by June Portnoy
Council Rock High School North and the George School were two of 26 public and private schools throughout the Delaware Valley to participate in the Fourth Annual Greenfield Youth Film Festival (GYFF) this year. This annual event began in 2009 as a partnership between the School District of Upper Dublin and the Greenfield Foundation.
With a focus on nurturing the creative growth of students, the GYFF encourages students to explore and share their voices through the art and craft of filmmaking as a storytelling medium.
“Our slogan is ‘Making Voices Heard,’ which promotes an open forum for filmmaking,” said Lauren Wernovsky, Film Festival Executive Director.
Students compete for awards in three categories including documentary, fiction/narrative and experimental films up to eight minutes in length.
Faculty from local universities and seasoned industry professionals, including Oscar, Grammy and Emmy winners, judge these films to determine who will win a “Greeny” during a Hollywood-style award ceremony.
This was Council Rock North’s first year participating in the GYFF and the George School’s second year.
Approximately 40 Council Rock North students from Ben Battiste’s two independent studio production and filmmaking classes submitted 21 films to this competition. Most students submitted narrative films on topics that were predominantly dramatic.
“Our goal was to have a friendly competition that motivated students to do their very best knowing their films would be reviewed by professionals in the film industry,” said Ben, Council Rock North’s English/Communications teacher. “They seemed to take their films more seriously knowing this was a regional competition, as opposed to a class project.”
Scott Hoskins, George School’s video production teacher for the past 13 years agreed.
“Competition is a valuable motivator,” he said.
A total of 16 students from Scott’s class submitted eight films, most of which were two-person projects. Their films were a mix of all three categories.
Teachers acted as mentors to their students, offering advice and answering questions without participating in the filmmaking themselves.
Said Lauren, “We didn’t want this festival to be just a competition, so we offered a full-day workshop in January at Montgomery Community College to all participating students,”
“This was a learning/teaching day where students could come talk to and learn from people in the film industry.”
A few of the many professionals at this workshop included Jon Foy, filmmaker and musical composer whose film credits include Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes” on Fox; Mark Rosenthal, a highly-respected Temple University professor who teaches advanced screenwriting and scene analysis; and Philadelphia native, Tammy Tiehel, an Oscar-winning filmmaker who has also produced over 100 hours of television programming for the Disney Channel and The Learning Channel.
This year’s theme was storytelling and its focus was getting the story from inside your head onto paper and then creating a screenplay. At the end of the day, students were given two hours to produce a one-minute film putting into practice what they had learned during the day.
“We wanted them to practice what we preached,” said Lauren.
The festival’s award ceremony took place May 1st at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA to a sold out audience of 1,200 people. Students had the opportunity to walk the red carpet and pose for “paparazzi.”
“It was Greenfield’s version of the Oscars,” said Ben. “My students were pleasantly surprised when we got there to see how spacious and majestic this theater was, as compared to traditional movie theaters.
Out of the nearly 300 submissions, judges had the difficult task of selecting the top 25 films. Although none of the films submitted by Council Rock North or the George School were selected in the winning 25, students from both schools agreed that participating in the festival was a beneficial learning experience.
“Obviously, our initial reaction was disappointment,” said Ben. “However, it was helpful to see the types of films that other schools created.
“We’re now even more motivated to work harder to win next year.”
“I hope this year’s experience taught my students that perseverance is what you need to make it in this business,” said Scott. “You can’t be daunted by one setback. People who succeed in the film industry are those who don’t give up.”
Scott and his students are already discussing what they can do differently to win next year.
“I have high hopes for next year’s Greenfield Festival,” said Scott.
“Everyone who completes a film is a winner because that in itself is a difficult task,” says Lauren. “Also, this festival puts students’ films in front of a lot of highly respected professionals in the film industry, and that is a win/win situation for everyone involved.”
For more information about the Greenfield Youth Film Festival, visit www.greenfieldyouthfilmfestival.com.