Local film festival offers students opportunities to advance filmmaking skills

The internationally-renowned Mill Valley Film Festival has played host to some of the best films of recent years. In 2015, “Bridge of Spies,” “Room” and “Spotlight” (films all nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards that year) were screened at theaters throughout Marin County. This year, the festival will screen such films as “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Mudbound,” three high-profile drama films to be released later this year.  

The Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley is just one of several movie theaters in Marin County that showed youth-produced films for the film festival.

The Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley is just one of several movie theaters in Marin County that showed youth-produced films for the film festival.

Something less known―but no less notable―is the 5@5 Future Legends short film program.  The films are all made by local filmmakers under age 18. This year, a collection of 20 short films selected by a Youth Jury was screened at the Lark Theater in downtown Larkspur.  The Jury members, all Bay Area high school students aged 13-18, participated in summer programs called Behind The Scenes and Young Curators, both put on by the California Film Institute (CFI), which also runs the Film Festival. The programs are run by CFI Education Director Joanne Parsont and CFI Education Manager Melanie Nichols.

According to Parsont, the students in the program have to watch more than 100 submissions, that they will then cut down to a sizable program.

“They basically are putting together a program that’s roughly 70-80 minutes. There’s a gradual process for them to determine which of the ones that they think should move forward,” Parsont said over the phone.

Drake senior Dashiel Keplinger is one of the many students from around Marin County who submitted movies to this year's Mill Valley Film Festival

Drake senior Dashiel Keplinger is one of the many students from around Marin County who submitted movies to this year’s Mill Valley Film Festival

One aspiring youth filmmaker is Drake senior Dashiel Keplinger. He worked with his fellow Drake senior Nicholas Decker and now-graduated students Chris Roher and Bridget Wait on a film called “Burning the Old Year,” based on Naomi Shihab Nyes’ poem of the same name. According to the Poetry Foundation, the poem depicts the metaphorical burning of a previous year’s events and memories as the narrator moves into a new year. The narrator reflects on how so much of what happens in a year is “flammable” and how “so little is a stone.”

“It represents what’s going on in that story, and it shows a single person and [their] story, going along with the poem and a group of their friends,” Keplinger said.

According to Parsont, it is especially important for teenagers to be part of the film festival.

“They have been part of the film festival for many, many years because education has always been a huge part of the California Film Institute . . . and so it’s always been a strong part of the festival as well because we feel strongly [that] young people have a voice and they should be heard from their perspective.  Not just films about youth but films that are from their viewpoint,” Parsont said.

Keplinger is also looking forward to future opportunities in the film industry.

“I am extremely excited to go to college and see what they offer and keep making films, hopefully throughout my whole life,” Keplinger said.

 

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