Local film, acting school receives key grant

At Learn with Laughter, students can learn the finer points of acting and filmmaking. A grant the group recently received will help more kids afford to go learn at the school.

With shows like “Homeland” and films like “The Hunger Games” recently filming in the area, Union County’s Learn with Laughter acting and film school just got another boost toward giving locals their close-up.

The program has received an enrichment arts grant every year since 2009 from the Union County Community Arts Council, and recently got another one from the group. Grants allow Learn with Laughter to lower tuition rates and provide scholarships so more people can hone their acting skills.

“Every year that I receive a grant it allows us to lower the tuition for all students, and it also allows for scholarship for those who are financially disadvantaged,” said Linda Watt, the founder of Learn with Laughter.

The school must reapply for the grant every year, giving the arts counsel a budget for what the money will be used for. Learn with Laughter will provide two filmmaking and editing students with scholarships and five acting and scene study students with scholarships, said Watt. Students must provide documentation that their family is below the poverty line in order to qualify for the grant. If more students apply than there are scholarships, the school will hold a lottery to decide who receives the scholarship.

Learn with Laughter, a nonprofit, opened in 2004 because of the lack of acting schools that taught “method” acting skills, said Watt. She had tried to find an acting school for her son after moving to the Charlotte area, but in the end just decided to do it herself.

“We actually started in 2004 to offer educational material over the website and other educational materials that compliments PBS programs.  Then we started doing art shows for children where they sold greeting cards,” Watt said.

The acting and scene study classes the school offers are eight sessions long at two hours per session, while the filmmaking and editing classes are five sessions and last three hours per session.  Students involved in the filmmaking classes are given a DVD of the film they make at the end of the sessions.

“The equipment the (filmmaking) students use is professional equipment.  It’s broadcast quality equipment,” Watt said.  “When they get done with the sessions here they have a real understanding of what it takes to shoot something and edit it.”

Twenty students can enroll in the acting and scene study classes at one time, but the filmmaking and editing classes can only hold eight students because there aren’t enough computers.

“What the program does is for the serious student it helps them enter higher levels of education in the arts or they are going out with their higher education and going into professional world,” Watt said.

Classes offered by Learn with Laughter are:
Acting and Scene Study at CATA High School – ages 9 to 17
Tuesdays, Oct. 9, 16, 23 and 30 and Nov. 6, 13, 20 and 27
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Space still available. Prorate by one class $160.

Professional Filmmaking and Editing in Weddington – ages 14 to 18
Saturdays, Oct. 13 and 27 and Nov. 3, 10 and 17
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Only eight spaces available, $375.

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