Access to the Art of Film

Act One Introduces Students to the art of film

It’s the weekend. Many of us are thinking about what movie we’ll see. The blockbuster "Black Panther" or the Oscar winner for Best Picture, "The Shape of Water?"  Watching movies is a normal pastime in American life, unless your family lives in poverty. It’s surprising to learn that children in nearby poorer communities have NEVER seen a movie in a theater. 

 ... The plays, operas, concerts and movies that you provide are the only introduction these kids will ever get to the arts.
— Craig, a teacher at a Mesa charter school where 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch

Act One offered a new field trip this year showcasing the art of film. Act One partnered with Scottsdale International Film Festival to provide a screening of animated children’s shorts at Harkins Shea 14. On November 2, 323 students from six Title 1 schools saw meaningful artistic films and enjoyed the movie-going experience.

Craig, a Mesa charter school teacher, learned about Act One from a school administrator and signed up to take his class on Act One’s film field trip. He said, “I will just say this … my students are all below the poverty level. They seldom go anywhere with their families …”

What was their reaction to seeing the films? Craig shared, “My students loved the short films. For some students, this was their FIRST TRIP to a movie theater EVER … these are 10 year olds. Juan was so excited to get to be inside a theater he could barely sit still. He was shocked at the difference between seeing a movie on TV and the experience of being in a large theater.”

Why aren’t the arts, and movies in general, a reality for the families of Craig’s students? He described their circumstances. “One of my kids told me yesterday, ‘I hate the rain!’. I asked why, saying that I love the rain. She replied, ‘Because I have to go up and put extra cardboard and bricks on the roof, and I get all wet.’ About 90% of my kids have similar stories. Stories of sleeping outside because there’s ‘no more room on the floor.’ ... The plays, operas, concerts and movies that you provide are the only introduction these kids will ever get to the arts.”

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Act One field trips introduce students to the arts as part of a complete arts program. In Title 1 schools, a field trip may be the only arts education they can offer their already disadvantaged students. Craig raised this point, “…my school has NO arts programs whatsoever. If it weren’t for you guys, these kids would literally never get to experience ANYTHING outside of basic “reading, writing, ‘rithmatic.” You may not know it, but you are doing very important work.”

Teachers like Craig fully appreciate the educational value that an arts field trip provides. In ways only the arts can communicate, the films championed the ideas of global awareness, social inclusion, diversity, teamwork, empathy, care for our planet, human rights, kindness and love. Craig used the films to discuss other countries and cultures. He also had the class do a creative writing project inspired by their field trip.

Beyond the arts exposure and educational value, children benefit from the entire field trip experience. Whether it’s the bus ride outside of their neighborhood, riding in an elevator at a museum, walking into a grand lobby or sitting in an expansive or intimate performance space, students confront something new to them. Craig described the impact of the big screen on a student: “I had a girl, age 9, that had never been to the theater before with me (along with other first-timers). She was overwhelmed by the experience. She was so into the huge screen, the surround sound, the experience, that she forgot to eat her popcorn and drink her juice. Imagine being 9 or 10 and walking into a theater for the first time.”

Going to the movies is an ordinary weekend activity for most people. For others, it is extraordinary. At Act One, our desire is that the arts become integral to our children’s education and adult lives, despite social and economic disadvantages. Thanks to our leaders, advocates and donors for providing vital access to the arts. Craig said it best: “I am so thankful for Act One, because without you my school wouldn’t get to experience the arts. Hopefully, you all know how important this is…you are planting seeds in the minds and hearts of these kids, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a lifelong love of the arts for them. Thank you all!”