Indy Shorts Feature Highlight: Lynn Sygiel

Presented by Heartland Film, Indy Shorts International Film Festival showcases short films created by storytellers from all over the globe. This July 26-29 marks the first Indy Short’s festival and includes categories such as short film finalists, official selections, Indiana spotlight program and a high school competition. Along with the festival, viewers can attend panels and workshops to learn more about filmmaking and what happens the behind the scenes on set. To learn more about the event and how to purchase tickets, visit Heartland’s info page here.

Name: Lynn Sygiel

Tell me a little about yourself?
I am a former elementary school teacher who believes that education doesn’t always take place in the classroom. I believe that real responsibility has the ability to transform young people. While writing and crafting good stories have been central to my work life — first as director of Y-Press for over two decades, and now as editor of Charitable Advisors’ Not-for-profit News — mentoring young people has been my passion. I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a master’s from Simmons College in Boston and spent time working for a newspaper in Massachusetts.

How did you get started with film?
As the longtime director of Children’s Express/Y-Press, I helped young Hoosier journalists, ages 10 to 18, brainstorm story ideas and then turn those ideas into finished pieces for “The Indianapolis Star” and other media. As platforms evolved, so did my work with young people. We created radio pieces, audio slideshows and video. When a friend, Freddi Stevens-Jacobi, was working on a film and asked for help in fine-tuning a storyline, it seemed a perfect fit. Our partnership in film has evolved since then.

What is your favorite thing about creating a film?
While telling a story strictly with words certainly has its rewards, adding moving pictures and sound gives it added dimensions. I love seeing how the puzzle comes together to create a moving story!

Tell me about your film “When Kids Wrote the Headlines.”
The documentary film examines the 20-plus years that Y-Press, formerly Children’s Express, produced quality journalism by young Hoosiers and how it transformed the lives of more than 2,000 kids. The film, told through the words of many Y-Press/CE alumni and the adults that mentored them, shows that kids indeed have voices and personalities and the ability to look at the world with a wide lens. When the organization closed in 2012, it was imperative to save not only young

Hoosiers’ work, but also the lessons they learned. With the current debate about “real” and “fake” news, this film has the potential to heighten the relevance of competent journalism, but also show how those skills helped transform kids into caring, aware and committed adults.

Where did the inspiration for your film come from?
Inspiration came from the young Hoosier journalists and the body of work they painstakingly created. Freddi Stevens-Jacobi planted the seed that their important work needed to be preserved and the film evolved from that gem of an idea. Alumni and former staff members were willing to brainstorm the concept and offer concrete suggestions for its direction and storyline. It truly was a collaborative effort.

What does it mean to you that your film is a part of the first Indy Shorts Film Festival?
It is an honor to be a part of this inaugural year of the festival. But most importantly, is the acceptance in the industry of the importance of young people’s voices.

What’s in the future for you?
I will continue to promote listening to diverse voices and working to ensure that young people are listened to.

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