Scribe Video Center

Scribe Video Center

WHAT: Scribe Video Center, located at 4212 Chestnut St., is a community media arts center dedicated to training people in all aspects of film, audio and video production. This year, Scribe turns 25, and will celebrate with a year-long series of events honoring past work and themes.

THE NEED: Executive Director Louis Massiah says when he founded Scribe in 1982, Philadelphia simply didn’t have a media center to call its own. This lack of resources made it difficult for film and video artists not enrolled in a MFA program to gain access to equipment, training and facilities. “Philadelphia really didn’t have a place where working filmmakers could come together and create work to learn more about the techniques and the craft...and have access to equipment.”

STARTING SMALL: In the beginning, Scribe didn’t have any equipment or full-time staff to lead classes. Massiah led the first workshop on video production himself. But with plenty of word-of-mouth support, Scribe grew exponentially and today welcomes about 400 people each year to its workshops. In 2004, Scribe moved to its current 4,000 square-foot Chestnut Street loft space, with plenty of room for classes, equipment storage and screenings.

EVERYONE IS WELCOME: It’s not just established filmmakers who use Scribe resources, says Massiah. Dancers, artists in other mediums, seniors and academics all come to the center to learn how film can advance their work. Scribe also works with social, political and cultural organizations to help them document their work, or advance change in communities using video, film and audio.

THE PROGRAMS: Scribe hosts about 45 different workshops a year, from digital sound editing and video production for teens, to how-to’s on blogging and “vlogging,” radio production and camerawork. Scribe works with groups through the Community Visions program, helping to produce videos free of charge. The center is in the second phase of the Precious Places project—a city-wide oral history initiative—and offers the Documentary History Project for Youth, in which middle and high school students plan and produce films of local historical significance. Scribe also offers several on- and off-site screening series, including Street Movies, an outdoor series that brings independent film and videos to neighborhoods and other public spaces throughout the city.

THE POWER OF FILM: “Film is a basic form of literacy,” says Massiah, “a way an individual can speak to a broad public. The ability for a community to tell its own story … in 2007 is a basic and essential form of literacy. Commercial entities—their interests may be to get you to the next commercial rather than tell a story that is in the best interest of our community.”

GET INVOLVED: Scribe welcomes new members (basic memberships begin at just $30), as well as audience members at screenings and students in workshops. For more information and a complete schedule of events, go to

Originally published on January 10, 2008