Challenges, Triumphs and a Summer of Firsts

And that concludes the Summer of 2018.

Over the past four months, Lights, Camera, Learn has grown in ways that we could only dream of when this year began. We traveled to 5 different countries. We worked with almost 50 filmmakers, educators, and travelers. We taught over 200 students and produced 25 original short films in 4 languages which we showed at 5 Red Carpet Events. 

Above all else, this was for Lights, Camera, Learn a summer of firsts: our first time in Europe, our first time teaching French and Arabic, our first time working with such big teams of filmmakers and educators, and teaching such big groups of students

Every program, every country and nearly every day brought us face to face with new challenges. The three new countries we added to our map, France, Spain and Tanzania, forced us to adapt quickly to new environments. The third edition of our Tunis program forged us into stronger, more compassionate teachers. Our Nazareth program opened our eyes to a totally new perspective. It took all we had to make this summer a success.

But because of the incredible passion, creativity and drive of our team, we ended the season in triumph. 


In total, Lights, Camera, Learn has worked with 422 stars to produce 48 films across 7 countries. In just one summer, we nearly doubled all of our totals. We have plans to do the same by this time next year. 

If you missed any of our journal entries from the start of the summer, catch up on the story of our summer on our blog here, and check out the amazing videos that some our interns have created chronicling their experience with Lights, Camera, Learn. 

Three Months

by Daniel Kelley

Let Me Tell You a Story: That Time in Paris

by Zade Batal

Merci France

by Monique Famisan

These four months have catapulted us further on our journey to transform the way the world learns language.

Where do we go from here? 

Hakuna Matata!

Once our Spain team said Adios to Andalucia, our new team said Jambo to Zanzibar.

Zanzibar was a unique experience for us in every sense of the word. It was our first time in Eastern Africa, and like honeymooners we fell in love with everything. Our new home, Stone town, is filled with doors so intricate that it makes getting anywhere twice as long because you need to stop and admire the architecture. Every meal was another reminder of how much we adored the land, from the Samaki (fish) to the passion fruit juice, we were always in awe. The first couple days we went hiking in the forest, snorkeling in the ocean, and we shared a meal with the kids at the mosque.

We partnered up with Spreading Grace, and we were just one section of their many programs. They had the Creative Education team, who taught grades 3 & 4, we took on 5 & 6 grade; they also had a nutrition team, as well as a construction team that spent this week extending the tree house they built last year to turn it into a fully functioning classroom for the kids.

We also partnered with the Creative Education Foundation of Zanzibar: “Our mission is to provide a quality education alternative to Zanzibar's orphans and children from low income backgrounds, whilst building the capacities of local teachers.”

The bond between the CEF kids and the Spreading Grace members was apparent from the start. They have been working together for 4 years now, and a lot of the teachers have watched the kids grow up. It was a beautiful reunion, and then we started working. We had a couple of challenges. We only had 4 days (usually we have 5) to brainstorm, write, shoot, and edit 2 short films. And, we were teaching both arabic and english at the same time. We have never made movies in arabic, but luckily all our teachers and filmmakers were bilingual.

Our team of super-directors pulled a couple of all nighters to get it done, but the results were fantastic. The kids’ reaction to their movies were priceless, and they each gave an oscar-acceptance speech. Some of our favorite quotes from their speeches were

  • “Thank you for teaching me slowly until I understood”

  • “Now I know we have to go to the town, city or village to get the news”

  • “My favorite part of the week was all the dancing”

  • “I learnt that movies are made in small scenes and then they are put together after”

Zanzibar was the last program of the summer, and it was also the shortest program we’ve ever done. It was our first Arabic program. The first time we were part of a larger program. It was our first program in East Africa. What we have learned is that it definitely will not be our last time in Zanzibar.

Our second-to-last program of the summer!

Beinvenidos to our second-to-last-program of the summer and our second brand new program of 2018!

