Our Kids Tell Their Stories Through Video-Arts Program
What started as a creative outlet for our kids at Covenant House California has turned into an award-winning video arts program.
Digital Dove is a unique video program that began in 2004 as a one-time HBO-sponsored filmmaking workshop for our kids at Covenant House California interested in the film industry.
When the program turned out to be a rewarding experience for both residents and staff, HBO agreed to bring the program back for another year. Nine years later, the program has become an invaluable partnership between HBO and Covenant House, giving our kids a way to express themselves, share their gifts, and seek careers in the film industry.
The Digital Dove Board of Directors is comprised of a Covenant House staff member and three executives from HBO, the Time Warner owned network. They got together and decided they wanted to contribute more than just their names and financial resources.
“Elizabeth Callender, the wife of Colin Callender, the then-president of HBO Films, was on Covenant House California's Board of Directors and had an idea of doing a workshop about film with the kids … and the rest is history” says Laura Guichard, the Digital Dove program director at Covenant House California. Twice a week in two hour sessions, our kids have the opportunity to learn the basics of what it takes to be in the always evolving film industry.
Students are introduced to the different aspects of the industry such as producing, shooting, and editing. The goal of the program is to teach our kids the basics of how to strategize and capture different shots with cameras – cameras which are all generously donated by Canon, the international imaging company.
Our kids challenge themselves to use the pain they have endured on the streets and in their personal lives as a creative canvas to make their stories flow. Much of their editing is done on equipment donated by Apple, another partner in this unique community effort to nourish the creativity of our kids.
“There is something about working in this program, about the path they take in creating, that makes our kids feel better about themselves,” says Laura, who began running the Digital Dove video program at Covenant House California two years ago. Laura comes to the program equipped with grant writing skills, a background producing documentaries, and a passion for telling the stories of people who are overlooked by society – like homeless kids.
“These young people come from such difficult circumstances, it’s great to be able to provide this opportunity for them to use a different part of their brain, the creative side. Our kids are so gifted, and this program provides the chance for their gifts to really shine.”
Laura has been running the day to day operations of the program since 2010. “It is great to see the impact the program has had on our kids,” says Laura. “The more kids participated, the more they tended to stay at the shelter longer and feel better about themselves.” She tells the story of Dion, a former resident who before coming to Covenant House was homeless and living in a car.
“He signed up for a workshop, and soon a little voice inside him said that he would love to do this as a career,” says Laura. “When we asked him to edit a publicity segment for Digital Dove, he found his place, and his career, at an editing station.
“Through the connections with HBO and Digital Dove, Dion was able to get an interview at one of Los Angeles’ top post-production houses, Modern Video-Film. After wowing them in the interview Dion has a job working the evening shift, and majoring in film production at Los Angeles Community College.”
Recently Digital Dove has started a web series called 6 journeys based on the American tradition of journeys, from Columbus discovering America to the Gold rush of 1849 that gave birth to what we know as modern day California. The series features stories by residents in the Digital Dove video-production class. The class has created six mini-shorts about themselves and their peers. You can view the stories on the class website here.
Since Digital Dove was launched in 2004, over 500 students have participated and created 40 original films. Having films screened at numerous youth film festivals, HBO’s west coast offices, and the Los Angeles Film Festival, as well as LA County training seminars and high schools, graduates have gone on to train in industry vocational programs, obtain college film degrees, and find full-time employment in the entertainment industry.
Digital Dove allows the youth at Covenant House California to step outside of their situation and understand that creativity is a powerful tool. A tool that can move our kids through the rough times -- even when they are sometimes still working themselves through those rough times.