by Danny Hooley
[UPDATED MONDAY, AUG. 8 WITH VIDEO AT BOTTOM OF POST.]
North Carolina-based actress Melissa Lozoff runs filmmaking classes and workshops for kids at Movie-Makers, a project she founded in 2001. Fans of reality TV can get a glimpse of her teaching process on Monday, Aug. 8, at 9:30 p.m. on the TLC channel.
"I basically make films with kids," Lozoff says. In fact, she's in the middle of giving classes and summer camp with kids right now at her property in Orange County. She also just got finished with some acting work on One Tree Hill in Wilmington.
"The kids help come up with the ideas for the script," Lozoff describes Movie-Makers. "They basically learn the aspects of filmmaking, and then they get to star in their own movie."
Those classes and summer camps always take place on her Orange County property, with one recent exception—the movie project she did with the Gosselin kids at the family's Pennsylvania compound for this Monday's second episode of TLC's Kate Plus 8. (The first episode airs at 9.)
Lozoff's brief involvement in the reality TV show came about because of a longstanding North Carolina connection to the show. The original incarnation of the series, Jon & Kate Plus 8, was created by Advanced Medical Production (later known as Figure 8 Films) in 2007, back when Jon and Kate were still a couple whose experiment with fertility treatments yielded twins, then sextuplets. (That version of the show ended when Jon's infidelities nixed the marriage.)
Lozoff taught filmmaking to the daughter of one of the producers at Figure 8, Kirk Streb, a few years ago, and he fondly remembered the experience when the Figure 8 staff were brainstorming ideas for upcoming episodes.
He also knew that one of the 10-year-old Gosselin twins, Mady, really likes putting on little plays. So Figure 8 flew Lozoff to Pennsylvania in March to make a "cute little movie with the Gosselin kids."
"They're comfortable in front of the camera, but all of that acting and blocking—that was brand new," Lozoff says, adding that, otherwise: "They're basically like all the other kids that I've worked with."
Lozoff went back to Pennsylvania in late May/ early June for the "premiere" of the film in the family's basement. That was the first time that the mom saw the mini-movie, according to Lozoff.
"Kate wasn't really around while we were making the movie, because they wanted it to be a surprise for her," she says. "We rented a red carpet and sort of decorated their basement and did their little premiere."
That's typical of Lozoff's process with her Movie-Makers camp kids. After the films are made, she'll spend a few weeks editing and then will rent out a venue to show her kids the finished products. Most recently, she rented out The Varsity on Franklin Street.
She also has "an advanced group" that makes more professional-caliber films to submit to film festivals.
Another particular she's not allowed to talk about much is Kate Gosselin, the fiery star of the show (which, interestingly, is not on the fall schedule recently announced by TLC).
"She was always very gracious with me," Lozoff says, and leaves it at that.
Melissa Lozoff has appeared in numerous films, TV shows including The Young and The Restless and Days of Our Lives, and theater productions with the Common Ground and Ghost & Spice companies. In 2010, she won for Best Actress at the Carrboro Film Festival for her work in Nic Beery's Twelve. To find out more about Movie-Makers, go to www.movie-makers.net.