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As part of its summer youth programming, Guilford Art Center is offering five consecutive days of hands-on exploratory filmmaking classes with Guilford resident and award-winning filmmaker and editor Jeff Reilly. Photo courtesy of Jeff Reilly

As part of its summer youth programming, Guilford Art Center is offering five consecutive days of hands-on exploratory filmmaking classes with Guilford resident and award-winning filmmaker and editor Jeff Reilly. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Reilly )

Sharing the Craft: GAC Summer Program Connects Award-Winning Filmmaker Jeff Reilly with Local Teens

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When Jeff Reilly attended Guilford High School (GHS) in the early ‘90s, he didn’t have access to filmmaking equipment. And smartphones, today’s go-to tech for aspiring filmmakers, weren’t even a thing.

Fast forward two decades, when Jeff, now an Emmy award-winning filmmaker/editor of documentaries screened around the world and television work on ESPN, HBO, ABC, PBS, CBS, NBC, BTN, EPIX, Discovery & Travel Channel, rolls up his sleeves to share what he knows with teens during a creative filmmaking program offered by Guilford Art Center (GAC) in July.

As part of its summer youth programming, GAC is offering Intro to Creative Film Making, five consecutive days of hands-on exploratory filmmaking workshops with Jeff at the Guilford Free Library.

For Jeff, who can still remember the moment he decided to get into filmmaking, having access to the technology kids have today would have been a dream come true during his high school years.

“I was five years old when I announced to my pediatrician that I wanted to be a movie director—I just wanted the camera,” says Jeff. “When I graduated from [GHS] in 1993, there still really wasn’t any access [to equipment], except you could write, so editing wasn’t on my radar...Now, there’s so many things you can do on your phone. You can shoot 4K [video]; [director] Steven Soderbergh has shot a couple films on the Iphone.”

Even with that access to technology, Jeff also knows there’s no substitute for learning the craft by working with a pro. Jeff, who lives in Guilford with his wife and two kids, operates his company, Face First Films (www.facefirstfilms.com), out of Branford. The production company writes, produces, shoots, edits, and designs projects ranging from local business boutique videos to feature films.

Even with his busy schedule, Jeff says he’s been looking for a way to give back to the shoreline community. That’s why he’s collaborating with GAC to teach a class that he hopes will not only inspire teens with an interest in the business of filmmaking, but give hands-on experience with the tools and types of work available in the trade.

“I have this strong pull to give back and I do like working with young people. They’re very smart and creative,” says Jeff. “Part of what I want to do with the class is get kids out and be creative and play around with cameras, and put it together in an editing system where you can use all the tools, music, effects, whatever...Part of it’s to just learn how to put a project together—how to plan it, go out, execute it in a shoot, and come back and finish it off with an edit.”

While he’ll bring in professional cameras and editing programs, Jeff hopes the take-away will be that teens can keep creating after the class ends and have an awareness of the different roles available in the profession.

“I want them to be able to shoot most of it on some fun cameras and play around with that stuff, but I still want to impart the idea that, hey, the point is, if you have a good story, you can tell it by shooting it on your phone. It may not be the best option, but it’s a pretty good option,” he says. “I also want them to find out there’s a lot of directions that you can go. You might not think you want to be a filmmaker, but if you want to be a graphic designer, or you just want to do the effects work on a film, you can do that, and you can start right now.”

Jeff studied his profession in college and built his reputation through years of work with professionals around the country.

“When I started out, I wanted to be a director, and so I chased that down. I wrote several screen plays...then found editing and it was like, ‘Oh, you can make a continuous salary and be creative!’ That’s another thing I want to impart to these kids. You may dream of being Steven Spielberg, and I think you should shoot for that, but you should know along the way there’s ways to exercise your creativity in this business and make money.”

Going Pro

For nearly 20 years, Jeff’s been working professionally in film and TV. Along the way, his work has been nominated for National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awards including the Emmy and Prism awards. Jeff has won two Emmys, one for Outstanding Editing and one for Outstanding Documentary Series, and a Prism Award for Best Documentary. His 2008 Editing Emmy was awarded for his work on ESPN’s Ali’s 65 about boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Jeff’s 2014 Documentary Emmy was awarded for his work as an editor for ESPN’s Rand University; that sports documentary about NFL player Randy Moss also brought Jeff a 2014 nomination for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary.

Also in 2014, Jeff won the Prism Award for Best Feature Documentary for The Anonymous People, a documentary he edited, co-wrote, and co-produced with Greg Williams in 2012.

Jeff says the real reward comes when he’s able to combine his work with a project that lends itself to raising awareness about important issues in society, and hopefully, make a difference.

“The Anonymous People film [was] on the history of addiction and [Alcoholics Anonymous] and the change-over in the progression of where we’ve come. So there’s this whole section in the film where the language around addiction changes—they’re not an addict or a junkie, they’re a person in long-term recovery—that kind of thing,” says Jeff. “And we would get emails from people who never talked about their addiction, who’d been in recovery for 20 years, saying, ‘I realize I should be proud of it.’”

Another ground-breaking project Jeff co-created with Williams is their 2014 documentary Generation Found, which follows a community devastated by a youth addiction epidemic on a two-year journey to create a visionary youth addiction recovery support system centered on developing a “recovery high school.”

“I just found this out: The amount of recovery high schools at the time we made Generation Found was pretty low and was dwindling. And now, I think there’s 47—it went through the roof,” says Jeff. “So hopefully, with this work, you do a little good and you give back. You get them in there because they like movies and they like docs and its entertaining—and then you learn something.”

Guilford Art Center is offering Intro to Creative Film Making, five consecutive days of hands-on exploratory filmmaking workshops with Jeff Reilly, at Guilford Free Library, 67 Park Street,from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 8 to 12. Registration is open now and fees apply; visit guilfordartcenter.org for more information.

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