her film. But her contagious spirit and legacy will live on with the little film she made which so clearly captures her zest for laughter and life.
Could you go into detail about some of the films they have created? What they were based on etc.?
“Put It In A Book” was about two brothers struggling to survive the mean streets of LA and the gang culture around them. When one brother is killed, the other must choose a path of righteousness or revenge. The film was loosely based on Jabril Muhammad’s experience growing up in foster care and having to survive the gang culture that permeated his surroundings.
“Deep Blue Breath” is about a boy who travels deep into his body into an animated world where he engages in battle with Lord Vater, an evil monstrous manifestation of his disease. Meanwhile, in surgery, the Doctors struggle to save his life. Clay Beabout wanted to share what it was like for him sometimes during his life of endless surgeries.
Most of the “Vidz 4 Kidz” films have some kind of documentary aspect to them. The kids talk about their challenges and their dreams. Sometimes they create films that also include a narrative story component in addition to sharing about who they are, their struggles and challenges.
How do children who are interested in making one a short film get a chance with you guys?
The truth is, any child who is suffering from a serious or life-threatening medical condition can qualify and have the opportunity to do a “Vidz 4 Kidz” film. We even make individual ‘house-call’ films with a team of 2-3 filmmakers showing up. These are called “Indi-Vidz-4-Kidz.” We also are willing to bring our “Vidz 4 Kidz” program to other states. And we love to partner with other organizations to bring the program to children. Some organization’s we’ve partnered with include: CochArt, MDA-Muscular Dystrophy Association and Diamond in the Raw as well as various Children’s Hospitals.
The short narrative films require more much time, commitment and funding. These films usually require about 25k for the film and the screening itself. In order for a child to be chosen for one of these films, they or someone they know must simply recommend them. We then interview them to see if they are a good fit.
We mainly are looking for children who really have a solid dream about making a film. We look for kids who have a very clear story to tell. We look for kids who are passionate about sharing this story. The great thing is, even if a child isn’t chosen for our short narrative program, we can always do a “Vidz 4 Kidz” film with them so they won’t feel like they’re left out.
So far, all of our kids for the short narrative films have come via recommendation. Clay Beabout was recommended to us through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They didn’t know how to grant his wish of writing and starring in a film, so they asked us if we could do it and we were thrilled to be able to step up and make it happen.
What is the best way for someone to get involved or helping the MAFF out?
The best way for people to get involved with Make A Film Foundation is through Volunteer Service and/or Donations, to spread the word by posting/passing our website around, “LIKE” us on our Facebook page and sign up on our website for
1. Volunteering can include things like:
Mentoring, Editing, Production Assistance, Internship, Graphic Design, Social Media Monitoring and Upkeep, Web Design/Upkeep, Fundraising Help, Bookkeeping/Organizational Help, Data Entry, grant writing, etc.
2. Donations can include:
Money, goods and services, Food, Office Space, Computers, Film Equipment (cameras, etc.), Computer Programs-Final Draft, Final Cut Pro, Movie Magic, Sound Stage, Locations, etc., Frequent Flyer Miles, etc.
Are there any upcoming projects?
Yes. Our next project, “The Magic Bracelet” was written as a feature, by 15 year old Rina Goldberg. Rina unfortunately lost her valiant battle with Mitochondrial Disease last December. One of the last things she said to her Mom was, “Please take
care of my film.”
“The Magic Bracelet” is about a bracelet with a mysterious past and mystical powers that link two teenaged best friends -one with a cheese obsessed dog and the other with a life threatening illness – and their families. The underlying messages
are always to love life, maintain a B+ attitude and remember to laugh and smile.
Make A Film Foundation is honoured to be able to bring Rina’s final wish to fruition. Diablo Cody, the Academy Award winning writer of JUNO has agreed to adapt Rina’s feature script into a short. We plan to shoot Rina’s film in March of
2012 and to premiere it in June of 2012.
We are currently fundraising for Rina’s Project, “The Magic Bracelet” and need to raise 20k to meet our 25k budget. We are a non-profit 501 ( c )3 organization and any money that is donated is tax deductible.