The Youth Film Festival will be showcasing multiple finished projects from young filmmakers in the Charlottesville area at the Paramount Theater Friday. The event provides a platform for the Charlottesville community to celebrate youth creativity in the largest fundraiser for the studio.
Deanna Gould, a special effects artist and current Executive Director of Light House Studio, said the event pulls together over a year’s worth of videos from Charlottesville.
“We've selected 22 films out of 413, so there's been quite a lot of work this year and it's really difficult to pick the films that are going to be in,” Gould said.
Gould said there were a wide array of submissions, ranging from climate change and social justice to comedy, rom-coms and horror films.
Part of the appeal of the Youth Film Festival is that it connects a diverse collection of local films to different festivals across the country. Due to the variety of creations, submissions are often sent off to different venues where they can receive accolades. In the past, many students from Charlottesville have had projects accepted into other events.
“We had 39 festival acceptances last year,” Gould said. “I want to say record breaking here, but I'd have to take a look at that. It's definitely one of our best years.”
Deanna also said the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the way students made films and how this year’s projects are a return to form after workshops could begin in-person again. When students started filming with their families during quarantine, Gould was able to witness their creative processes change.
“They were amazingly creative, but the filmmaking process for them was certainly different,” Gould said. “Because now we've been back in person this past year, and we're back to filmmaking as a collaborative process, the films that are screening were made again by groups of students.”
These groups collaborate on their school campus or converge in accessible locations, sometimes provided by non-profits in the area. Luckily, Charlottesville kids are in a better position now to have these opportunities than ever before. In the past, movie making has been a relatively privileged art form. Crafting a professional looking story for the screen requires expensive cameras, lighting and software to piece everything together. Even if a single student has the equipment, films are hard to make alone.
However, an amateur crew of kids working and learning together can be an invaluable experience for those who want to tell stories with digital media, and Gould wants Light House Studio to address struggles with the art form’s inaccessibility.
“One of the biggest barriers oftentimes is transportation, and we break down that barrier by going to them, taking equipment, and meeting not only in their space but during times that work for them,” Gould said. “We also travel to their community centers, for example, and we teach filmmaking in their spaces, if they can't make it to us.”
Currently, Light House Studio has been providing instruction on how to best use phone cameras for filmmaking, an invaluable tool most Charlottesville youth have with them. While the studio is primarily focused on providing filmmaking skills, the projects students create provide a learning experience for many future challenges.
“There are all kinds of soft skills that you also are learning,” Gould said. “Everything from storytelling and creativity to planning, organization and collaboration. These skills are learned through filmmaking.”
Like playing a sport or performing theater, creating films can be a great way for students to make meaningful, collaborative connections and build skills at the same time. Festivals accepting submissions also creates opportunities for recognition when social media has made critical exposure easier than ever. Hopefully, the 21st iteration of this event will be a great way to celebrate community creativity in Charlottesville. Doors open for general admission at 7:15 p.m. Friday.