Allison Silberberg
Vice Mayor of Alexandria
 

Lights, Camera, Action!



Lights, Camera, Action! (LCA!) was a nonprofit committed to helping teens in Anacostia realize their potential through film. A mentor program that used film to reach the students, LCA! taught the teens about filmmaking, writing, communications, teamwork, negotiation, and leadership. LCA! also taught them life lessons, creating a place for them to learn to believe in themselves, to get focused on their futures, to tap into their dreams, and to know that anything is possible.


At the time, Washington had been dubbed the murder capital of the nation. It was the height of the crack wars, and Anacostia was in the thick of the pain and seemingly endless violence.


Lights, Camera, Action! became a safe place for the students to learn, grow and be part of something larger than themselves. The culmination of the LCA! mentor program was the process of writing and making a short film.


A Lights, Camera, Action! production, Poppy is a short film that was made in 1994 with LCA! participants in the heart of Anacostia in record summer heat in Washington, D.C.


Poppy is an inspiring, award-winning film about a boy and his grandfather living in Anacostia, and it is the grandfather's dying wish for the boy to be the first in the family to go to college.


For Poppy, the LCA! students worked on the writing of the script, acted in the film, and served as Allison Silberberg's first assistant directors. Allison directed and produced Poppy.


Allison Silberberg founded LCA! and served as its executive director. In addition, she taught LCA!‘s pilot program. With generous support from the community and numerous donors, LCA! was able to make a difference.


Seven of the eight LCA! participants went to college. Poppy aired numerous times on WETA and other local PBS stations and won two awards in 1995: a CINE Golden Eagle and an “Excellence in Local Programming” award from the American Association of University Women.


More background about LCA! is listed below. Click on the link to watch Poppy.


  1. Poppy: A Story of Courage




Winner of a CINE Golden Eagle

and an “Excellence in Local Programming Award” from

the American Association of University Women


        Directed & Produced by Allison Silberberg

        A Lights, Camera, Action! Production

        © 1994, Allison Silberberg

        All rights reserved.

        (Running time: 32 minutes)



  1. Behind the Scenes: The Making of “Poppy”



  

        Directed and Co-produced by Dave Hendrie

        Produced by Allison Silberberg

        A Lights, Camera, Action! Production

        © 1994, Allison Silberberg

        All rights reserved.

        (Running time: 21 minutes)



*Please note: Special thanks to Double R Productions for its generous gift of digitizing LCA!’s two films and NPR story. For a complete list of all LCA! donors, please see the credits at the end of Poppy. LCA! could not have achieved so much for the teens had it not been for the generosity of all the donors. LCA! is grateful to each and every donor.


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Media


  1. National Public Radio, “Weekend Edition Saturday,” November 5, 1994

        Introduced by Scott Simon, reported by Stephanie Griffith, produced by

        Brenda Wilson. (Running time: 10 minutes)

        NPRInterview_audio.mp3


  1. The Washington Post


        Column in Outlook section by Allison Silberberg, “A Film Grows in Anacostia:

        My Creative Kids, Their Movie -- Our Lives” (May 1995)


        “Learning the Art of Movie Making: Anacostia High Project Helps Hone

        Youths’ Skills, Mold Character” by Anthony D. Diallo (May 1994)


        “Students Discover Art of the Movies: Anacostia Program Trains

        Filmmakers” by Anthony D. Diallo (April 1994)


  1. The Washington Times


        “Anacostia students help direct a movie” by Lisa Nevans (September 1994)


  1. Articles ran in the following media in 1994 and 1995:

       

        Back Stage (The Performing Arts Weekly in New York)

       

        Eastman KODAK’s “inCamera” magazine


        Eastman Images (Newsletter of the KODAK Worldwide Student Program)

       

        American University magazine

       

        Washington Jewish Week

       

        icom (Magazine for Independent Filmmaking in Washington)


        Women in Film & Video News (Washington regional chapter)


  1. Stories on NewsChannel 8, local CBS and NBC channels, as well as an

        in-depth interview on BET.


____



The Story of Lights, Camera, Action! & Poppy


Lights, Camera, Action! (LCA!) was about much more than filmmaking. From the very beginning of LCA!, Allison said that the kids just needed and deserved a chance to shine. Given that chance, she knew they would hit the ball out of the park. And the kids did.


Seven of the eight LCA! participants went to college.


For Poppy, the LCA! students worked on the writing of the script, acted in the film, and served as Allison Silberberg's first assistant directors. Allison directed and produced Poppy.


Behind the Scenes: The Making of Poppy is a short documentary, directed and co-produced by Dave Hendrie, and produced by Allison Silberberg. The 1994 documentary is gritty and uplifting as it follows the ups and downs of making Poppy.


