"Since I was 11 years old I have always had a passion for entertaining a crowd," said Upper Dublin High School student Justin Asaraf. "After my first picture camera, I started to envision life as one big movie."
Justin is one of 350 high school students from around the region who gathered at Montgomery County Community College last week for the kick off of the 2012 Greenfield Youth Film Festival. Now in its fourth year, the GYFF gives students from area schools a chance to pursue their passion for filmmaking using some of the industry's top technology and instruction; it began with an all-day workshop at the college on Jan. 11.
Students gathered in MCCC's science and technology building and first heard from a number of speakers, including storyteller R. Eric Thomas and Kathleen Van Cleve, a writer and teacher at the University of Pennsylvania.
"The speakers this year were great. We had a couple returning and a few new speakers, and the students were very receptive," said Jill Greenfield-Feldman, an administrator for the non-profit Greenfield Foundation, which sponsors the festival. "[The students] had a lot of questions and they showed how much they know about filmmaking already."
After hearing from the speakers, the students then broke out into workshops for several hours, where they received instruction from industry professionals. Sessions included topics such as storyboarding and producing, and were taught by instructors such as Mark Rosenthal, a professor at Temple with film credits that include Mona Lisa's Smile, Planet of the Apes, and Mighty Joe Young, and Sophia Tackel, an award winner at the prestigious SXSW Film Festival and one of Paste magazine's "20 Best Filmmakers of 2011."
"One of my favorite things about the workshops was the amount of experience and knowledge that I walked out with," said Asaraf. "I feel I received a perfect introduction to the reality of the film industry; how it functions and operates by experienced professionals."
Students then broke out into groups and were given the task of creating a 30-second to 1-minute silent film about the theme “A Simple Misunderstanding.” Students were assigned to specific sets around the building, and had to work together to overcome the challenge of making an interesting peace with limited resources and without sound.
One group was placed into the building's dentistry room, and worked to create a plot revolving around a patient who was to have his teeth pulled. Instructor Ruth Favin, a teacher at Upper Dublin, prompted the students to ask, "what choice does the protagonist face, and how will he or she change as a result?"
Each team's video will be aired in a montage at the festival's premiere show at the Keswick Theatre on May 1. Students will also work over the coming months to create and submit 7-minute videos, of which the winners will be aired and announced at the show. The red carpet-like affair drew a full house at the charming theater , with over 188 submissions in the three major categories of narrative, documentary and experimental films.
Abington students took home some hardware last year.
Justin gave a sneak preview of his piece.
"I'm working on a comedic tale about the many things that can go wrong when teenagers become all-powerful," Justin said.
The festival doubled in size each of its first three years and has now reached 26 in its fourth.