The World Cup celebrations died down in Paris and our team flew south to Spain to start the very first installment of Lights, Camera, Learn Seville. As soon as we arrived, we began to soak up the sun in the southern capital of Andalucia. Our first few mornings found us exploring the old city, capturing its color and life in photographs and Instagram stories (each of our interns took over our IG story at some point throughout the program). Most afternoons we relaxed poolside in our neighborhood’s clubhouse, or visited the many historical sites around southern Spain, from Cadiz to the Real Alcazar. We sampled local Spanish culture, dining on tapas and paella and experiencing the spectacle of flamenco dance late into the night. Once we’d gotten settled into our new home, we prepped for our session with the kids.

Our Seville program was our smallest of the summer. Our team worked with 13 students and produced 2 short films. Because of this, we got the chance to give our students an incredibly personal learning experience: our student-to-teacher ratio was almost 1:1! Throughout the week, we formed strong bonds with our new Spanish students, and connected with the culture even more deeply. 

Our Red Carpet event last Friday was probably our most relaxed. At the height of the Spanish summer, guests, parents, and friends joined us in our community clubhouse to watch our students' films, most everyone dressed in shorts and sipping on ice cold drinks. When the show ended, we all gathered on the patio to watch the lunar eclipse rise in the sky. Of course, we couldn't miss the opportunity for a photo shoot. 

With the completion of two films in Spain, and two more from our second program in France, we have now finished 22 films this summer! Check them out here.

Every time we expand our work into a new country is a test. It is a test not only to find out if Lights, Camera, Learn can exist in fresh soil, but to determine if our method of teaching can work in a new country. The effectiveness of our teams in both France and Spain assured us that we are capable of building new LCL programs from the ground up, and the positive reception of our work proves to us that we’re doing the right thing. Both our Paris and Seville programs not only brought us into two new cultures, but allowed us to lay the groundwork for LCL’s future in Europe. Thanks to the incredible work of our interns and partners this month, new doors have opened up for us in a new part of the world. 

Already we can’t wait for next year’s program in Seville. Before we leave, we’ll be sure to fill up on enough patatas bravas, queso burrata, croquetas, and berenjenas con miel to tide us over until Summer 2019! 

En route to Zanzibar!

Champions du Monde

Our first-ever Paris program wrapped up last Saturday. We screened four films at our morning Red Carpet Event, two films in English and, for the first time, two in French! 

This program comprised the greatest diversity of any Lights, Camera, Learn program ever. We worked with stars from age 7 to 18, from eight different countries, in two different languages. The films we created throughout our week in the French countryside demonstrated the best of our filmmaking capabilities, each one well-written, well-produced, and well-edited. And as always, the best part was our fantastic cast! 

We hope you enjoy our films from Paris 2018! Check them out here!

Our local stars departed shortly after they’d seen their hard work come to life on screen and our international students stuck around to hang with us for one last day. We finished our time in the countryside celebrating Bastille Day with our French counterparts. The morning after our Red Carpet, we embarked on our second journey into Paris, this time headed into the center of the biggest celebration in the world.

The final match of the 2018 World Cup was a thrilling and raucous event. The entire city clutched one another as the French national team fought through 90 minutes toward victory. With a final score of 4-2, the whistle sounded, the match ended and the city erupted. Those of our team in attendance marched with hundreds of thousands of Parisian down the Champs-Élysées, celebrating victory in the capital of France.

France won the World Cup and we were in Paris to witness it. We are so fortunate to have been here to celebrate with the citizens of France as they claimed their rightful title as the champions of the world. To witness their victory was not only special, it was once-in-a-lifetime. July 15th, 2018 is a day that our Paris team will not soon forget.

Merci Les Bleus! 

We will never forget our time in France, not only for the experience of seeing the country win the World Cup, but for the unforgettable memories we made with our friends and students in the countryside. During our time here, we were brought together by much more than football. We were brought together by a shared love for learning, for culture and for language. 

We could not have wished for a more perfect first edition of our Paris program. It’ll be hard to top this one next year. See you in Seville!

Our First Program in Europe!

As America celebrated its independence on July 4th, our team flew to France. 

Over our first weekend in France, we met our local team, watched the World Cup (our Brazilian intern is still grieving over her country’s devastating defeat), and visited Paris to soak up the sights. Our new home, a renovated chateau in the countryside outside of Paris that now functions as a boarding school, is like something out of an 18th Century novel: rolling green hills lush with vineyards surround the estate for kilometers; the Marne River runs alongside the train tracks in a nearby village; the sun shines from 6 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night, every day an endless European summer. 

