In a new initiative that will bolster a future generation of filmmakers and cineastes in New York, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the launch of an education initiative that aims to bring film into the classroom through screenings, discussions, and production in neighborhood elementary schools. Funded from a $200,000 grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the program has launched in three public elementary schools in NYC’s Upper West Side, the Film Society’s base neighborhood, including P.S. 191, P.S. 75, and P.S. 163 in Manhattan’s Community School District 3.

The initiative will serve approximately 500 kindergarten through 5th grade students in year one and grow to serve close to 1,000 students by year three, according to the Film Society. At each grade level children will screen classics, and new art-house films, followed by discussions, and will make films of their own inspired by these filmmaking techniques. Another integral part of the program includes the Teacher Training Institute, in which participating teachers are mentored in the interdisciplinary study of aesthetic appreciation and filmmaking techniques, and use these as a tool for their own classroom practices. The program will culminate in June at the Walter Reade Theater with a screening at which the children will show their final short films created through the program.

“We are thrilled to take this important step toward investing in the next generation of filmmakers and film lovers,” commented Film Society Executive Director Lesli Klainberg. “Working with schools in our own neighborhood, we are exploring new ways to connect with our community and provide experiences that will enable students to develop core skills that will help them throughout their educational life.”

Added Amy Poux, the Film Society’s Director of Education: “The purpose of the program is to use the viewing, discussing, and making of art house films as a tool for literacy learning. “We treat the film as text, the filmmaker as author, editing as revision, and, in this, open up the practice of literacy learning to a whole range of learners.”

Since 2007, the Film Society has worked with organizations like Ghetto Film School, Educational Video Center, and with public high schools to bring students into screenings and discussions with filmmakers to cultivate young audiences’ visual literacy and critical-thinking skills. With the initiative, an even younger demographic will be reached, which is critical to the longevity of this art form and to supporting the ever-expanding population of visual learners.

Students in kindergarten and first grade will be exposed to various animation, stop-motion, and pixilated films as their source of expression and appreciating the moving image. Second and third graders will focus on silent film, while the fourth and fifth grades in the schools participating in the program will study experimental film, according to Poux.

“There’s a historical aspect in learning about filmmakers whose [respective genres] evolved over time. And we’ll be looking at the techniques used in contemporary films.” added Poux. “At the Film Society, we show films that cross multiple genre. We want to support younger people by viewing these films so they can grow to appreciate the full breadth of cinema. We also want to create a relationship with young people in our immediate neighborhood and their families. A major mission of the Film Society is to create access.”

Poux noted that classrooms are often focused on a linear approach to teaching, which can leave the talents of children whose orientation for learning that is visual or expressive untapped. By introducing film into the classroom, the initiative seeks to diversify the learning and creative process for elementary students.

“What we’re doing is going into schools with younger kids and use media to support their own visual literacy and to expand the palette for cinema,” added Poux. “Many of the films we’re bringing are not necessarily ones they’re going to see in the movie theater. In a fifth grade classroom [for instance], we may show different ways of how to visually tell a story using different forms of cinema that will give them inspiration on their own [short films].”

Commented P.S. 75 Principal Robert O’Brien: “We are so excited to be a part of this program! The brilliance of this program is that it taps into the accessibility of visual imagery as a means to experience and create art—and understand literacy in new ways. Visual images surround students continually, albeit passively. This changes that equation so that students become active agents in their own growing sophistication and knowledge about the world through film.”