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High School Film Festival

Calling all High School filmmakers. Have you ever thought about submitting your short film to festivals such as Sundance, but wanted to be around a cooler crowd? Then the ALL-AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL FILM FESTIVAL is for you. Students can submit their work, and the winner gets flown out to New York for the festival to have their film showcased on the big screen. The festival consists of various panels, showcases, hands-on tutorials, awards ceremony and gala, and plenty of well-known directors and filmmakers.  Filmmakers have until June 14 to submit their videos for free. Video categories include: Drama/Narrative, Comedy, Documentary, Sports Narrative or Documentary, Animation, Music Video, Experimental, Scholastic Book Trailer, Made in NY, PSA.

The festival provides resources and exposure to young filmmakers by organizing a place for them to showcase their work and network with other filmmakers. It has a strong emphasis on education, where students learn how to network with other filmmakers, learn to improve their skills, and promotes the  pursuit of filmmaking. Students are exposed to college panels and technology showcases that expose them to new ideas they can apply to their work, and further their knowledge of film. The whole festival aims at giving the filmmakers the resources they need to take their passion to the next level.

Tom Oliva and Andrew Jenks have been working hard to promote the festival, and make sure that students from all over the nation submit their work. Andrew Jenks, then 16 years old, formed his own film festival in high school. A couple documentaries and his own series on MTV later, Andrew is back to his film festival roots, wanting to give youth an opportunity to showcase their passion for film. Andrew is executive producer of the festival, and wants to make sure that a student’s passion for film is fostered through this festival.

We had a chance to ask Tom and Andrew some questions about the Festival.

Q: What role do you play in improving the community through your Film Fest?

[Tom]: The ultimate goal of the film festival is to provide exposure and resources to young filmmakers.  After running a local high school festival for a decade, we found that the vast majority of young filmmakers didn’t have access to an organized community or the resources necessary for making decisions about a future career in the media arts.  

Students who submit to our festival have the opportunity to share their creative passions with a national audience and to receive relevant and constructive feedback to help them continue to follow their passions and create more films.  In addition, our festival provides relevant resources designed to educate them about higher education and the tools of the trade.

We also help empower the students who submit to our festival.  We give them a platform for expressing their talents and let them know that their voice and their creativity are an important part of our world. 

Finally, we help establish the need for immersive education.  Students working on films are actively engaged in learning.  This hands-on learning is collaborative and promotes higher level thinking.

[Andrew]: Anytime you have a film festival most in the community will get excited. And then a film festival specifically for young students? It's a whole other ball game. The reason is that there aren't many opportunities for young people to show their work amongst their peers or family, much less an entire community - much less an audience from all over the country. Sometimes we get very caught up in social media and people viewing each others work via YouTube and other platforms but for filmmakers to get the chance to interact face to face is priceless. We are very proud of that - it's a chance to celebrate hard work and ideally this lifts the spirits of a community, both here in New York City and around the country. We can energize everyone about our future in the arts. We don't always perfect this, but we always work as hard as we can to make it work.

Q: Do you feel that film is an important way for students to express their opinions, thoughts, voice on issues that matter to them? And how can they use their film to inspire their peers as well as their elders?

[Tom]: Film is an excellent medium for personal expression because it incorporates so many artistic elements to create an overall vision.  The students submitting to our festival help paint a collective but diverse landscape of adolescence.  This landscape is both astounding in its maturity and depth and inspiring in its enthusiasm.  I know that anyone who witnesses what kids are doing with cameras today will be inspired.  Simply put: Film is a wonderful form of communication and the students have a lot to say!

[Andrew]: A film is an opinion. Oftentimes bread from a thought. It's a chance to speak to an issue using your voice. At the end of the day, it's storytelling. Great films are able to make you think. Great films give you an entirely new perspective. You leave the theater with a thought you didn't have only two hours earlier. As long as you tell a story that you believe in, and you work hard at it, your film can inspire others in many different ways - ways you may not have thought of when you first set out to make your movie.

Q: Where do your passion for films come from & how does that translate over to youth (High School Students)?

[Tom]: I suppose that my passion for filmmaking comes from my experiences with students in the classroom.  Unlike other traditional disciplines, students working on digital media projects become so immersed in the learning process that there simply isn’t enough time in the day.  There is no greater reward than knowing that young people want to learn and grow and that they have found something that propels them toward a passionate outpouring of their creative spirit.  Viewing the students’ films makes the process of building our organization an inspiring endeavor.

[Andrew]: I love telling stories. When I was a kid, my family traveled all the time because of my dad's work so I was always surrounded by people who didn't speak English! My mom had this old camera she would used and I started filming everything when we were on the road. It didn't matter what it was, I was filming - even if it was just my brother pretending to be a news anchor or me filming the whether pretending to do a whether report. By high school, I started a public access show. I'll never forget when this girl I always had a crush on came up to me and said, "Andrew, right? I saw you on that public access show. Why are you here?" And I said, "We've been in the same school for 10 years!". But one of the biggest things that helped my confidence was when I screened my film at our festival. People laughed and clapped and for me that was more than enough. I'll never forget that moment. And that's why I want this for young people. I want them to have that moment.

Q: How have you incorporated education into the festival and what was the main motivation for that?

[Tom]: Education is at the heart of our event.  Everything that we do is rooted in building a stronger foundation for the students through constructive feedback, exposure to resources, recognition of their achievements, building community, and practical, relevant future planning.

The main motivation for our efforts has been the students’ desire for a more organized filmmaking community.  The number of students interested in the media arts continues to rise at breakneck speed.  However, the necessary resources were disjointed and difficult to access.  Students desperately wanted venues to share their projects and information about the right path for future success.  Students, and their parents, consistently wanted to know that filmmaking was a worthwhile and rewarding career and they wanted this information across a wide variety of aspects related to the field.  We aim to provide access to all of the options and tools so that students feel comfortable and informed about their decision making process.

[Andrew]: Education can help you make great films. The more you know, the wider-range of films you can make and stories you can tell. People who make science fiction films are usually very well-read. Look at Spielberg's work and you can tell he certainly knows his history. For the festival itself, it's important to not just celebrate each others work but also learn about how you can get better. By having a college fair, a technology fair, and various panels with professionals we are able to have students leave with a brand new tool set.

For more information on video submissions or on the festival itself, go to http://www.aahsff.com/ for more info.