My Daughters are Film Makers – Take Two Film Academy and What Makes a Great After School Class

As New York City 10 year-olds my girls have taken a huge range of after school classes.  From sports to cooking, arts to performing, we’ve covered pretty much every venue on the Upper West Side.  I’ve found that some classes are harder to do well than others, cooking for example is often nothing more than baking, often involving Pillsbury Crescent Rolls or assembling of ingredients rather than real cooking.  And I won’t even discuss the disastrous swim class we took where they put kids back in the pool after another kid had thrown up in it. So, I was definitely skeptical of Take Two Film Academy, kid focused film program, since most of our experience has been a “film” class that consists of a non-film teacher making videos on iMovie and the kids merely actors in the teacher’s script or ideas.  But, Take Two Academy seemed a lot more professional and worth a shot.

The first thing that impressed me about Take Two and their fabulous teachers was that they use real professional equipment. The cameras, boom mikes, and Final Cut Pro editing software challenged the students to make higher quality and richer movies.  But what I really loved was how they focused on the process and on collaboration – two things that are essential to good filmmaking.  The kids range in age from 8-15, not an easy group to get to work together, but they did.  They broke down into smaller groups, but each took bigger or smaller roles within each group – from writing, to acting, from directing to editing.  In just 5 days they produced 3 short films – each of them unique, interesting, and completely from their own voices.  And, they were all really proud of each other, the teachers took a total backseat to the students at the final viewing.

Here’s what one of their students (and star KidzVuz Reviewer) has to say about Take Two Film Academy:

And here is sample of one of the films my girls made:

It’s not cheap – but classes of this quality rarely are in Manhattan. I highly recommend checking it out for your budding film maker, actor, writer or performer.

Disclosure: I received a discount on the one-week film class in exchange for a review.  All opinions (and those of the kids) are unbiased and our own!

Are NYC Parents Crazy?

96th Street subway, uptown side, Oct 2009 - 15This is a post I wrote a year ago for the Westside Independent, but after meeting so many women this weekend at BlogHer who asked me how I could raise my kids in NYC I thought I’d repost it here on Beccarama for a whole new audience.

Are city parents crazy?  This is the question that a dad blogger posted on his site last week upon returning home to the Midwest after a four-day trip to New York City. I always think that while I am certainly not crazy, this kind of question always brings out the crazy in me. First I get defensive – the knee jerk well how can YOU live in the cultural, ethnic, culinary wasteland that is the suburbs? Then I go into my why New York City is the best place ever routine – oh the museums, the landmarks, the food, the theater, and the one that always freaks out everyone, we don’t even own a car! But truth be told that routine is getting a little stale. Why do city parents really want to raise their kids here?

All of the reasons I listed above are of course true, but do they really outweigh the small spaces most of us live in, the lack of backyards and basements, the battle for kindergarten admission, the financial costs and the ever-nagging sense that city kids grow up too fast? No, I think there’s more to it.

My daughters are in second grade and their social studies curriculum is all about New York. They happen to attend a great public school that is outrageously field trip happy and this course of study lends itself to exploring neighborhoods. I love this aspect of the curriculum because the strange secret of New Yorkers is that they rarely venture outside of a ten block radius from their homes except to commute to work (and as a writer that would mean the walk to my kitchen table) We eat at the same restaurants over and over again, we go to the same playgrounds every weekend, and we shop at the same grocery and drug stores on a weekly basis. With everything at your fingertips it’s easy to take it for granted and not take advantage of all the things that the city has to offer. It takes effort not to fall into a lazy New York lull of the familiar.

And this is why it’s always so shocking to me when people ask me how I can raise my kids in New York City. I don’t really raise my kids in New York City, I raise them on the Upper West Side. We zip in and out of other areas on weekends – Flushing for dim sum, the East Side to museums and the zoo, Times Square for the theater, downtown for gallery hopping, Chelsea Piers for bowling and ice skating, Brooklyn for old friends and family, and of course Central and Riverside Parks for grass, trees and nature – but at the end of the day we come home to our small town. It’s the best of all worlds. A familiar place called home nestled inside the most exciting city in the world. And that is why I am not crazy to raise my kids in (the Upper West Side of) New York City.

