Pennsylvania Film Festival Puts Spotlight on Youth-Created PSAs

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HaydenfilmsLast year, 50 young people representing various Reading, Penn., nonprofits created public service announcements with the help of the Haydenfilms Institute (HFI) Youth Media Initiative.

According to HFI Executive Director Hayden Craddolph, the eight-week workshop allowed teens in the curriculum to address what they considered to be the root causes of their community’s problems.

“Once the students then produced the public service announcements … their peers are able to consume, share and view the work that the teens have produced,” Craddolph stated. “We feel it’s going to impact not only the students from the program, but their local communities.”

With the assistance of media professionals, the young people wrote, directed and filmed 20 PSAs to raise awareness for their nonprofit organizations and youth-centric causes, addressing domestic violence, substance abuse and even the funding for local arts programs.

Recently, all 20 PSAs were uploaded to the HFI’s official website, with public voting now open via the Haydenfilms PSA Online Film Festival.

After public voting concludes on July 21, the top three PSA production teams will be honored at an upcoming awards ceremony, and split a $10,000 scholarship.

Partnering with the Reading Youth Violence Prevention Project, numerous Reading nonprofits, including The Reading Musical Foundation, The Council on Chemical Abuse and Berks Women in Crisis are represented in the project.

Craddolph, a self-described “crusader for media literacy,”  said the medium of film is an excellent vessel for young people to voice their concerns about a number of social issues.

Economic hardships, he said, were of special concern to local young people.

The New York Times reported Reading [was] the poorest city in the country in 2011,” Craddolph said. “So poverty is one of the main issues, as well as crime and substance abuse.”

Craddolph said the idea for the festival stemmed from meeting a filmmaker who produced a project about child sexual abuse in 2009. Wanting to create a similar platform tackling multiple youth issues, Craddolph was able to launch the Youth Media Initiative last year, thanks to a $35,000 grant from St. Joseph Medical Center.

“We obviously impacted the 50 students who participated,” Craddolph said. “We transported them out of the community of Reading, Penn., to Kutztown University for eight weeks, so we ended up giving those students immediate hope by putting them on a college campus.”

The issues tackled by the students in the curriculum aren’t just relevant on the local level, he believes. “We’re hoping these stories transcend boundaries and create a dialogue,” he said. “Not only for the Reading area, locally, but the regional area and the world.”