Unmasking Talent: Teens Create Summer Reading Videos

June 25, 2015

A still from "Unmask the Story Within You," by Luis Morales and Jamie Larson, winner of the 2015 CSLP Teen Video Challenge.
A still from "Unmask the Story Within You," by Luis Morales and Jamie Larson, winner of the 2015 CSLP Teen Video Challenge.

When Arizona high school students Luis Morales and Jamie Larson heard out about the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) 2015 Teen Video Challenge, they began brainstorming ideas right away.

“I found out through one of the librarians at the Glendale (Ariz.) Public Library,” said Larson, who is part of the library’s Teen Library Council. “Luis and I take a media production class at school, and so we thought it would be really fun to do.”

CSLP is a collective effort to bring high-quality summer reading programs to libraries across the nation. The Teen Video Challenge, which is in its fifth year, is a national competition where teens create videos that promote summer reading and public libraries. The theme for 2015 was “Unmask.”

After weeks of production, Morales and Larson created “Unmask the Story Within You,” a 46-second video showing teens reading classic and popular books, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. As they read, the teens are transported into the books’ worlds and turn into the characters, such as a 1920s flapper and Katniss Everdeen.

“It wasn’t really stressful at all since we had knowledge of how to use the green screen and cameras,” said Morales, who wants to be a cinematographer. “It was a fun time with all my friends there, having them dress up like different characters.”

Morales and Larson’s entry was one of 26 videos that won. Others include the animated “The Mask of Conventionalism” by Nella Eruza in South Carolina; the Spider Man-inspired “A Hero’s Choice” by Carlos Plummer, Andrew Paiz, Michael Mucciacito, Samantha Mucciacito, Mackenzie Kloepper, and Canyon Kloepper in California; and the mysterious “Sherlock and the Masked Bookman” by Grace Pearsons in Washington.

“I always think it’s exciting to see how the kids interpret the theme in different ways,” said Charlotte Johnston, PR and marketing committee chair for CSLP and library director at Harvin Clarendon County (S.C.) Library. “This year for ‘Unmask,’ there were certainly a number of videos that had a masked superhero in them. But then there were some that had a masquerade ball, or they talked about building your individual skills and unmasking the potential you have inside yourself.”

Johnston said the Teen Video Challenge entries’ sound and video quality have improved over the years, with teams incorporating green screen technology and other special effects.

“But ultimately every year, there are a number of entries that just go back to how much they love their favorite books and their favorite characters like Harry Potter or Katniss,” Johnston said.

The winners were announced in April at the CSLP Annual Meeting in Newport, Rhode Island. Each winning group received $150, and their libraries received prizes from Upstart and Candlewick.

Morales said he and Larson were excited when they found out they won because it was the first video contest they entered.

“It was really fun overall,” he said. “I hope our video motivates teens to go and read a couple books during the summer.”

Johnston said CSLP is seeing more libraries partner with public schools for the Teen Video Challenge, such as working with a film class or a teacher whose class has a film component.

The 2015 Teen Video Challenge winning videos can be found at the CSLP website and can be used by all to promote the summer reading program. Information on the 2016 Teen Video Challenge will be available on the CSLP website by early fall.