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Budding Spielbergs

Lights, camera and action project gives youngsters a new focus and a voice of their own

Film can say so much more to young people than the written word that it is becoming "a new literacy", says Mary Morrison, project manager for the video project A Voice of My Own (Vomo).

"It's more than youth with a camera. It's about changing lives by giving young people a voice and a medium they know and feel excited about," she explains.

The popularity of Vomo, which combines creative film-making skills with social inclusion aims, can be easily gauged by the numbers involved. Since it started in the Scottish Borders in 2004, more than 1,000 young people have teamed up to make videos about issues important to them. And, although Vomo has 10 camera kits, four editing laptops and two projectors, demand is fast outstripping resources.

"We train them in film-making skills which they retain long after an individual project," says Ms Morrison. "It's also about them gaining confidence and communication and presentation skills. They are making their own films now without much support."

One participant is 18-year-old Perri Walsh, known in her home town of Jedburgh as "the girl with the video". Perri became involved in Vomo two years ago while still at school, and she has recently completed her first solo project, Runaway, a three-minute music video about a girl who decides to run away from home because of bullying at school.

Perri wrote, directed and edited the film, using American indie music group Zebrahead's track "Runaway". Putting the film on a website, she had 6,500 downloads in three weeks. "I nearly cried when I saw that," she says.

"I don't know what I'd be doing without Vomo. It's given me so many opportunities. When I left school I got a job in a factory, but I am now determined to study film at college."

One of the chances Vomo brought her way was involvement in the International Youth Media Project (IYMP), which brought groups from Sweden and the Scottish Borders together to create their own local films as well as a joint "transnational" film.

"We had a residential session on Skye, where I learned what film was and how to make one," she says. "I first came across Vomo on a poster in the youth cafe in Jed. They came and did a workshop and we watched a film another group had made. Once I got used to the equipment and did a few interviews with people on camera, I was hooked."

Vomo film projects to date include Sk8ing Detective, Duns Youth Project's film about the need for a local skate park, which tried to redress local perceptions of skaters as a menace on the streets; Losing It, a film by two young women from Peebles about loneliness, vulnerability and self-harm; and Teen Mum, a film exploring the stories, experiences, thoughts and circumstances of teenage mothers.

The young people, mostly aged 14 to 18, decide themselves what their film will be about. Most are documentaries, but they also include drama and animation.

A new project looks at inter-generational problems in Jedburgh. The film, which has interviews with young and old on their perceptions of each other, includes youth drama performance and will be given public and schools'

screenings from March 2007, as well as being shown at Vomo's film festival in February.

This may be Vomo's last project, as its funding (from bodies such as Scottish Borders Council, Bright New Futures and Communities Scotland) runs out in March.

"The great thing about Vomo," says Perri Walsh, "is that if you get involved in one project, that involves you in another. It keeps you going and it inspires you to other things."

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