Responding to desperation is part of America’s character.
Desperate circumstances lent many the gumption to cross oceans. Centuries forward, these United States of the proactively desperate have made “The Forgotten Man” an icon in art and song, published research papers about deaths of despair and loneliness and created stardom out of young working men dragging back home.
Today, the frontier is now found in subtler places.
The character of Noah in the all-ages movie “Camp Hideout” embodies how a sense of belonging can transform youthful despair born of isolation. The filmmakers turn their lens to this theme with a knack for redemptive healing while still packing the laughter.
Jason Brown, co-founder of the new Called Higher Studios, said his “production community” lets “brothers and sisters support production with investments of $100 to $5,000.”
In this way, the studio’s business structure plants the Christian idea of belonging at the seed level of the venture.
“Camp Hideout,” the studio’s current big screen offering, exemplifies this approach. The comedy looks at the human capacity to respond when “belonging and friendship,” in the view of Brown, seem increasingly out of reach to adolescents and children.
“Camp Hideout” is directed by four-time Emmy winner Sean Olson. The film stars Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”), with his timeless charisma, as Falco, the owner of a camp.
The family flick also features Corbin Bleu (“It’s On,” “High School Musical”) playing summer camp counselor Jake and Amanda Leighton (“This is Us”) as Selena, a social worker affiliated with church groups.
Noah, after falling in with a criminal element that wants to exploit him, finds his way to the titular camp.
“Up to this point,” Brown says, “Noah is just trying to survive. He is the quintessential negative kid, who kills the fun in everything. Yet there is a place for his boundary-setting. It’s to protect something precious–his innocence, his dealing with his recently lost brother.”
Loss of family is epidemic in the stories of youth delinquency and violence.
Friendship and belonging are therapeutic to boys and girls, and that’s where camps can come in. If, in early September, one were to ask a child who recently had a summer camp experience whether school or camp had more important in his or her life, either answer could easily be the reply.
That’s despite camp lasting far less than your average school year.
A study by Penn State University concludes that young people may gain “impressive…and significant impacts” from being with peers outdoors. Indeed 59 percent of adults today think young people need summer camp. However, only half that percentage of young people actually go.
That 30 percent possess camp memories and 70 percent do not is more compelling societally than may first meet the eye. If the “haves” were getting a resource known to provide “impressive” and “significant” gains that were missed by the “have nots,” and the setting was school rather than camp, then reporters and activists alike would address the matter.
However, camp provides those positive impacts in ways government bureaucracy never could.
Imagine (no, don’t) the malthusian dystopia of being assigned a camp by zone. The benefits from summers of nature and freedom would be subsumed. Choice is essential to camp’s successes.
Camp benefits are achieved not in any way you can protest a government to do for you, but by families freely choosing and doing with money, and a healthy, faith-based intent.
Perhaps this is why, despite young people’s need for camp’s values and benefits, the press tends to stay away. You’d probably have to open an industry journal to learn news about the camp world, while school issues earn sizable coverage.
Camps were badly slowed by social distancing ordinances.
The camp industry has attempted to bounce back in enrollment despite inflation and lingering or unclear “mandate” policies. The results of camp’s post-covid comeback have been as mixed as the recovery of children’s social intelligence markers.
Noting camp as a potential scene for telling meaningful stories, Called Higher Studios created a revolutionary model for film production. Its principle members, like Brown, commit to putting themselves at the service of God, yielding a film grounded in Christian values about a transformative journey at summer camp.
The film features cabin competitions; a grizzled, patriotic veteran running a camp on his land, kids of different abilities’ and backgrounds persevering through their misunderstandings and adults opening doors for the next generation.
Everyone around Noah has walls up, too, but he eventually meets people who do more than preach the gospel. They live it through their action and become the family Noah has always longed for.
Is that storyline not a salve on our present-day culture?
It’s up to us to act in the holy spirit to keep alive young people’s chance to enjoy camp and lead lives of freedom, maturation and camaraderie. The alternative is more family breakdown, unfettered crime and fleeting educational trends of the absurd.
Learn more about ‘Camp Hideout,’ in theaters September 15, at CampHideoutMovie.com
Michael Bedar’s articles appear in Free the People, The Federalist, American Spectator, and American Thinker. He’s written a novel and produced documentaries about freedom, nature and wellbeing. He is the designer of the online course, Free Creation, for documentarians and digital course makers to learn how to maximize their reach and impact through distribution.