Film Program Offers Foster Kids Hollywood Experience

by Becca Sanchez

After leaving her job in corporate insurance, Tige Charity visited an all-girls group home and decided she wanted to do something to give back to youths in the foster care system.

Five years later, the organization she founded has helped lend voice and video to the experiences of approximately 100 foster youths who have worked on 28 short films.

Los Angeles-based organization Kids in the Spotlight offers kids in foster care agencies a photo1real Hollywood experience with the opportunity to create short films under professional guidance, from creating a concept to a movie premiere.

Charity, founder and executive director, said the goal is to “give them an opportunity, a platform to tell their stories their way.”

Charity founded the organization in 2009 after she parted ways with her corporate insurance job.  She called friends in the movie industry and the program gradually came together. The idea for films came from Charity’s appreciation for the arts.

“I presented it as an opportunity to give a very vulnerable population a voice, a time to show them that it may feel [they] are forsaken to have to be in the facility…to know that [they] are not forgotten,” said Charity.

It is also a way for kids in foster care agencies to gain confidence and feel in control. It is about having a project they can be proud of while meeting professionals and experiencing the process of making a film.

“We’re talking about a group of vulnerable kids who are used to other people dictating for them—their social workers, the agencies, and their attorneys, and the courts, and now they’re in a position where they get to decide. ‘This is my film, this is my product, and I get to decide who gets to be a part of it.’”

This mobile program goes to foster care agencies in the Los Angeles area for a 10-week program at a time. Currently, four films are being produced at the Maryvale Group Home in Rosemeade, Calif.

Industry professionals are brought in for youths to learn how film production works. They handle most aspects of the creative process under the guidance of professionals, including: film concepts, film pitches, screenplay writing, casting, acting, and directing. Only the film editing is handled completely by adults, and Charity’s short-term goal is to add that as a youth component soon.

Kids in the Spotlight then registers the films with the Writer’s Guild of America and receive IMDB credit. The program ends with its own red carpet event modeled after the Academy Awards. ‘Kids in the Spotlight: Movies by Kids for Kids’ is held annually at the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverley Hills.

Celebrities are even brought out to host and present the event, such as Sherri Shepherd, KITS1host of The View, who hosted the event the first year.

The event ends with ‘Jordan Awards,’ an Oscar satire in which a committee of young industry professionals are sent copies of the films and a ballot to vote in separate categories, such as Best Screenplay.

Thus far, Charity has led the organization, without pay, with annual budget well under $100,000. The organization operates mainly from the generosity of private donors through crowdsourcing and, recently, employee match with Microsoft. Other funding comes from the Jordan Awards night, where tickets are around $20, and then people donate to receive a DVD of the short films.

This year’s ‘Kids in the Spotlight: Movies by Kids for Kids’ will be held on November 1 and will premiere seven films that are up for awards.

Since the organization was founded, 28 short films have been created. A few are available at the main public library in downtown Los Angeles and online for a suggested donation of $10.

Becca Sanchez is an intern reporter for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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