When Deanna Gould first started attending Light House Studios Youth Film Festival 14 years ago, the event drew about 150 people. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations executive director said, the 2019 event had brought in more than 500.
Those early festival screenings of local teens creations in a windowless warehouse space were for adults, and the only young people there were the filmmakers, Gould said. Now, we have families who bring their kids, and they just want to see the show.
It does mean a lot to the students to see their work on the big screen, Gould said, adding that parents who attend often are surprised by the high quality of the films. I like to look at their faces when their films come up, because they light up.
Local audience members whove followed Light House Studios young filmmakers over the years understand that the festival always has countered stereotypical oh, isnt that cute? reactions with substantial fare that shows what happens when the world around us is captured by fresh lenses. Just in the 2021-2022 festival circuit season alone, 38 films by Light House Studio filmmakers have been accepted by festivals, with 20 of those being shown at 26 different festivals and picking up 11 awards along the way.
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The 21st annual Youth Film Festival will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Paramount Theater. A pre-party for sponsors and VIPs will start at 6 p.m. The event is back at the Paramount after a two-year pandemic-fueled hiatus that was addressed creatively by a drive-in movie event in 2020 and a carefully socially distanced screening at Vinegar Hill Theatre last year.
Twenty-two films of 415 created this year will be screened in Fridays festival. Expect a variety of films on the Paramounts massive screen for Light Houses major annual fundraiser. In addition to music videos and the occasional zombie chase, audience members will view explorations of topics that the young filmmakers find important. This year, expect to see the students climate change and environmental concerns addressed in a variety of ways.
Theyre always creative. Every year, there are films that Im just amazed by, Gould said. Were tackling topics this year such as anti-tobacco, and social justice.
Light House Studio offers access to filmmaking tools and teaching and encourages students to develop the follow-through to turn ideas and wishes into reality.
We are first and foremost about personal expression through film, Gould said. We certainly want to empower them to tell their stories. They can choose to be behind the camera. Sometimes they want to be in front of the camera; they want to do interviews, or they want to act. We have some very strong writers who love to tell stories.
The program challenges students to develop responsibility to see their dreams through and helps them find the missing pieces to make it happen.
We dont just want them to show up, Gould said. We want them to have a finished product that has come to fruition. If they need to learn a particular skill, we will make sure they get the training they need.
Of the Light House Studio film workshops, Gould said. Weve had parents say, This is the only thing my teenager would get up for every day during the summer.
A professional tone is set and nurtured to help young filmmakers prepare for real-world possibilities. A new freelancer program helps students learn what life as a filmmaker is like by connecting them with opportunities to get paid for creating film projects for clients.
Its great experience for the real world, Gould said. We believe they can achieve the task at hand. Theres never a doubt. As a parent, I would say when a child is flailing, thats when you give them responsibility.
Developing the tenacity and drive to see their projects through can pay off in any career field the young people pursue.
We want them to try new things, but to hone their skills, Gould said. We want them to finish their films. Its something theyll have forever.
For tickets, go to theparamount.net or call the box office at (434) 979-1333. To learn more about the festival and Light House Studios mission, go to lighthouse studio.org.
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