After getting laid off from a longtime career in corporate America, Tige Charity faced the dilemma of a lifetime: stay in the rat race and find another job, or follow her heart and do something that might be a risk but could help others. Her choice two years ago to launch Kids in the Spotlight (KITS) has already changed the lives of dozens of disadvantaged and foster children across Los Angeles.
The group, which she founded and directs with her friend Sharon Hogg, teaches kids how to write a short-film script in five-person teams and then lets them participate in the filmmaking process — all the way from casting through a gala screening.
Now KITS is about to embark on its first foray into working with Pasadena-area children, teaming up with the Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services group home to pick 10 kids for the current round of the 10-week program, which starts Tuesday.
Charity is hoping that interested locals will help raise the $8,900 she needs in order to fund the projects of the 10 kids at Hathaway-Sycamores and the 10 others who are participating simultaneously at the Penny Lane foster facility in North Hills. As she’s learned, the KITS projects teach a lot more than just creative and technical skills; they can affect lives on much deeper levels.
“They learn teamwork skills through collaborating and respect one another’s ideas and creativity,” says Charity. “Working on this gives them a sense of accomplishment and boosts their self-esteem. We’re enabling them to finish something that we think will help them rise above their current circumstances in life.”
The program is fun but intense, as KITS works with 10 children or teens who are picked by officials at each foster care program or school. Schools that have participated include Willowbrook Middle School, Centennial High School in Compton, and the Wings of Refuge Family Service Agency in Los Angeles. Divided into two five-member teams, the participants have the final goal of creating a short film that runs 10 minutes or less, but which can be either a drama or comedy.
The first five weeks consist of screenwriting classes in which the children learn tone and story structure, then develop plot, themes, protagonists and antagonists and map out the full outline of their story. Once the scripts are completed, the scripts are protected by Writers Guild of America registration before the students embark on three weeks of acting classes, which teach better development of characters and culminate in casting sessions.
“The kids have to audition for their own films because writing them doesn’t automatically mean starring in them,” says Charity.
“We want to teach them to make the best possible film. Then they have two weeks of production, with full exposure to wardrobe, makeup, a camera crew and set designs as we shoot the films in eight- to 10-hour timeframes.”
The end results wind up screened in a gala event in October called the Movies By Kids, For Kids Annual Film Festival, complete with an awards ceremony. Seeing corporations help out — such as Final Draft donating sets of its coveted and expensive screenwriting software — as well as seeing dozens of professional crew members and actors donating their time before watching the final results on the big screen at prime locations like Raleigh Studios or this year’s hoped-for venue at the WGA Theater undoubtedly creates memories that last a lifetime.
“It was especially touching working with Wings of Refuge, because their stories were dramatic but realistic to their experience,” says Charity. “They worked with abandonment themes and themes of how words can hurt, to think of how what you say can really damage someone. They might have felt abandoned or teased. We’re giving them a platform to have their voices get heard on a wide-ranging scale.”
To learn how to donate or volunteer with Kids in the Spotlight, visit kidsinthespotlight.org or call (818) 441-1513.