Now Playing at a Theatre Near You

Albright College students collaborated with the charity KidsPeace to create short video advertisements promoting foster parenting. At least one video is airing in a local movie theatre.

By Hilary Bentman

The next time you're sitting in the movie theatre waiting for the latest comic book-turned-blockbuster to begin, pay attention to the pre-show advertisements.

You just might catch a video created by Albright College students.

Students in the spring semester Video II course developed short videos for KidsPeace, a national nonprofit based in Lehigh County. The videos are designed to increase awareness of and promote the benefits of foster parenting.

At least one video, a 15-second spot created by Megan Homsher '15, will be screened at the Fox Berkshire movie theatre in Wyomissing from June 6 through Sept. 3, 2015.

This video, created by Megan Homsher '15, is airing at Fox Berkshire movie theatre in Wyomissing

"This was a really cool experience, a chance to do something good, something positive," said Homsher, who graduated in May with a degree in digital communications.

KidsPeace was looking to collaborate with a local organization to create the commercials and, after learning about Albright's digital media curriculum, turned to the College for help, said Heather Einsig, family resource specialist for KidsPeace.

The project was a perfect fit for Matthew Garrison's seven Video II students.

"It was something to work toward in a real-world setting, and it's such a great cause," said Garrison, associate professor of art and digital media.

A private charity, KidsPeace serves behavioral and mental health needs through the organization’s mission “to give hope, helping and healing to children, families and communities." Fostering is one service the organization provides.

KidsPeace connected the Albright students with Katie and Alvin Harley of Pottstown, who have fostered and since adopted two children, and were willing to open their home and share their story with the filmmakers.

"We were excited at the thought of doing it, especially if it meant increasing awareness," said Katie Harley.

Einsig met with the Albright students at the start of the semester, explained the project's goal, and requested the videos be broad enough so KidsPeace could use them in any of the seven states where they operate foster care programs. Beyond that, the students had artistic freedom.

After some initial conversation, the class seized upon the motif "Become a Hero," and used the theme throughout.

"Ordinary people can do this. You can become a hero to a child. It doesn't take that much," said Homsher. "It's a call to action. It's very simple, but it stuck with me."

A few students traveled to Pottstown to film the Harley family, which includes Katie and Alvin; their biological children, Mason, 9, and Jack, 6; and their adopted children, Mya, 12, and Levi, 11.

The students had a general script, but much of the filming was improvised. They returned to campus, shared the footage with the rest of their classmates, and spent the semester working on mostly individual pieces, creating a total of eight videos of varying lengths.

"They put a lot of work into it," said Garrison. "They all had the same footage to work with, but each student has their own voice."


The Harley family, outside KidsPeace's Berks County campus

KidsPeace representatives returned to campus at the end of the semester to provide the students feedback on their work.

A favorite video was Alex LeBlanc's 15-second spot showing the family playing. No words are spoken, but music plays in the background and words such as "brother," "sister" and "their family," flash onscreen. It ends with the line: "Found each other through KidsPeace."

"It shows there's nothing special to it. Family does stuff together, has energy, a connection between each other. You don't need to be perfect," said LeBlanc '15, who graduated in May with a degree in digital video arts. "What I love in any work I do is being able to tell a story, one that you can understand and immerse yourself in."

LeBlanc enjoyed working with the family, especially the kids. "The family was 100 percent energetic with us. The kids loved it, the parents loved it," he said.

KidsPeace ultimately chose Homsher's 15-second video showing the Harleys riding bicycles, jumping on a trampoline in their backyard, and discussing how parents can be and should be heroes.

"It achieved exactly what we wanted," said Einsig. "We were very impressed."

Besides the movie theatre placement, KidsPeace may use the student-produced videos for other purposes, including on the organization's social media channels.

The KidsPeace project also presented an experiential learning opportunity for Suzanne Palmer's business law students, who, as part of their studies, explore issues of intellectual property, fair use and copyright.

As part of the project, Palmer's students helped the video students navigate their contract with KidsPeace. In this way, the video students gained insight into the business side of the process, while the business students gained insight into the creative side.

"Students sometimes think they're learning this stuff in a vacuum. But this brought it home to them. This is real life," said Palmer, J.D., LL.M. "And it was completely interdisciplinary, exactly what you'd want to see at a liberal arts institution."

For more information about KidsPeace and becoming a foster parent, visit www.fostercare.com.


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