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Ruth (Purple) Jey, left, presents her rap to the group during the Frames Film Project program. (Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail)
Ruth (Purple) Jey, left, presents her rap to the group during the Frames Film Project program. (Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail)

ON CULTURE

Youth film program threatened Add to ...

Cori Davidson walked into the youth employment centre on Commercial Drive looking for a yoga-related job and saw the flyer that would change her life.

The Frames Film Project was looking for applicants: youth between 16 and 24 dealing with mental health or addiction issues in their lives, either their own or around them. Ms. Davidson, who has suffered from depression since high school, applied and spent seven months with the program learning about film – something she knew little about.

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She has since not only been hired back by the program as an assistant, but has worked as a production assistant on films such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Tomorrowland.

“I’m so lucky that I got into this program because it’s opened so many doors for me,” says Ms. Davidson, now 25. “Confidence is something I still feel like I’m lacking, but when I look back on the year that I had, 2013, which is coming to a close, I have been on so many film sets. I would never have dreamed that for myself.”

But the program that has helped dozens of youth deal with a tough past – and present – is facing an uncertain future, with its funding running out. It is unclear what will happen to Frames beyond the end of March.

Kryshan Randel has been co-ordinating the program, an initiative of Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, since the beginning. He has watched people go through Frames – youth who have attempted suicide, who self-harm, suffer from anxiety, refuse to speak, have dealt with alcohol abuse at home – and he has seen them come out the other end. They graduate with a sense of empowerment, confidence and belonging.

“It’s more than just a filmmaking program or even an art therapy program. It’s become like a second family for these youth. And in every intake, there’s this atmosphere created of enormous bravery and trust and it results in films that really connect to people’s hearts,” says Mr. Randel, a filmmaker himself.

On Wednesday – not the prescribed meeting night – the storefront that has become a safe space for Frames participants was alive with young people. They were finishing two short films to be screened on Saturday: Dead Beat, dealing with paternal abandonment (creepy in a good way); and B.O., about bodily-function-affecting anxiety (a comedy with a message). Meanwhile Ruth (Purple) Jey rehearsed a number for Saturday’s event, rapping the praises of Frames to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme.

“The program has definitely taught me a lot about myself and how well I can work in a team,” Ms. Jey says.

Thursday night sessions begin with a check-in, at which the participants – 27 are graduating this intake – discuss the challenges they have faced over the week. Many of the scripts the program produces have explored issues in the participants’ lives.

“The best films are based on conflict,” Mr. Randel says. “So if they have something really tough in their life … you have a fantastic opportunity to turn something that really unfortunately happened to you into a story that will resonate with people.”

The program was launched with a $195,000, two-year grant from the Community Action Initiative (CAI). That grant runs out at the end of this year. Frog Hollow has managed to find some more money – $30,000 from EmbraceBC, a program that promotes art that addresses racism and/or multiculturalism. This will allow one more intake, ending in March. With no funding from any organization after March, the scramble is under way to find new money to keep Frames from fading to black.

Ms. Davidson says the disappearance of the program would be a loss for youth like her.

“I’ve done enough therapy in my life,” she says. “This program helps people.”

A free screening of Frames’ films takes place Dec. 14 at

1:30 p.m. at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House.

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