Camp Reel – non profit summer camp designed to inspire 13-18 yr old girls to make their own media.


esther pearl

Esther Pearl has had a huge career in media and entertainment, which she started at age 16!

9 years at Pixar (’98-07) mostly involved in feature films as visual effects coordinator for Monsters, Inc, The Incredibles & Wall-e

She left Pixar in 2007 to get her MBA from The Presidio Graduate School.

Having worked in entertainment and media she was all too aware about the gender gap & now with an MBA in social justice & social sustainability, she began to think about how these two worlds would combine?

She focused her energy on understanding why the gender gap exists -16% of decision makers in film are women, less than 6% are directors.

Esther discovered very few people were doing pragmatic, hands on approach to training the future of film and video creators- Camp Reel was starting to become real but how? Colleague, Zoe Boxer and her figured out a fun, user-friendly answer – summer camps!

‘The way women and girls are presented isn’t the way they exist in society. We started to think about the direct effect on their psycho development, self esteem & self empowerment.

How do we reach girls who are starting to think about their future? We wanted to show them it’s about picking up your camera, writing a story and putting it on YouTube. If it’s a career, hobby, assignment – great! We need to have them access technology and access skills to be able to pursue that’.

campreelvideo cameraThis is now the 3rd year of Camp Reel – What differentiates you from the rest?

‘’We aim to give girls pragmatic life and work experience and an understanding on a strong work ethic, these skills will be necessary in order to break into this industry.

We also offer mentorship – The opportunity to interact with the likes of Brenda Chapman (who won an Oscar for Brave), Jill Coltman Director of DreamWorks & story supervisors from Pixar.

All these women and men talk them through their experience but also walk them through the process. So they learn from professionals- How to do sound, a story board and operate a camera.”

One rule:once you form a team in camp you cannot break up

”I want to overcome the notion that you have to be best friends with everyone, so teams work on being respectful to one another, using language that is heard, hearing criticism in a constructive way – which they were all fine with!

They establish rules they want the group to follow, they feel more connected, get a sense of responsibility to one another – write a contract and sign it’’.

Camp Reel is a 5 day summer camp, $475 per week – 9am-5.30pm and there are a lot of financial aid options, over 40% of campers have received financial aid.

‘‘It is really important to me that anyone who wants to attend camp –can attend. By the end of the week the feel they have achieved real life skills. Each group writes / shoots /edits their own film. The weekend post camp is a film festival – 250 people audience. They stand up, introduce their own films and manage questions and answers just like they would at any other film festival. Many of the girl’s films have been entered into film festivals and a lot have been accepted’’.

Camp Reel attracts such a diverse range of backgrounds-the groups have to work together – how do the kids benefit from this?

‘’It presents opportunity to work with people they may not have worked with before. I don’t mean just the professional mentors, I am talking about girls from different backgrounds, they get to see where the Venn diagrams of their lives over lap. Two people, different backgrounds, working on one thing together, makes for a pretty amazing end result! If you have two people from the exact same back ground – the result is the media we have currently! If only 16% of decision makers are women that means the other 84% of decisions are being made by pretty much the same type of person.

It’s not particularly creative and as someone with an MBA would know, it’s just bad business for you to ignore 50% of the market.

On the street we all look different, different backgrounds and religious beliefs. I turn on the television and I don’t see that represented. It’s one thing as an adult to have a fully formed frontal lobe to see that, but our young people are seeing that and thinking maybe they shouldn’t make the choices they are thinking of. Extracting themselves from the game of life before they even know the rules  – it’s amazing to see in one week at Camp Reel what happens when these girls are given opportunity and see where their leverage points are to create change. They just need to know that it is possible and it’s not being shown that it is. I am concerned the lack of innovation that that will continue to foster if we don’t do something about this now’’

I personally read the Camp Reel press release and it really hit home for me. They showcase a young girl that observes she is not represented on TV – I get it. It was moments like this that lead me to create Wear Your Voice magazine. I look in a magazine and I am not represented either.

So here I am trying to change the world one Wear Your Voice moment at a time

I asked Esther one last question

We would love to give Camp Reel more voice – what would you say to a WYV reader?

‘Take up space – we are told in every magazine and or piece of media or boardroom there is no room for us.

-Stand tall

-Look people in the eye

-Allow yourself to be vulnerable

-Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

– Don’t be afraid to ask questions

We are going to create our own magazine, we are going to create our own media and the way we do that is to put one foot in front of the other and to do that you need to STAND UP!’’

Nicely said Esther. Bravo!

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