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Educating Wisconsin Youth Through Film

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

With a goal of creating a foundational hub of education, entertainment, and creation, Milwaukee Film has worked for many years to attract educators and students and engage them in unique ways around film. And it’s worked to great success, with thousands of students each year participating in the organization’s programming.

Aliza Werner, a former elementary and middle school teacher and education consultant for Milwaukee Film, said her aim is to create and facilitate programs that focus not only on youth, but also on educators, families, parents, and caregivers.

“What we’re looking to do is engage educators in media and film,” Werner said. “We want to help them see how they can incorporate and be inspired by film and all it can do. Whether it comes to the creation or the consumption of film, we want to show them how powerful film can be as a tool.”

For students, Werner said Milwaukee Film wants to spark a love of learning about film and enhance media literacy skills in a unique way.

“We want to develop their media literacy skills and engage them, broaden their view on what film can be; there’s so much out there,” she said. “We deal with both the creation and consumption of film and media, and we want to grow educators and kids in not only their ability around film itself, but also the human aspect…empathy, and broaden their horizons about other cultures, countries, and human identities.”

Throughout the school year, the organization hosts education screenings in which thousands of students from the Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin area each year take a field trip to the movies. Upon arriving at the Oriental Theatre, students experience a historic cinema, view a feature film (fourth grade and up) or short programs (first through third grades), and join other students from the area in curriculum-based activities and discussions. The organization also provides teachers with curriculum packets. Learn more about these education screenings by visiting Milwaukee Film’s website.

“I come from the education background, not the film background,” Werner said. “My goal as a teacher is to help develop humans who are empathetic, can think critically and can engage with others. To have them participate in the world now and in the future, to be independent, thoughtful people who can interact with others. That leads everything I do. We’re trying to grow some good humans here and using film as the vehicle to make that happen is to me, a very powerful thing.”

milwaukee film students
Students who took part in the Milwaukee Youth Show 2022 speak at the Milwaukee Film Fest earlier this year. 

Like many industries, Milwaukee Film had to quickly pivot when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Instead of having in-person visits, the organization moved its offerings online and assisted teachers with programming in a virtual format. With in-person services returning much of this year, the organization moved back to its popular programming.

In addition to the screenings, Milwaukee Film also supports educators through fellowships and workshops. Werner facilitates the elementary fellowship.

“(The fellowship) allows educators to create something practical that they can implement in their own classroom or educational setting,” Werner said.

For more information about Milwaukee Film’s fellowships and workshops, visit the organization’s website.

In addition to the programs geared toward students and educators mentioned above, Milwaukee Film also offers:

  • Reel Talks: Filmmakers, directors, actors and actresses, and people who hold other roles in film visit schools and afterschool programs to speak to youth about what it’s like to be in the business, how they make their films, and much more.
  • High School Filmmaking Course: The filmmaking course guides students from idea creation, to production, to editing, and post-production, with a goal of creating original documentary or live action films. At the conclusion of the course’s completion, students’ creations are screened at a special event at the Oriental Theatre.
  • Teen Screen Selection Committee: A festival program curated by teenagers from around the Milwaukee area. These teens meet weekly to discuss and select films that will screen during the Milwaukee Film Festival as part of the Teen Screen program.
  • The Milwaukee Youth Show: This unique show presents a slate of films by local youth aged 18 and under at the MKE Film Festival.

For more information on Milwaukee Film’s education services, visit the organization’s main hub on its website.