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Lights, Camera, Film Camp

Great Falls brothers team up to offer film camp.

The Kanagawa brothers’ Film Camp is giving Great Falls children the opportunity to learn acting and movie making techniques that may lead them to a career in entertainment but is aimed at having fun. The camp is run by Kennedy Kanagawa, a young, local talent who has performed on Broadway and at the Kennedy Center, in addition to regional theater. Younger brother Kane serves as administrator and business manager for the creative endeavor.

The brothers have two ambitions for film camp: to spark the imaginations of their pupils and to make a little money for the coming school year. Kennedy is 19 and heading off to college this year. Kane is a high-school student at The Potomac School. This is the second year for film camp, which is held at the boys’ Great Falls home.

"I’ve always been interested in film and acting, since I was a kid," said Kennedy Kanagawa. "I’ve learned a lot over the years doing it myself. This way I can sort of pass it along."

Kennedy Kanagawa and his brother were born in Japan to a Japanese father and an American mother. Diane Wiltshire, the duo's mother, said that her elder son's passion for acting and theater started early on. "It’s a good thing we moved back here because I didn’t know what I was going to do. He was so into it, but in Japan they don’t have theaters like they do here," Wiltshire said.

The family moved to Great Falls from Tokyo in 1995. Kennedy Kanagawa quickly took advantage of the many opportunities for performing artists by engaging in dance, singing and acting classes. He also plays piano and enjoys composing and choreography.

CAMP CLASSES INCLUDE INSTRUCTION on audition tips, improvisation, Claymation, on-camera techniques, film and editing tricks, and scene work. Class sizes are kept small, with fewer than 10 students per session.

"We try to make it fun. One thing we did last time was we had one kid at the bottom of the driveway hold his hand out and another at the top so it looked like he was small and holding him in his hand," said Kane Kanagawa. "They really enjoyed that."

"It’s fun watching them. They start off at different levels, and at the end of the camp they’re really getting into it," said Kennedy Kanagawa. "Some of the kids are really crazy and just want to release some energy; others really listen and want to learn." Several students from last year went on to use the skills learned at camp in theatrical productions at their schools.

Kane Kanagawa said, "We film them in the beginning of camp and then again at the end to show their improvement. Each day we cover a different topic so they can learn as much as possible."

The brothers hold two sessions a day for a week, twice in the summer. The final session started this week, but drop-ins are still being accepted. Session I runs from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and is for students in the third through fifth grades. Session II runs from 2-4:4:30 p.m. and is for sixth- to eighth-graders. The cost is $100.

"We didn’t want to make it too expensive. We do baby-sitting, too, so we kind of looked at that cost to decide what to charge," said Kennedy Kanagawa.

Snacks, such as homemade chocolate chip cookies prepared by Wiltshire, are also provided during camp.

"It’s not a hard thing. It’s all games. They’d have fun even if they aren’t going to pursue it as a career," Kennedy Kanagawa said. He will be majoring in theater this year. His credentials include graduating from New York Film Academy’s summer program at Princeton University and the Torpedo Factory Claymation Workshop. He has performed in more than 30 regional productions as well as on and off Broadway. He was recently awarded the Baker Scholarship for Performing Arts at Muhlenberg College, and he’s currently performing with the Broadway Theatre Project.

KANE KANAGAWA, though appreciating the arts and performing, is more interested in the field of medicine as a career than following in his brother’s footsteps and becoming an actor.

Wiltshire says her sons bring different strengths to the camp, but both really enjoy working with children and sharing their knowledge. "It’s good teamwork. Kane's kind of the business one, and Kennedy is the creative one. There’s so much information [Kennedy’s] gotten over the years just by doing it. This is a good way to tell them what he knows," said Wiltshire.

Kane has marketed the camp on a macro level. "We put fliers in the mailboxes around the neighborhood, and this year we put it on FYINetworks," said Kane Kanagawa. He said they have received calls daily about the camp since distributing fliers.

"Really, this isn’t a big, huge thing. I just hope that by the end of it, they have an interest in [film and acting]," said Kennedy Kanagawa.