Now in its fifth year, the 2012 New Hampshire High School Short Film Festival is becoming a bigger event.
“We’re excited about all the energy that is coming out of the schools about the program,” said Matthew Newton, director of the New Hampshire Film and Television Office.
Schools are hopping on board, and the film office is happy and willing to partner with media arts faculty at Granite State high schools. Pinkerton Academy in Derry, for instance, has made the festival part of its media arts curriculum.
“We want to see that more,” Newton said.
Submissions are due at the New Hampshire Film and Television Office at 19 Pillsbury St. in Concord by 4 p.m. on March 31. The Festival is open to all students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 at New Hampshire public or private schools. Submissions do not need to be created as part of a school project. The films can be no longer than seven minutes, though most are in the two- to three-minute range. That time frame includes closing credits, Newton said.
So far, the festival has screened more than 100 student-produced short films. For participants, it’s a chance to have their film seen by a live audience.
“What’s in it for them is a chance to screen your film in front of a public audience,” Newton said. “Students are picking up cameras ? they have the ability to make films on their home computers. But a lot of times it doesn’t go beyond that — maybe YouTube, but it’s not really a public audience. You get to make a submission for a competition and have a room full of people watch yours on the big screen. That’s exciting for high school students. It’s something I wish I had at their age.”
A panel of film industry professionals will review all submissions and select films for the Festival itself, on June 16, at New Hampshire Technical Institute’s Sweeney Hall Auditorium in Concord at noon. Judges measure films on storytelling technique and overall quality. “Pretty much anything goes,” Newton said.
Winning films will be screened on New Hampshire Day and Night at the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth in October and the Somewhat North of Boston Film Festival in Concord in November. Visit www.nhstudentfilm.com.
“It’s a chance to screen your film and to talk to people afterward,” Newton said. “Conversations come up, people come up to filmmakers and say, ‘I really liked your film,’ or they might have some critical comments. That’s what we’re trying to do, connect more professionals with them, to talk to students, maybe to provide some more feedback.”
Along with this year’s screenings, Newton said he’s hoping to have a collection of the best films from the last five years on display. He’s hoping to be able to take that collection of films on the road this summer.
The festival is growing in popularity and in quality.
“I’ve seen students take their film work a little more seriously,” Newton said. Starting out, many of the films were the types of things people might find on YouTube. “They were little skits and sketches,” Newton said. “But now, filmmakers are coming around and they’re seeing what works for them as filmmakers. They’re starting to make stronger films.”
Newton does see repeat participants and he notices those who take part in the festival multiple times make stronger films each time.
“For filmmakers who entered in the freshman or sophomore years, now they’re in their junior or senior years and we’ve sort of seen them evolve,” Newton said. “And those are the kids we want to keep in New Hampshire and New England working in production. We want to show them that film production is happening right here in their backyards. This is a way to start up.”
A couple of past participants are still in the area, having graduated high school, still working on short films, Newton said.
“It’s a good bunch of filmmakers,” Newton said.
With more and more participants, the screening of the submitted films got a little too long — about three hours long. Organizers are paring the screening down to two hours, Newton said.
“It will make for a more competitive selection process,” Newton said, adding the highest-ranked films will make it into the screening. “That sort of naturally created a higher level of competition. It’s tough, though; they’re all great projects. It’ll be a nice, compact festival screening for a couple hours.”