All famous directors had to start somewhere. Peter Jackson was eight years old when he started experimenting with a Super 8 camera. At 15, he had created his own monster movie complete with stop-motion animation. Lars Von Trier followed a similar path, making his first stop-motion short when he was 11.
In an effort to cultivate this same sort of interest in film for youth in West Michigan, the Kent District Library and Grand Rapids Public Library have teamed up with Celebration! Cinema to put on the Kent County Teen Film Festival. Originally introduced nine years ago as the Kent District Library Teen Festival, the fest has now grown to include all of Kent County, to help foster the celebration of film, as well as education and collaboration amongst local teens.
“Oftentimes, these are kids who are doing this on their own, and they don't have the knowledge of who else out there in their neighborhood or county would also be making films,” said Andy Saurs, former executive assistant at KDL and current member of the planning group for the KCTFF. “So part of the education involves collaboration to get other kids connected with each other so they can do filmmaking together.”
Throughout the year, the library puts on various film workshops, ranging from stop-motion animation to storyboarding and even a class on sound and light. And it's the organizers' hope that students from these classes will feel inspired to enter into the KCTFF and have the chance to have their short film shown on the big screen at Celebration! Cinema North.
“This is a sort of culminating event for most of these teens. [They] have been working on their films to see it [on the big screen] and have their parents and their friends and siblings and whoever else they want to come come out,” Saur said.
Of course, you don't have to attend the classes to enter the festival. All Kent County teens from grade 6-12 are invited to participate. The festival is currently accepting submissions until Jan. 23 and aside from some general rules (films can be no longer than 10 minutes, must be made by teens and must have been created after Jan. 1, 2014) the festival is actually pretty open to interpretation. Any topic is fair game (as long as the content can be considered G or PG-rated material) and students are encouraged to create movies about whatever they find interesting.
“We really want the teens to choose a topic that would be most interesting for them to shoot on, whether it's a mystery or a music video or whatever they want to do,” Saur said. “The point is really to encourage them to start increasing their skills in creating films, as well as collaborating with other kids.”
All submitted films are then reviewed by a board of judges (consisting of library staff, local filmmakers, film professors and critics) who help pick out winners in several different categories (Best Director, Best Documentary, etc). And the awards are sweet. In the past, they've ranged from gift cards to Celebration! Cinema and Apple and even scholarships to Compass Film Academy's summer film camp.
The screening of the films, which will be open to the public and free of charge, takes place on on Feb. 28. For a more complete list of rules and other details on the festival, visit kdl.org/teens/go/film_festival.
UICA to Screen Indie Romance Comet
The terms romantic and endearing can be red flags for many film aficionados, but not every love story fits into the oft-chagrined Hollywood rom-com category. Case-in-point: Director Sam Esmail's new indie film Comet. The movie follows Dell (Justin Long) and Kimberly (Emmy Rossum), an unlikely pair who also happen to be the perfect match.
Throughout the film, audiences watch their six-year relationship grow as the story zig-zags through time and across continents, complete with stunning visuals, discussion of parallel universes and unconventional dialogue. Simply put, Comet is the kind of love story that would make fellow director Michel Gondry swoon with adoration. Comet will be playing at the UICA Jan. 2-15. For a full list of dates and show times, visit uica.org.