Festival Circuit | Billy Miller

For Your Consideration: Young Caldera artists take a run on the fall festival circuit in two of the Northwest’s finest annual exhibits in student film. As a mentor embedded in all this festivus, I submit the following:

Outside Bend, Oregon’s Regal multiplex, we’re queued up clear into the parking lot for BendFilm’s Future Filmmakers’ Festival. All these young filmmakers, parents and audiences would appear to signal there’s as much interest in making moving media as consuming it. At first, we wonder if we’ll get to our seats. But Cheesy, Motown and Anaxshi all have films about to play, so we’re ushered inside with red-carpet care.

The screening room is at capacity and soon after the lights fall, I’m struck by the variety of films and their high production value. Technology is sure making it easy, as in easy on the eyes. Make no mistake – completing a film is always a bruising enterprise. Yet I’m wondering if these movies’ emphasis on story and substance — even a surprising number of silent films — has to do with music video’s goodly influence. While our generation was glued to MTV, those mini-movies seem to have freed up the youth to act out in spy capers, reject given themes to make what they want, and script winning screenplays with a quirky, simple one-act, all the requisite beats, then a turn at the end.

Among them, I must single out the work of our Caldera students for themes of personal exploration. Call theirs, “youth development art.” You can still win audience awards by packing the house with friends or making your movie on a trip to Europe, but the screen don’t lie. This crowd recognizes [Caldera student] Motown’s sublime film Katrina with third place. Clearly, he’s a rare young filmmaker who can look within, yet see beyond himself.

A month later at the Northwest Film Center’s Young People’s Film Festival a division of their Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival the fare is animation heavy. Due to Portland’s stop-motion tradition from the California Raisins to Coraline, the talent pool here is training and influencing so as to launch a billion pixels. Yet these are movies from all over the Northwest. The Fest chooses wisely to screen the winners of individual merit, plus put those works and additional accepted films online.

Their festival program is assembled thoughtfully, recognizing threads and grouping films that at times speak to and answer one another. There’s an abundance of talent in themes chosen, abilities proven and mentorship guiding truly beautiful work. In documentary (historical and otherwise), silent film (again!) and from genuinely funny reality TV to genuinely uplifting work about and by immigrants, the bar is certifiably raised. And though Caldera young people still hold the high emotional ground, this festival circuit’s pull quote is by a skateboarder whose documentary cites his favorite athletes onscreen. Upon acceptance of an award, the young man thanks his mom for entering his work in the festival — and most of all, for making him finish.

Trees from NW Film Center School of Film on Vimeo.

You can also watch the award-winning films by Golden Touch, Komodoconda, and Butterfly and Stix.

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