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WFAE | Girls Rock Charlotte's Teen Film Summer Camp Finds New Audience In Virtual Format

WFAE | By Jodie Valade

Published July 16, 2021 at 9:30 AM EDT

Seven years ago, Kelly Finley’s daughter was having trouble “finding her voice.” Like many teenage girls, she was having some self-esteem issues, Finley said. She wanted to help.

Finley discovered a program called Girls Rock NC, which aims to build community among girls and gender diverse youth by summer camps that in the span of one week brings teenagers together, forms a band, writes an original song and performs a concert. Girls Rock Charlotte founder and director Kelly Finley with daughter Grace.

Finley’s daughter went to that camp in Chapel Hill and loved it. And so Finley decided to start a version in Charlotte.

Girls Rock Charlotte has been going ever since. But a few years, ago, Finley was talking with a friend who is a producer of “The Walking Dead” when she had another idea.

“We were talking just about wanting to have more diversity behind the camera, too, especially when it comes to women and people of color and LGBTQ folks,” she said. “It's just a really hard industry to change and it's a critical industry to change. And so we decided, well, let's see if we could do with film camp, what we did with rock camp.”

The concept is similar: girls and gender diverse youth gather, form a crew and shoot and edit a three-minute film in a week. This year’s weeklong camp — all online due to COVID-19 — finishes Saturday, with an online film premiere show. Campers work from home on their phones, Finley said, learning basic concepts of filmmaking “from storyboarding to editing to lighting and sound.”

They’ve been helped this year by a $5,000 grant from Bank of America, which was used for software and gear, among other expenses.

And the camp is something Finley hopes can expand next year to allow for participants across the country and maybe even from other parts of the world.

“We kind of stumbled across this (virtual) model because of COVID,” Finley said. “And the silver lining is it’s made us get creative and challenge our paradigms.”

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