FilmNorth has partnered with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Golden Valley’s Transitional Rehabilitation Program to teach filmmaking and photography classes since 2003. The TRP provides a bridge from hospital to home or community settings for people with complex medical conditions. Patients range in age from young adults to seniors and are of diverse backgrounds.

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health, provides a continuum of inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation and community services. The Institute’s goal is to maximize quality of life for people of all ages and all abilities. Courage Kenny helps people achieve health and wellness through providing excellent services, innovative programs, ground-breaking research and barrier-shattering advocacy.

FilmNorth’s education outreach program through Courage Kenny was designed to serve people in rehabilitation for brain/spinal cord injury and stroke. FilmNorth initially offered a basic photography course, Self-Expression Through Photography, with a team of volunteer instructors from FilmNorth the summer of 2003. Eventually a basic filmmaking course, Introduction to Video Storytelling, was introduced. The work created by the participants in these courses has often been profound. The classes have consistently proven to serve as an important aid in recovery, helping TRP clients share their stories with family and friends in a personal and meaningful way they couldn’t otherwise. The classes also expand students’ creativity and provide a platform for artistic expression. Using digital media enables clients to easily and quickly share their stories through social media, in-house screenings and TV broadcast at Courage Kenny, video blogs, and websites. And recently several student videos were included in the ReelAbilities Film Festival, reaching 1000 viewers in attendance, plus broadcast on Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) in a special one-hour program showcasing the festival.

Today we offer 4 video storytelling courses annually at Courage Kenny with generous funding support through the Minnesota State Arts Board Partners in Arts Participation Program. In the courses offered participants learn the basics of video storytelling, focusing on the interview. The class utilizes iPads with adaptive accessories for students to learn shooting and editing software function. Basic principles of lighting and sound are discussed and demonstrated. The goal is to inspire and empower students to think visually and understand how a story is effectively told through video. Each class consists of four 1.5-hour sessions and is led by the instructional team of Pam Colby and Deacon Warner, both active instructors in other FilmNorth education programs. Courage Kenny provides classroom and screening facilities, and amazing volunteers to assist with classes, which culminate in a screening of student work that’s free and open to the public.

Derek LaBerge, Courage Kenny Senior Therapeutic Recreational Therapist and our program partner, describes the power of visual storytelling had in one of our recent student’s recovery.

“Tim is a 36-year-old man who lived in the Transitional Rehabilitation Program for several months. He was involved in a work accident that resulted in his head being crushed, causing a traumatic brain injury. Tim was not able to walk or talk when he first arrived. In fact, half of his skull was missing and he was required to wear a helmet at all times. Tim received intense physical, occupational, speech, and recreational therapy. While participating in recreational therapy, Tim happily joined us for in the Introduction to Video Storytelling program. This program, which is only possible due to the Minnesota Arts Board Partners in Arts Participation Grant, proved to be a magnificent canvas for Tim to be able to paint his personal journey of recovery. During the three-week filmmaking program, FilmNorth staff, our volunteers, and I were inspired to watch Tim learn how to use an iPad and a GoPro camera (devices made possible through this grant) to create his story. These few words do not do Tim’s story justice, as by the time he was discharged, he was able to walk and speak, and his helmet was replaced with his own thick, beautiful hair following a surgery to replace his bone flap to his skull. If you click on this link to Tim’s story, please pay attention to my favorite part, when Tim is asked what a picture of his son means to him. Absolutely priceless.”

Click here to view short films created by Courage Kenny TRP clients.


“The storytelling program has not only helped me to process my journey of recovery from a spinal cord injury in a meaningful and constructive way, it has provided me a with a new interest into the art involved with the process of filmmaking.”

“Thank you for helping me to decide to experience the filmmaking program by explaining the potential benefits, all of which came true. My importantly, I have come to better understand who the new me is after a stroke, and how my life is still going to be meaningful. I enjoyed that you welcomed my family to participate in telling my story and included family during the project premiere.”

“Being able to laugh again and connect with other clients sharing common struggles, frustrations and successes, whom I might not have otherwise encountered during my rehabilitation, was the my most meaningful take-away from this project. I like how this project captured a snapshot in time of my recovery, as progress is often slow and difficult to comprehend. When I look back at even just the three weeks that this project took place, it is now easy for me to see what my therapists have been telling me as far as how I have been progressing.”

Introduction to Video Storytelling Class Photos – Page One

Introduction to Video Storytelling Class Photos – Page Two

Self-Expression through Photography Class & Exhibit Photos

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