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RAW’s Real To Reel film school in Lynn gets $35,000 grant

Real To Reel film program senior Julianna Gallant, left, is bathed in red light as she is filmed by other students in the program, Michaela Olabisi of Lynn, back, Sydney Field, center, and Ana Quigley of Marblehead. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — It’s getting Real at Raw Art Works, thanks to a $35,000 grant.

The Lynn art center’s Real To Reel (R2R) film school program will get the money as part of the approval from the National Endowment for the Arts’ of more than $27 million in grants for fiscal year 2019. Rachel St. Pierre, who co-manages the program with Jon Artigo, said the cash will continue to fund the film school, which has 60 students.

“We are not a technical filmmaking program, we are a soul-searching, story-based program,” said St. Pierre. “Our films are based off of storytelling and our students know when they want to tell a good story, they need to talk to members in the community.”

The program started in 2000, under the direction of Jason Cruz, who is currently RAW’s clinical supervisor and master’s level expressive art therapist, according to St. Pierre. Back then, they only had four students, one camera, and a film cart.

Now, the program has expanded to 60 students, a film studio, an editing suite, a sound booth, an equipment room, and multiple professional grade cameras.

The film school has programs for animation, making documentaries, music videos, narratives, and experimental personal filmmaking. St. Pierre and Artigo are the only two full-time employees and they have three part-time staff members, two of them alumni of the program.

RAW plans to use the grant money for equipment upkeep, and funding more films and staff members. This year alone, students created 22 award-winning films shown throughout the country and internationally, said St. Pierre.

“On top of that we have more than 40 being screened all over the world,” she said. “We are just proud. One of the things I feel passionate about is giving these amazing films a second life in the festival world. I treat these films like they are made by professional filmmakers and my job is just getting them out into the world.”

Every film idea starts at a round table with students who don’t look like each other and have diverse backgrounds, St. Pierre said. They create a community by sharing their stories and finding ways to interpret those stories onto film.

When making their films, the students do a lot of research and outreach to Lynn residents to tell stories that represent the community, she said.

“Film helps them curate what they want to say and I think that’s super important right now, for them to be heard,” said St. Pierre. “And film is such an incredible tool for youth to get their message out there.”

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