If you give some kids a camera, then they'll want to shoot a movie.

Max Schmeling's fourth- and fifth-grade class did just that, filming tales of classroom pets, kidnapped Barbies, even a squid dissection.

The Bellview Elementary students, with the help of parent volunteers and experienced filmmakers, presented the results of their year-long documentary project to parents and siblings at the Southern Oregon University theatre Thursday night. The class will submit their movies to the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

"I thought it was great," said Scott Lockheed, whose daughter Ananda provided the voice of Barbie in one of the films. "Max does such a good job with everything he does with these kids."

Although she was embarrassed at first to talk in Barbie-speak, Ananda Lockheed said she wants to learn more, even after discovering that "making movies takes a long time."

Throughout the process, kids learned how to develop storylines, shoot and edit film. They came up with creative ways to display credits, with Scrabble tiles for the movie entitled "Toy World," or names revealed under slices of pizza for a film about school lunch. They also chose music for their films, such as the William Tell Overture for a film about a group art project played back in double time.

Some of the skills students learning extend beyond the moviemaking process.

"It seemed a lot of what he learned was working together in a group," said Lisa March, whose son Max Duggan helped film the squid dissection. "I was really impressed, and I'm surprised by the creativity."

Schmeling said he wanted his students to have an appreciation for the work that goes into their favorite movies, although he said he did very little besides getting the project off the ground.

"I didn't do anything really," he said. "I just organized it and got the right people. The volunteers put in hours and hours."

Before the project, his experience with filmmaking was limited to enjoying movies in the theater, but now he is eager to learn the computer program iMovie along with his students next year.

The volunteers were also reluctant to take credit for their work, giving students the highest praise.

"They just took over," said SOU professor Miles Inada about the group he worked with to create a stop-motion animation film featuring Lego people in a dark alley.

All but two of the films were documentaries to keep kids from getting bogged down in writing scripts and creating props, said Janet Greek, a former Hollywood writer and director who helped with the project.

Greek and Robert Head, who helped with much of the editing, are already planning to continue the projects next year and possibly shoot their own documentary at the same time.

"We're just amazed at what a good job the kids did," Greek said. "They made a lot of progress this year. They started out being kind of unsure about what their projects should be, but once they got started, they really got excited about it."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or . To post a comment on this story, go to .