The lights shine bright in Time Square reflecting off of shiny glass buildings, the sun peering over portions of the sky scrapers illuminating everything. This weekend in Time Square at AMC Theaters Filmmakers from across the world joined together to share pieces of their art and illuminate the large screens in the 7 Theaters where their short films were constantly streaming. The All American High School Film Festival Founded By Andrew Jenks award winning Film Maker, Brian Lindenbaum Director of Development and Tom Oliva Executive Director.
I have done Press Media at a number of events and different festivals, and I have to say, I have never felt more inspired or a better vibe from any of them. The constant feeling from start to finish was cohesiveness, light heartedness, passion, talent, support for each other…. Joy, fun. So many words can go into a Film Festival that consisted of Filmmakers who just happened to be High School Students. Had I not known that they were high school students before going into it, I would probably never would have known the talent I witnessed was astronomical.
Artists submitted films in all different categories to include Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Animation, Experimental, Music Video and so on. The angles, the lighting, the visual techniques the depth of the message, the sound quality and technique really inspired me. I was able to interview Sound Engineer Max and filmmaker JR Bellavia who submitted a Drama Titled “147” he said that “Being recognized by someone definitely helped inspire me”, and we also chatted it up about how important sound truly is to a piece, without it every film is silent and it can really bring a level of depth and quality to a piece that otherwise would be missing. To go back to the cohesive feeling I got from the festival, it was clear that the films were a team effort, to include the support of parents, family members, and friends, showing up as volunteer’s support systems, translators as with the case of Jacob Baer who created “CODA Pride” a Documentary about Children of Deaf Adults, here’s what he said to say about his film “I was inspired to make the film because I knew I wanted to make one, I found out about the festival and I thought it went well with the personal life that I live” he was accompanied by his parents and their Sign Language Translator #Awesome.
I spoke with female filmmaker Alexander Jackman who submitted a documentary on Autism to create awareness within her community and beyond, Iver Jensen who created an Animation titled “A Twist of Fate” and was having a blast all the way from Norway with his Teacher Mr. Larson, Max Galassi who created an Experimental Film titled “Sophies Tree” based on the Sandy Hook Shootings that happened in his town he said he was inspired and having a blast.
I later grabbed a seat in Theatre 23 to catch a few more screenings and I smiled as I over heard the filmmakers introducing themselves to the other filmmakers and chatting it up with each other, from North Dakota, South Florida, they happily called down “Iver, Iver” and he moved up to sit next to his new friends, filmmaker artist family. It was truly inspiring for me to witness, they have a lot to share and teach all of us, this next generation.
I also had a chance to speak with Festival Co-Founder Andrew Jenks who came across as warm, and thoughtful, generous, arms wide open he was clearly enjoying assisting these aspiring filmmakers develop and really see how talented they are. To quote him in regards to what inspired him to create the festival he said “A lot of Art programs are being slashed in schools and kids have these great products and great films and it’s an awesome opportunity for people to come together and interact.”
The festival comes from humble beginnings and stems from Andrew and his friends creating VHS videos and showing them to friends and family in the basement, etc. The first festival he produced was in his Junior year and he smirked as he stated that about a dozen people showed up. My eyes lit up as I looked around and witnessed it had grown to thousands, so it’s proof, with hard work, inspiration and a subject or goal that you are passionate about, ANYTHING is possible, no matter who you are.
The festival included a College Fair, Technology Fair, an official Red Carpet Formal Dress Award Ceremony at Hilton Times Square and could not have been possible without support from their Sponsors and Guest Judges.
I think it’s safe to say we can expect a lot from these rising artists in the future, they all had plans to keep on creating and dreaming, and showing up. Special shout out as well to the Festival Volunteers to include Stephanie Jeanty & Emelia Breen, they truly kept the whole thing running, and helped me out a few times with directions, instructions, and warm smiles.
I’m sure all the films and artists were amazing, some notable films that I was able to view include;
“Guilty” an Alli Simpson Music Video by Paige Miltenberger, Valencia, CA
“The Effortless Cool” a Drama by Robert Crisp, Springdale, AR
“Chris” a Drama by Zachary Oschin and Sarah Evans, Calabasas, CA
“Ratchet” a Music Video by Searci Moore, Hot Springs, AR
“Pip the Cup” an Animation by Adam McArthur, Everett, WA
I wish I was able to sit in my pajamas and eat popcorn and watch all of them for a weekend, true story.. but it was great to connect and have this experience, the number one thing Co-Founder Andrew Jenks wanted these rising artists to know is how great they are, to be seen and acknowledged, and the number one things these artists stated in interviews was that they were grateful for being acknowledged and appreciated for their art. I’d like to acknowledge the incredible experience that I had at the All American High School Film Festival in New York City, thank you.
By Ashley Davene