AMES began in the 1990’s when a group of creative folks in their twenties on Galiano Island–many of whom were involved with helping to get the Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS) off the ground–decided to pursue the simple goal of making media creation (short- format immersive, and mentor-guided media-making programs) accessible to youth from communities that tended to be invisible or grossly misrepresented in the mainstream media.


Though there was a lot of diversity among us, we were all committed to the idea of giving folks who had been pushed to the margins the tools to ‘take back the media’ and tell their own stories. In that first year (1997) we ran 5 one-week intensives for a total of 84 street-involved, LGBTQ, Indigenous, of-colour, and HIV+ youth. During those programs we witnessed the transformative impact that providing a safe, creatively, emotionally and intellectually nourishing space had on the staff and participants alike. Soon after we began to realize that the work created during this process also held the power to educate and even activate others.

It was at this point that our goals shifted to being about optimizing ‘ripple effect’: expanding impact through concentric opportunities for personal and social transformation that began with nurturing individual creative expression and small group collaboration, led to the engagement of classrooms and schools, and ultimately extended to the broader community and ‘general public’.

Thus began the move to incorporate the videos that the youth made into peer-based educational outreach, and develop peer-based facilitation training and employment opportunities so that those being directly impacted by the issues could take the lead on bringing the work out into the wider world, and using it to prompt courageous conversations/ critical dialogue.

As the list of ‘Past Programs’ below attests, this relatively tiny org has managed to cover a lot of ground, engage a lot of different communities and ultimately have a big impact.

Past Programs


YouthMADE is a multifaceted media arts production and outreach program that inspires those who have been targets of racism, hate and discrimination to become creative agents in overcoming it.

Click to view ouYouthMADE Resources.

The primary outcomes of this initiative are:

• The creation of 2 youth-driven resource packages (one aimed at high school aged students and teachers, the other at elementary) that feature the work of youth

• The development and delivery of a series of arts-based youth-facilitated workshops to students, teachers and administrators.

It is a dynamic example of peer education in action, YouthMADE brings young people to the ‘front of the classroom’ through a series of interactive youth-facilitated workshops that incorporate the core values of the project: Creativity, Critical Analysis and Compassion. Using the power of youth-voice and digital storytelling to speak directly to youth, YouthMADE workshops give young people an opportunity to generate conversations that are meaningful and relevant to them.

The ‘big picture’ goal of this project is to help make BC schools and the various communities that surround them more compassionate, inclusive, creatively engaged, critically aware and socially just. At heart of this project is the belief that digital storytelling is a transformative and powerful tool for building relationships across and between ‘difference’.

Looking Back/Moving Forward: Celebrating Communities of Resistance 2010

Looking Back/Moving Forward was a 7-day hip hop digital arts mentorship project that brought 12 culturally diverse youth from the Ray Cam Co-op Centre area together  to work with accomplished filmmakers and hip hop artists.  The youth, along with their mentors, produced 4 videos that recollects and celebrates the history of this resilient and resistant multicultural community as it looks to the future with solidarity and pride.

Smoke Screen 2: Through the Eyes of New Canadians 2005/06

SMOKE SCREEN 2 was a Health Canada funded and AMES run research and social marketing campaign that was designed by and for young immigrants and refugees in the Greater Vancouver Area. The project began with a community consultation process that involved peer-facilitated focus groups with a total of 194 newcomer youth. These focus groups were held to gain insight into the smoking attitudes, behaviours and awareness rates of newcomer youth.

Following the focus groups, 16 young immigrants and refugees from 11 different countries came together to create a total of 12 ads to de-glamourize tobacco use among youth in general, and specifically among young immigrants. In addition to its success of airing 6 ads on 8 different TV Networks in February 2006, the Smoke Screen 2 campaign involved a high profile transit ad, a series of newspaper ads, an internet-based social networking/marketing component and the development of a documentary and educational resource package including sections in English, Punjabi, and simplified Chinese.