Like the making of any film, there were hurdles, and the oppressive heat was only one of many during the week of the film shoot on location in Anacostia. There were drug dealers on the corner at the end of the block making all kinds of noise, and there were half a dozen shootings around the film location that week.


A police cruiser tailed Allison and her three-man crew when they were in the open-air jeep the first morning getting the opening shots for Poppy. When asked why they were being tailed, the police warned Allison that a violent car-jacking had just taken place in that area, and the police felt Allison and her team were "sitting ducks" anyway. Within an hour of that warning, the jeep overheated and broke down.


Generosity made Poppy, the documentary about the making of Poppy, and the whole LCA! mentor program possible and a miracle of sorts.


LCA! had no funds for film equipment. The film camera and all equipment were borrowed from local filmmakers at American University, and National Public Radio loaned the sound equipment to Allison, who was not only the director of Poppy but also the executive director of LCA!.


Allison and Nate Clapp, the film's cinematographer, and all the teens were extremely careful with the equipment, but a small piece of plastic that held the boom mike in place broke on day two, probably due to the heat. It was taped back together with bright yellow tape, which can be seen in the documentary, Behind the Scenes. The sound equipment was temperamental and "went on strike" a couple of times and had to be replaced. Despite the hurdles and short shooting schedule, the laughter was constant.


The LCA! participants kept their cool and brought creativity and ingenuity to each scene. They were suddenly professionals working well as a team. Though they had never worked on a film, they were excited about it, had worked hard on the script and the pre-production and now wanted to do a great job and show the world their film.


The week before the film shoot, Troy Mitchell, one of the LCA! participants, learned that he landed a summer job that was starting the week of the shoot, and  he suddenly felt torn about being able to play his role of Red Man and help on crew. In the end, he delayed the job for a week even though that meant a loss of income and could have meant the loss of his job.


Mr. Jackson, who played Poppy, was the real-life grandfather of LCA! participant Ernest Solomon, who played Rayvon's best friend, Pooh. Mr. Jackson was a critical part of the film and the experience for the students. Mr. Jackson, a retired postal worker, and his wife graciously opened their home to LCA! for the film shoot. But then, Mr. Jackson could not sleep at all the night before the shoot and was extremely nervous about forgetting his lines and suddenly uncomfortable about being filmed. Soon he saw that he would be fine, mainly because his script pages were taped to a dinner plate or inside the sink. He and Mrs. Jackson were an integral part of the film's completion and success. In fact, it was their newborn grandson who played the crying baby Rayvon in the opening sequence.


Eastman KODAK donated the film stock, and Colorlab and Henninger donated the post-production work. Double R Productions donated the digitizing of both films. The incredibly long list of all donors can be seen at the end of Poppy. Each and every donation made a significant difference and is greatly appreciated.


In the fall of 1994, the American Film Institute, which was located at The Kennedy Center, held the premiere of Poppy. For almost all of the LCA! teens, this would be their first time at The Kennedy Center.


The premiere was packed. The LCA! participants brought family with them, and most of the LCA! donors attended. After the screening of Poppy and Behind the Scenes, the LCA! participants went up on stage, and Allison gave them their Certificates of Achievement, and then the audience gave the students a rousing standing ovation. Many in the audience had tears as they cheered. Following the premiere, Planet Hollywood in downtown D.C. closed their restaurant in order to host a beautiful reception for the LCA! students and their film. Local media coverage was extensive.


Poppy aired on local PBS stations numerous times.


In 1995, Poppy won a CINE Golden Eagle and an "Excellence in Local Programming Award" from the American Association of University Women.


Special thanks go to Nate Clapp, Dave Hendrie, and Sherwood Ballard. Nate Clapp, the cinematographer for Poppy who was discovered because of his connection with American University, and Dave Hendrie, who directed and co-produced Behind the Scenes: The Making of Poppy, were excellent, generous, guiding forces on the set. Dave Hendrie was one of Allison’s former screenwriting students at American University. Sherwood Ballard is a D.C. police officer who introduced Allison to Anacostia Senior High School and the police department and encouraged her from the beginning.


And heartfelt thanks to the Seventh District Police Department (7th D, as it is known) for its generosity and warmth.


Serving on LCA!’s Advisory Board were: Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is Harvard’s Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies.



Update about LCA!


Seven out of the eight LCA! participants went to college.


Rayvon Hicks graduated from college and today is a successful businessman. In his late twenties, he established an annual scholarship award for a graduating senior from Anacostia Senior High School, and he has supported other community programs.


Troy Mitchell is a network services manager who runs his own computer services company.


Robby Preston, who at the end of Poppy sang a song that he wrote and also played one of the "tough" kids, teaches at-risk youth in DC.


Due to lack of funding, LCA! had to close operations. A few nonprofits around the nation showed interest in replicating LCA!’s successful program, but those nonprofits lacked funding as well.








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