Moviemaker Becomes Camp Operator

Keith Randal Duncan aims to teach children life skills with film

Camp operator Keith Randal Duncan recalls his father pausing him one Saturday as the then teen was leaving in a Star Wars uniform with blasters.

“He was like, ‘I can’t get you up for school at 7 a.m. during the week. What are you up to at 7 a.m. today?’”

“I’m making a movie,” answered the self-described weirdo, geek, nerd, who would go on to spend four-plus decades in the film and video industry.

“I love you, Keith, but I don’t understand you,” his father added, earning a “Ditto, Dad.”

Today, Duncan leads The Movie Institute, a North Texas nonprofit he founded with his wife, Martha, in 2000 to provide area youngsters opportunities in filmmaking.

“We started this thing out looking for those weirdos like us, who had normal parents but wanted one week with not normal people,” he told members of the Rotary Club of Park Cities during a meeting in the second half of 2023. “I thought, ‘What did I not have when I was a crazy movie kid in the ’70s with my Super Eight camera?’”

However, they quickly realized the institute’s work extended well beyond fun moviemaking activities.

“We actually are a youth development nonprofit,” Duncan explained, comparing youth filmmaking activities to dance.

“Dance kids usually don’t stay in dance,” he said. “They do dance up to, you know, when they get to a certain point, and they decide they want to be veterinarians or something, right? But the dance school gave them a lot of poise and self-confidence and taught them a lot of things that they use in their everyday life.”

The institute, which is building a new 6,500-square-foot movie studio at The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, works with schools in Dallas and Collin counties, offers workshops in various aspects of filmmaking, and runs its annual Kamp Hollywood in the summer.

Duncan estimated the nonprofit has worked with 2,000 youths in the past 23 years.

For Kamp Hollywood, youths spend a week making short films using professional equipment.

“They learn how to do it. We put them through all the paces. They write their own script. They choose their own director, and they make the movie,” Duncan said.

A professional editor completes the final cuts, and the films get shown in a red-carpet evening event at Studio Movie Grill. Outside professionals do the judging.

The staff prioritizes mentorship, making it the responsibility of every production tech, administrator, and office person to ensure every camper gets plugged into a team and finds a place in the moviemaking process.

“They learn team building. They learn how not to be so within themselves, how to work with other people, critical thinking skills,” Duncan said. “They learn those are skills that we all want them to have when they come to work for us.”

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William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at william.taylor@peoplenewspapers.com. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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