Spotlight on Spy Hop: PitchNic Prepares Young Filmmakers for Media Careers

In her article in this issue, “The Chicago Track Creates A Bridge To the Professional Media World,” Lucia Palmarini calls attention to the diverse ways that Free Spirit Media is creating professional development and networking experiences for young media makers considering careers in film and media. Data gathered by Kathleen Tyner in her report, “Mapping the Field of Youth Media,” further demonstrate the importance of career development in youth media programming with 65% of responding organizations indicating that preparing youth for careers in media is central to their mission. Beyond the increasing pressures on youth media organizations to provide professional training, we also recognize the field’s long history of helping young people develop the creative skills and practices valued in the creative media and technology industries.

This short spotlight presents another example of a youth media organization that is trying to provide pathways into professional media careers. Spy Hop’s PitchNic is a model professionalization program in Salt Lake City, Utah, where experienced youth media makers participate in more extensive engagement with filmmaking practices including networking, production, and distribution. Conceived in 2001 as an innovative way of bringing together young filmmakers with real production resources, Spy Hop’s PitchNic empowers young filmmakers to see themselves as independent filmmakers by immersing them in a yearlong intensive professional filmmaking curriculum. Each year, a small number of students write, shoot, and edit a 20-minute film. They also have the unique experience of pitching their story ideas to a panel of film professionals. Through this process, the panel of professionals select six pitches to advance to a final round, which are then narrowed down to four final films by the class. As teams of three—a director, producer, and cinematographer—learn first-hand how to create a professional-caliber film, they are guided and mentored by Shannalee Otanez and Joshua Samson, both accomplished professional filmmakers.

The films produced at PitchNic have screened at over 30 festivals internationally, including Sundance Film Festival and Los Angeles Film Festival. The most recent PitchNic films premiered in November 2014 at the Jeanne Wagner Theatre, a sold-out event that drew outstanding coverage in the Utah Review. In his enthusiastic review, writer/blogger and art lover Les Roka highlighted the passionate young filmmakers’ accomplishments and growth: “To the delight of an audience that asked plenty of questions after each film was screened, the students, working with mentors Josh Samson and Shannalee Otanez, demonstrated just how their creative work serves to stimulate and sustain enlightened views leading to social and cultural awareness and even change.”

To learn more about this program and view their impressive work, see the PitchNic Vimeo channel here.

See a 10-Year Retrospective here.