3rd annual Westminster Film Festival still in action

The year 2020 marks the Third Annual Westminster Film Festival, and even though it will be held online, Westminster students are still making it happen. This year, the film festival was opened up to other schools, allowing for more competition and participants. Students were able to submit their film in narrative, documentary, or other categories, and compete for one of the 11 different awards, including best film, actor, editor, sound design, and many more. 

Studio W’s team, the main organizer of this event, has had to adapt to the quick changes due to COVID-19. 

“Like any other event which was supposed to take place before COVID-19 happened, it was definitely difficult to shift gears and pivot in a new direction with the film festival, especially considering it had never been online before,” said junior Sam Cohn, a member of Studio W.

The film festival will now be showcased on a website where people can access all the nominated and winning videos on May 1.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of examples of virtual film festivals; however, nothing is going to match the excitement of a normal film festival where there’s an actual theater you go in, watch movies with your friends, and anticipate the awards. But for our virtual film festival, we’re going to create a video where the leaders of Studio W will say a few words about this year’s film festival. We’ll release all the nominations and award winners on our website in advance, and then publicize the website so that people can view all the films online for free,” said junior Jonas Du, one of the organizers of this year’s festival.

 Though the sudden changes can be difficult, with the help of Westminster faculty, Du states that the festival is actually easier to organize this year because it is all online. Compared to previous years, the physical event was a challenge and required other duties, such as marketing, to attract people to the event.

“Our advising faculty members have been super helpful. They’ve taught us to make the most out of this opportunity of testing out this online format, while also still celebrating student films,” said Cohn. 

Film Club faculty advisors Daniel Searl and Kate Morgens supervise the planning of the festival and coordinate all of the voting and awards. A panel of faculty members interested in film are also judges of the event. The videos are scored based on their originality, plot, pacing, structure, characters, cinematography, and entertainment value, as well as on the effectiveness of the message and the ability of the filmmaker to reach an audience.

“My favorite part about it is that different students get involved every year, and they put their own spin on the festival. For example, this year the students came up with a category for people to submit TikTok style films,” said Morgens, the Upper School performing arts department chair. “Mr. Searl and I watch them all and we have different guests every year who are usually alumni and faculty. This year an alum named Caryn Mamrack is involved. She is an incredible filmmaker in LA.”

The film festival would not be a success without students’ support and submissions. This year’s films included TikTok, a murder mystery, comedies, and numerous other creative ideas. 

“I entered because I love film and wanted experience with competition,” said ninth-grader Sabrina Farley-Allen. “Also, I already had a film from a class I took fall semester. The film I entered is a narrative comedy about four high school students trying to steal the answers to a test whilst not getting caught.” 

With the past two festivals being a success, Studio W has bright goals for future festivals. Du is currently training lower-level students so they will not only be ready to take over the festival in the future, but also be prepared to expand it as well. 

“We actually have one of the sophomores, Patrick Nagy, as the director and they’re leading the effort right now. I’m working with him to tell him how we did the film festival in the past and helping him with some marketing and communications things,” said Du. “Next year, we’re planning on making this an Atlanta high school film festival, instead of a Westminster film festival. We hope to make it an event for filmmakers in our region to come together. That way, we’ll not only be able to receive more submissions, but also be able to get more people to attend the festival.”

The Westminster community is excited to see the results of the film festival online and looks forward to what the future holds.

“As always, our focus is to make both meaningful films and submit them to festivals, as well as spreading the spirit of filmmaking to all of Westminster,” said Du.