In June I was able to attend the ISTE2012 conference in San Diego, CA. One of the sessions I was excited to attend was about building a quality student film festival. Canyons School District has produced a student film festival each year since the birth of the District. In 2012 we were ready to raise the bar and increase the level of involvement, calibre of entries, and magnitude of the festival. We had great success and were inspired to do even more to build our festival in 2013. This ISTE session, "The Student Film Festival - A Life-Chainging Experience," gave me a lot of great ideas for expanding and improving the Annual Canyons District Film Festival to even greater heights. Following are notes and ideas I picked up from this ISTE session that might help you with your film festival efforts as well:
Why a student film festival?
- Core academics are strengthened
- Cross-Curriculuar Connection- students write scripts in their ELA class, research issues in their social studies class, and tap the acting and musical talent of students in their schools
- Generative Skills are developed
- Executive Skills
- deliberation, team organization, deadlines, scheduling, managing disappointment
- Communication Skills
- know the audience, emotional impact, body language
- Work Ethic
- "good enough" is defined by the audience, lives change when students see hard work rewarded
- Vision Beyond the Ego
- connection to a local issue, local person, local problem; lives change when students add value to the world
- Resiliency & Self-Reliance
- 21st Century Skills are acquired
- Critical Thinking
- Dropout Rate Drops
- Fun is Back
Invite students to find something they love.
When a student film festival is produced, the following things happen:
- Standards become clear
- Clarify the standard, rubric, detailed criteria, quality defined
- Students realize quality when they see top films from top filmmakers
- Product is guaranteed
- A festival means a deadline, the Festival becomes a powerful "nagging" teacher tool
- Students learn the sometimes hard lesson of deadlines
- There are closets filled with half-written novels... Films get completed!
- Student work is validated and celebrated
- Student achievement increases
- School culture improves
- The upside of school is amplified
- Something good comes from this school
- The school shakes hands with the community instead of extending the hand for donations
- Students are engaged in the community and giving to the community, not just asking for support and money
- School multimedia programs expand
- From club, to class, to program, to pathway
- As popularity increases, demand increases
Building a Student Film Festival
- Start with a mission
- How close to the industry to you want to take the kids?
- Do you want to focus on an event or issue in the community?
- What are your production, copyright, and release expectations?
- Identify existing resources
- Find the county film commissioner
- Contact the county human health services department because they have a lot of money to support the education of health issues in the area. If you can connect your festival to those issues, they can financially back you.
- Local junior colleges and/or universities - work with their film departments
- Define the scope of your Festival
- What grade levels?
- What's the standard?
- Market, open up social media channels
- Establish a brand
- What is a name that will get people interested/intrigued?
- Is there a name you can use besides the district film festival?
- Make a budget
- Communicate your content expectations
- Check out the criteria examples used for the SlickRock festival
- Secure judges - Do you narrow down the entries first? - Each judge is only asked to judge 3 or 4 categories - 4 or 5 judges per category - View the entries before they are sent on to the judges to filter - Phanfare can be used for the judges to view so only the judges know where to go to find the films - Judges' scores narrow down to the top 3 nominees, then hold a dinner to debate who the final winner will be
- Find local industry people
- Local film critics
- TV, news, movies, commercials
- Online judging
- Make a to do list and delegate
- Produce the event and recruit an historian to document it.
- Post-market to build next year's festival (Strike while the iron is hot.)
What is the role of the teacher?
"The teacher’s role in this context is meant to clarify the learning target for the student, to offer frequent descriptive feedback, to expect excellence, and to open 'broadcast channels' so the student’s work is appreciated by a wide audience...
Digital filmmaking advances academic achievement. In the new Common Core, students are asked to write more toward authentic topics, to persuade, to narrate. Films require a well-written script that defines the characters, the conflict, and the resolution. Films can be narrative stories, persuasive essays, situation analysis, or dramatic/comedic representations. Filmmaking is likely to open cross curricular doors. An issue may be researched in a social studies class, the script written in the ELA class, and acting and music talent is tapped from the arts department. The teacher’s role to frame clear learning targets for each film assignment and offer regular descriptive feedback is vital. But the Festival motivates the task and caps the experience." --Scott Smith
Examples of Festivals
- International - ISMF
- California State - CSMF
- Regional - SRFF
- How do you handle submissions with adult themes?
- Only the adviser can submit a film to the festival for a student.
- The principal has to sign off on the submission.
- You can censor and deny films for too much violence or mature themes.
- Teach the students that they can leave some things to the imagination.
- What about films that seem to have too much adult help?
- Have the students sign on their form that it is a student-created film.
- It still might happen.
- Copyright issues?
- Release forms required for all information, media, and people in the films.
- Teach the students about copyright.
- What about the large numbers of entries?
- Limit the number that can be submitted per school.
- Play all the entries all day starting at 9am in the large theater.
- Then have a cycle of limos to bring the kids from a couple blocks away and a red carpet for the awards ceremony.
- Hire the junior high band to play at the red carpet.
- The others are there to take photos and greet all the kids coming out of the limos, news crews are interviewing, and younger kids are asking for their autographs as they go in for the awards held in the big movie theater.
- Get 3 or 4 girls to wear their prom dresses again a second time to hand out the envelopes and awards.
- Show clips of the nominees and show the complete winner.
- Pick a time that fits your district's social calendar.
Ideas for Improving Your Festival:
- Make commercials for local companies.
- Music videos - music has to be composed and recorded by the kids
- PSA - about local issues
- Foreign Film category - films created by foreign language classes
- Find the county film commissioner
- Issues can be a category with specific requirements rather than a theme for the whole festival. ie. The Suicide Prevention category
- Poster contest for the next year's festival during the current festival - announce the winner of the contest at the current year's festival
- Hold the festival at an actual theater - try to remove your festival from the school feeling so that it feels like industry
The Canyons School District Ed Tech team has already begun preparations for our 2013 film festival. I am excited about the great ideas I picked up from Scott Smith at ISTE and how they will help us improve our festival even more. Check out our website to keep tabs on our film festival and to get information about submitting films! http://prolearning.canyonsdistrict.org/annual-canyons-district-film-festival.html