We kicked off our program Sunday morning with the biggest international team we’ve ever had. Fourteen filmmakers, educators, and travelers from America, India, Brazil, and Tunisia join us this week as we host our Paris session for the very first time. During this week, we will do something we have never done before: we’ll be conducting two different programs at the very same time. And we’ll be teaching not only English, but French as well. 

It begs the question, to whom are we teaching French–in France?

This time around, we’re working not only with local students but also students from around the world, including Ireland, Russia, Turkey, and Spain. Half of our team will teach the locals English while the other half challenges the internationals in French. 

The exciting developments of this program demonstrate how much our organization is growing. We’re expanding our work into new countries, teaching new languages and growing our repertoire in film and education. This will be the first time Lights, Camera, Learn sets up production in France, but we already believe it won’t be the last. 

The World in a Cup

And that’s a wrap on our third edition of Lights, Camera, Learn Tunis!

View the wonderful films we created over the last two weeks below and on our website here. There, you can also find some behind-the-scenes footage from our program as well as a little goodbye message our directors made (in Tunisian Arabic) as we departed from Tunisia. 

These videos are unique for the diversity of cultures within. This program coincided with the 2018 World Cup and as such, we decided to give the program a theme: the World in a Cup. We sought to educate our kids not only about the English language, but about the diversity of cultures we had brought to their country. Between the 15 members of our team, we were fluent in a total of six languages, including Cantonese, Spanish, and Portuguese. Some of our films even include these languages! Our endeavor to use our many languages, cultures and perspectives all relates back to our mission of connecting cultures. 

We hope you enjoy our stars' films!

This Is Why We Are Here

After the celebrations of the Eid weekend, we returned to Tunis to begin our third session of the summer. Lights, Camera, Learn Tunis brought our biggest team yet (15 interns!) together with thirty kids from around the city. We created four films, bringing our total number of productions to 38. Our week was filled with laughter, learning, and life lessons–and of course, challenges to overcome.

We had many advantages going into the week: we worked with one-third the amount of students as our last program, and had twice as many directors on our team. Our class sizes shrank down to about three kids per counselor, locals from the Sawarly program joined us to help with translation, transportation, and camera operation, and we had one extra day to finish up our films. Yet this program contained its own unique difficulties. 

Ten of the students who joined us this week are orphans. Upon meeting all of our stars at the start of the program, we learned that these ten face complex challenges.  Nearly all of these students came to us with a low level of English proficiency, as they have not yet taken formal languages classes in school. Further, these kids came into the program mistrusting of our team and our motives, unsure of themselves, and hesitant to join in our activities. Where the other twenty kids took only a couple of hours (or minutes) to open up and begin speaking in English, the ten took much longer. For some, it took them until the end of the first day to speak at all.  

Throughout the week we contended with shyness and self-consciousness. We knew that in order to give these kids a transformative experience, we’d have to work harder, put in more time and more energy and prove to them that everything we were doing was for their benefit.  

So we kept pushing. Little by little, through confidence-building exercises and patient instruction, we chipped away at their apathetic demeanor. We worked every day to help them feel included, to listen to their opinions and ideas, to make them feel valid, heard, and understood. And we watched them evolve, integrate, make friends, get out of their comfort zones, smile. Kousay became enraptured by a camera and throughout his film took on the role of sound operator, production assistant, and even director. Loue, through the script-writing process, found the confidence to sing in front of her team, and then on camera. On the first day working with our kids, we could see an obvious split between the orphans and the others. When we began to shoot, the differences began to blur. By the time we had wrapped, we saw no divisions, only four teams of excited kids who had had a life-changing experience together.

The challenges we faced with this group magnified the importance of our job as role models. This experience was similar to that of working with refugees, as we did last December. Much like our program in Sharjah, this week led us to realize the weight of our impact in the lives of these kids. 

This program might have been the first time that these kids had ever had the opportunity to speak in a new language. These six days might have contained for them the most personalized attention and energy that any teacher has ever given them. This week with Lights, Camera, Learn might have been the first time anyone has ever asked them about their ideas and searched for their talents. It might have been the first time anyone believed in them.