Smoke Screen 1: Anti-Smoking Ads By and For Girls 2003

SMOKE SCREEN 1 was a by and for girls social marketing and educational campaign funded by Health Canada. In the fall of 2003 twenty-four BC and the Yukon-based girls, between the ages of 14 and 19, spent 10 days at the  Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS) creating a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to educate the public about what makes young girls want to smoke, and why they should resist!

Six of these PSAs were broadcast on seven different Canadian TV Networks and were also incorporated into a 20-minute documentary which is currently being used, along with an accompanying Teacher’s Guide, in high schools throughout the province. One of the PSAs created during this program, Agent Tobacco, was banned from CBC TV because its  suggestion that ‘BIG Tobacco’ targeted young girls violated their ‘Truth in Advertizing’ guidelines.

The Pride House Video Project 2002/03

AMES’ first video ethnography program brought together community and university-based youth to learn image-based research techniques. The Pride House Video Project was part of a larger research project that was spearheaded by the Pride Care Society, to create a better understanding of the living conditions and in particular the housing needs of homeless queer youth. The program, involved 7 days of ‘video boot-camp’ at the Gulf Island Film and Television School (GIFTS) and 3 days of post-production at AMES’ Urban Outreach office in Vancouver. It ended with the production of a series of videos, one of which promoted the importance of Pride House, a safe house for queer street youth.

Play-Rights 2002

Play-Rights, created in partnership with the Langley Association for Community Living (LACL) and Video In, saw 5 folks with developmental disabilities learning the technical and journalistic know-how to create a short documentary about a “Bill of Rights” play that folks at LACL have produced. The video includes interviews with actors, producers, and the audience.

AMES/IDERA Anti-Racism PSA Project 2001

The Anti-Racism PSA Project, undertaken in collaboration with the International Development Education Resource Association (IDERA), led to the creation of five youth-produced Public Service Announcements (PSAs) tackling the subject of anti-discrimination.

YouthQuake: Breaking the Barriers Video Project 2001

AMES worked in collaboration with Inclusion BC (formerly the BC Association for Community Living) to create a media training program for developmentally-disabled youth. This project saw five members of the youth caucus (three with developmental disabilities and two without) working together to create a documentary about YouthQuake, a national Conference involving 130 delegates strategizing ways that communities can become more inclusive to people with developmental disabilities. The final video project was screened at their AGM (600 people) and has since been circulated to a number of community-based organizations and schools around the province.

Youth Action on Climate Change 2000

In September 1999, ten AMES graduates and ten young environmental activists came to Galiano Island for ten days to produce Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to educate the television viewing public about climate change and global warming. A total of 16 PSAs were produced and 9 of these were broadcast across Canada in 2000. This project was created in partnership with Molloy & Associates, Gumboot Productions, and the Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS). A selection of works from this program can be viewed at www.youthinmedia.com

Street Stories 2000

Street Stories gave 11 youth who had been exploited through the sex trade a chance to learn media production skills to create prevention educational materials for other youth at risk.

A-Team: Autistic Video Project 1999/00

AMES raised funds to deliver a one week video production course specifically designed for high functioning autistic and asbergers youth. The A-Team: Autistic Video Project took place at the The Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS) and was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Foundation for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

WTN Foundation Girls TV Camp 1999

In the summer of 1999, AMES in conjunction with the WTN Foundation Inc. offered 44 teenage girls an action-packed week of hands-on technical training at the Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS). The WTN Foundation Girls TV Camp program was designed to de-mystify media production technology and get more girls involved in the technical side of television production.

New Views Programs 1997/98

New Views Progams was the overarching initiative created to provide “multi-barriered youth” with a safe and supportive environment in which to learn the tools to tell their stories. Between 1997 and 1998, over 130 people participated in the different media intensive programs we offered through New Views. All of the New Views programs were held at the acclaimed Gulf Islands Film and Television School (GIFTS).

The individual programs involved were:

  • Multicultural Visions, for young people of colour
  • First Perspectives, for Aboriginal youth
  • Street Views, for street involved youth
  • Queer Views, for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth
  • Positive Visions, for people living with HIV+

Funded by: The Vancouver Foundation, The United Way, VanCity, The Province of British Columbia, and the Hamber and Koerner Foundations.

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