How to Stretch a NYC Dollar (Hint: It Takes a lot of Financial Muscle)

Thank you to Turbo Tax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.  Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve.  I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

Last week my husband and I had brunch with some cousins visiting from Seattle.  One of them looked at me with pity and said “How can you live here – it’s so expensive!”  Now, she doesn’t live in some tiny town she lives in Seattle!  But still, there they were shaking their heads and thinking we were out of our minds for choosing to live in a city where the price of a 1,000 square foot apartment is the same as a 4 bedroom house in most other parts of the country.  Trust me there are days where I shake my head and think the same thing.  However, living in Manhattan is vital to my well-being – even though sometimes the trade offs can seem ridiculous.  I have 5 city mom tips for keeping up financially and realistically in a city that seems to have a hand in every pocket.

  1. Create a real budget.  Seems simple right?  It’s not.  Every year my husband creates an awesome spreadsheet with all of our income and expenses in detail, month by month.  Yes, it’s as anal and nutty as it sounds and it’s awesome.  We can predict and project every dollar and make choices accordingly.  For the last two years we’ve been using to keep track of every expense and investment in every financial account we have and this has made it even easier to track all of our spending and goals.  If you’re a data geek like me (and my husband) this makes financial planning fun – I swear. Continue reading

Theme of the Week – Growing Up and Moving On

Sharing the Baby Swing So Long Ago...

I didn’t realize how much this summer would be about my daughters moving up (to 3rd grade), moving out (to sleep away camp) and moving on (cleaning out their toys.) But obviously the idea of them growing up and entering a new phase of their lives, which means I am entering a new phase of my parenting life, has been humming in the back of my mind for the last month.

My latest West Side Independent column grapples with what growing up in the city means and the milestones that are unique to an NYC upbringing. Who knew I’d be sad to leave Hippo Park Playground behind?

Read it here…

Two Really Hot Ways to Stay Cool This Summer: Natural History Museum Event and Chelsea Piers Bowling!

I don’t post a lot of “event” type stuff on my blog.  There are fabulous sites out there like MommyPoppins and GoCityKids who have the serious lowdown all the time.  But, these two summer special events were both too good not to share, since I know I’ll be doing both of them. First:

“Kids Bowl Free & Adults Breath Easier” Every Day This Summer at 300 New York!

300 (the Bowling Alley) at Chelsea Piers.  Air conditioning! Bowling! Did I mention Air Conditioning?  Sometimes you need a break from the gross reality of an NYC summer and my kids being the mathletes that they are love bowling.  And that game room attached to it at 300.  Here’s the deal – kids get a free game and free shoe rental (please don’t forget socks, ick) if they sign up for a Kids Club Card, also free.  Here are the details:

Where:         300 New York at Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex.
Pier 60/23rd & West Side Hwy. New York, NY 10011

What:           All summer long, 300 Kids Club Card members (12 & under) get one free game and shoe rental (Sun-Fri before 4pm). Card can be used once a day thru Labor Day.

When:           Now till September 7th, 2010

The 2nd is…

Continue reading

Look Out Ahead: Too Many Kids, Too Few Schools : Westside Independent

Look Out Ahead: Too Many Kids, Too Few Schools : Westside Independent

I’m up on my virtual soapbox.  How bad is the school overcrowding situation on the Upper West Side?

Check out my latest parenting column in the Westside Independent.

City Parenting, Stereotypes, and The New York Times : Westside Independent

Why does everyone pick on us Upper West Side moms?  My latest parenting column at the Westside Independent.

City Parenting, Stereotypes, and The New York Times : Westside Independent