Because of these kids, we were reminded of why we are here. We travel the world to help kids to discover their passions, to dream of becoming something they never before thought possible. We work to give them the confidence to open up and to find their true passions, whether or not they lie in film and art. The effort and energy that these kids put into their films and their experience motivate us to continue our work. 

This is why we are. This is why we do what we do. This is what makes all of the hard work and long hours worthwhile. Though our travels are unforgettable, we are not here for ourselves. We are here for these people. We are here because the experiences we provide to kids have the potential to change the world and the impact we leave on their lives is immeasurable. 

Sawarly Film Retreat 2018

This week, Lights, Camera, Learn did something we’ve never done before.

On June 8th, our team brought together filmmakers from across Tunisia and the world to participate in a one-week cross-cultural film retreat. We challenged twenty-seven participants to team up and write, direct, and shoot four original short films in six days. For one weekall us lived and worked together in the coastal city of Bizerte, and through the challenges and triumphs of the filmmaking process, shared our ideas, languages, and cultures. We called this project Sawarly. In Arabic, “Film For Me.”

The 2018 Sawarly Film Retreat was the first of its kind, for the country of Tunisia and for Lights, Camera, Learn. Our organization has founded and facilitated film and cultural projects for three years, but only revolving around kids. Sawarly was a kind of experiment, a let’s-see-what-happens when we bring an international group of young adults together under one roof, for one week, to try to create good art. Truthfully, we didn’t know what would happen. Would anyone like each other? Would anyone speak the same language? Would all of these cultures cooperate–or clash? 

Sawarly looked like this: two days of brainstorming and script-writing, two days of shooting, and two days to edit a rough cut before 6pm on Day Six. Our schedule was pretty tight, but we thought our team was up for the challenge. 

We began our program by facilitating conversation regarding identity and values across our different cultures. The openness and trust we achieved at the very start of the program allowed our shared ideas to inspire our conversations, scripts, and films.

After first greetings and orientation, four teams were assembled and tasked with pitching a film by 11am the following morning. But the challenges didn’t end at ice breakers and deadlines. All of our participants’ films had to meet certain requirements: run no longer than five minutes, include ten seconds of a Tunisian song, and a shot of the Tunisian flag. And all the films had to revolve around the theme of “Day and Night.” The constraints and tight schedule forced our teams to get creative and work together. 

Production of Days Three and Four introduced everyone to our setting: Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa, and a colorful hub of Tunisian culture. During their shoots, our teams hit the ground running, exploring every alley and thoroughfare of Bizerte in search of the perfect location to best display their vision. Every member played a vital role in their film, no player more important than another. Our most experienced participants offered guidance and new filmmakers rose to the challenge of the program.  

Our beach house was alive with conversation and coffeemakers as our teams compiled their footage and captured their last few shots on Days Five and Six. On the last day of the program, as the clock struck 6, our teams finalized their rough cuts and exported their films, and we shared a last Iftar dinner together. We reflected on our week; on everything we had learned and faced; on everything we were grateful for; on everyone who had contributed to the unforgettable experience of Sawarly. Unwilling to waste a minute of our final hours together, we made our way to the sea to watch the sun rise across the Mediterranean for one last moment as a team. 

The first ever Sawarly Film Retreat brought together twenty-seven participants, seven languages, and seven nationalities to create four original films under one unifying theme. Working together, our teams navigated the challenges of language barriers, creative constraints, and differences in vision, opinion andculture. Because of our shared love for film and art, and the commitment and openness of our participants, all gaps were bridged and challenges overcome.

This week we sought out to create a space for young people to collaborate, exchange, and learn from one another. Our doubts at the start of the week had evaporated by the end of Day One, and by Day Six we could not imagine life without our newfound friends. At the end of the program, we felt that we had not only achieved our goals, but had created something truly unique. We produced four inspiring works. We created a community of filmmakers that extends beyond borders. And most importantly, we enabled twenty-seven individuals to see beyond differences and find that we are far more alike than we are different. 

Now that we have proven the potential of this program, we can bring Sawarly around the world. Anywhere there is passion for culture, filmmaking, and friendship, there is a place for Sawarly. 

Where should we shoot next?