Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
August 2019

From Farm to Film New Business Teaches Kids to be the Next Steven Spielberg

By Kevin Painchaud

Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
Credit Kevin Painchaud. Making of the movie “The McGuffin”

It’s pretty common in our area to go into a restaurant and expect amazing food come straight from the farm.  What if you took your kids to a farm and they came back as filmmakers?  That is exactly what The Aptos based family farm, Thomas Farms, is doing.

Thomas Farms an organic flower farm owned by Aptos locals Kari Lee Thomas and Joshua Thomas. After running a successful business supplying beautiful flowers to New Leaf and Whole Foods and being pioneers in organic farming, Kari Lee, 43,always felt the urge to do something bigger. 

 “As a young women, in my most honest moments, I knew I wanted a career in either music, filmmaking or a nonprofit,” says Kari Lee. “Music and movies were my first loves. Lifting me up, even as a small child. The nonprofit part came to me as an epiphany when I was shopping in Safeway at age 16 and came upon Newman’s Own cookies. The label struck me. It said “all profits donated to charity.” This idea made complete sense to me. A business that takes care of its employees and does good for others. That’s what I want to do!”

Josh, 47, who was raised in Aptos and attended Cabrillo College,  is currently getting his Masters of fine arts in film at San Francisco State University.  While working on his homework assignments, he enlisted their children and their children’s friends to act and crew in his film projects.  The kids got so much enjoyment out of the experience, that Kari Lee had the idea about running a film camp at their farm.  Kari Lee and Josh soon reached out to the community for support, and the idea soon became a reality.  They created a board of business professionals from all walks of life.  They spent countless days cleaning out their barns and making their farm into an ideal place to create a camp for kids.  Being a nonprofit, they were also able to bring in other Bay Area businesses to support their vision. 

Their goal is to create an organization that educates children about how to make movies.  From script to screen, their hands-on curriculum promotes creativity, self-confidence, and critical thinking.  During this summer, Thomas Farms Films has been running five one-week sessions. 

Each session bring kids from all over the county together to act, direct, be a camera operator and sound technician.  They all work together over the course of a week to shoot a complete movie. The kids learn how to use all the equipment including cameras, lenses, microphones, booms, sound recorders and slates.  The camp covers a broad spectrum of filmmaking subjects from Dutch camera angles to Italian neorealism.  It’s heady stuff, but the instructors never lose sight that the main goal is to have fun.

Each group is taught by an experienced filmmaker.  They bring in special guests who demonstrate such things are movie make-up and cinematography.

“We want this camp to be all about fun,” says Kari Lee.  “So we focus on getting the kids to use their imagination and take part in the filmmaking process.  We don’t spend all day shooting.  We make sure we give them plenty of time for them to just be kids. We give the kids a polished script to shoot and act in.  After the weeks end, we have the instructors edit the projects, so that at the end of the summer, the kids will have a finished film that they can be proud to show.”

On Sunday Sept. 8, 10 short films made at the Thomas Farms Film Camp will be screened at the new DNA Comedy Lab located at the old River Street Theater located in down town Santa Cruz at 155S River St. 

Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
Credit Kevin Painchaud. Camp Counselors “Production Assistants” holding boom and sound equipment—Camryn Anderson & Max Clark
Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
Credit Kevin Painchaud.
Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
Credit Kevin Painchaud. At the door, Films Instructor “Director” Avery Christmas & Director of Photography in the making, Xander Buhr In the distance, from Left to Right: 1. Montgomery Thomas as “The Accountant” 2. Alea Burr-Couch as “ The Rolling Stone” 3. Henry Thomas as “Professor Dog Ear” 4. Konstantine Miller as “Strong Girl”
Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
Credit Kevin Painchaud.
Thomas Farms Santa Cruz summer camp film
Credit Kevin Painchaud.
Credit Kevin Painchaud.

The schedule is as follows:

Sunday September 8


Matinee showtime 

5:30 to 6:45

Reception/RedCarpet/Parent Paparazzi


Evening showtime 




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