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Inspiring young film makers

Dale Thompson Of the Record staff

Sundance is a place for filmmakers big and small, including those in high school.

To support aspiring youth the Sundance Institute offers the "High School Students at the Sundance Film Festival" program. With the help of the Surdna Foundation, the institute supplies high school students with free tickets to screenings and panels.

Student groups must go through an application process and the review committee gives preference to schools that work with lower-income communities. They also hope to bring a diverse group of students to the festival and invite schools from around the country to participate.

Schools who are accepted for the program get to bring a maximum of 12 students and two chaperones. They receive free tickets to see five films during the second half of the festival. Students get to choose which movies they want to see, from a select group of films, before tickets go on sale. They are also given festival credentials allowing them into most venues, except for those like the Music Cafe which are for people 21 years of age and older.

The cost of airfare and lodging is left to the students.

This year, 125 students from eight schools participated in the program. Among the schools were Lycee Rochambeau in Washington, D.C., Centennial High School in Georgia and Ballard High School in Washington.

On Friday the institute and the Surdna Foundation hosted a reception for all of the students at the Kimball Arts Center. Students gathered to watch short films, speak with director’s and to meet one another.

"The overall mission (of the Sundance Film Festival) is to inspire and help aspiring film makers, including high school students," said Festival Outreach Coordinator, Melinda Nebeker.

Kelli Murphy, a chaperone for Ballard High School, brought 12 students that are participating in an advanced film class. She said it is a great opportunity for the students to participate in the festival and mentioned that several of the filmmakers they spoke to were extremely kind to the students.

"I’ve been very impressed with how well received the students are," she said.

Kelli Murphy’s daughter, Madison, came to the festival and said it has been a valuable learning experience.

"We saw some interesting editing techniques that we’ve never seen before," she said.

Coming to the festival has helped her get a better perspective on the industry.

"You see just how many people are involved in film," she said. "On our first night here we saw a really powerful film. The director was so humble and amazed that he could even do this."

George Westberg, another senior from Ballard High School, was recently admitted to NYU Film School. He first discovered his passion for film after making a music video to Queen’s "We are the Champions." He submitted it to a high school video contest at Temple University.

After his film made it as a finalist he said he discovered, "I really wanted to continue to do this."

He said it was encouraging to find a place that accepts such a range of work.

"We’ve seen a lot of great movies here. It’s nice to know there’s a place where you do your best and people come and see it."

One of his favorite aspects of the festival has been getting to meet filmmakers.

"Meeting with the director is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You don’t get that at regular movies."

Westberg said he would like to return to the festival as a regular patron.

He would like to, "someday just come here, and watch the films to see what will be the next big thing."

Kinsey Miller, also a senior at Ballard High School, said the festival was nice because it gave her the opportunity to speak with directors and she liked, "just hearing how all the hard work you’re doing now will pay off."

She too would like a repeat performance.

"It’s such an amazing opportunity," Miller said. "I would love to come back."

Her friend and fellow senior Alexa Anderson said she enjoyed being surrounded by artistic people who all shared her interests.

"It’s such a creative environment," she said.

Anderson’s favorite thing about the festival was, "getting to talk to the filmmakers who have been there."

The reception was also a favorite.

"This is one of the highlights," she said of the event, "meeting the students who are in the same boat as us."


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