Film Society supports media education and aspiring young filmmakers

Mid-afternoon on April 30, a small group of children with their parents and a few volunteers gather in the lounge area of the Press Office for the San Francisco International Film Festival. Two tables covered with construction paper, an assortment of markers, scissors and piper cleaners lay neatly waiting to be used. A slightly eccentric brunette sporting a delicate pixie cut and a bright orange ensemble leads the group of two boys and three girls in an a puppet workshop. The workshop uses the 2009 film, Jillian Dillon, which she directed and produced, as an example to introduce puppetry to the children. This is one of the many events that the San Francisco Film Society hosts to encourage media education with the youth.

The San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) and California schools have a long history together. As a celebration of the twenty year milestone, several special public programs will occur during this year’s 54th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF54). Better yet, if you cannot make it to any of the programs, the SFFS runs year-round classes for aspiring filmmakers. Still need your fix for cinema? Luckily, SF State offers a one-unit and one-weekend course called Focus on Emerging Cinemas (CINE 325), while USF offers a four-unit, semester-long course called Insider SFIFF.

Sean Uyehara, a visiting lecturer who is teaching CINE 325 this year and also a programmer for the Festival, got into the film festival world by accident. He began by volunteering to screen films for the Golden Gate Awards and ended up making a lot of contacts, which led to a job in the publication department.

“I try to leverage the films to show a breadth and depth of different film making aesthetics currently in the world,” says Uyehara about the Focus on Emerging Cinema class. “I also try to present a film with a guest, such as the film maker. One guest is actually in Paris, but we’re going to Skype him while we’re in the theater.”

During the festival, which runs from April 21 through May 5, a three-day series will occur for college students. This is part of the SFFS’s Colleges & Universities program, which is partially sponsored by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, called College Days. For $40, you can attend the series, which will include screenings of five of the films featured with Q&As with filmmaker guests and lectures.

“[This gives] audiences a chance to discuss what they’ve seen…with a skilled host,” said Rachel Rosen, Director of Programming for the festival.

On April 28, Tilva Rosh, a coming-of-age film from Serbia about two teenagers, will be shown at 10 a.m. The director is a contender for the New Directors Prize. Later that day, The Last Buffalo Hunt, a US premiere, will be shown at 12:45 p.m. The film centers on the annual American bison hunt to illustrate the dying cowboy culture. On April 29, The Dish and the Spoon will be shown at 9:30 a.m. It is another American film about two young adults learning to cope with heartbreak while avoiding reality by binge drinking. Better This World, shown at noon, focuses on the 2008 Republican National Convention and follows the journey of two young activists. The film is up for the GGA Documentary Feature. “What’s fascinating about film is that it really capitalizes on the narrative,” says Uyehara. “It is becoming much more common for non-fiction films to have extremely suspenseful narratives that are a part of it,” he adds in reference to the style of Better This World, produced and directed by local filmmakers, Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway. The duo was awarded a $10,000 grant for the HBO Documentary Film Fellowship in 2009.

“It is becoming much more common for non-fiction films to have extremely suspenseful narratives.””

Another way film students in the Bay Area can get involved is through pre-screening of the annual Golden Gate Awards held on the final day of the Festival. The SFSS allows the students an opportunity to review certain films and offer critiques and recommendations to the programmers. If you would like to get involved for next year the screening process begins in September and lasts until January.

The SFFS has another outreach program called Schools at the Festival, (SATF) which began twenty years ago. This program allows students to connect with their local community and the San Francisco International Film festival by allowing students and their teachers to interact with the filmmakers through film screenings, discussions media presentations and much more.

On May 3 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, in recognition of the anniversary, the SFIFF54 is having a celebratory screening of clips from past SATF films, live stories, tributes to educators and youth filmmakers followed by a reception. The program begins at 5 p.m. and tickets are available to the general public for $6, while members can save $1. Later that day, Teacher Appreciation Night will began at 6:30 p.m. also at the Kabuki. The event will include a special screening of American Teacher, a world premiere about the obstacles facing teachers and the struggle in drawing new talents.

Finally, students, between the ages of 13 to 18, that are interested in film making can attend the Young Filmmakers Camp, which was recently established. College-age and older students interested in film making may also want to consider taking summer courses at the Film Society. Some of the classes featured for this summer are Indie Film Finance with Jeff Deutchaman of IFC Entertainment, Master Class with Disney Animator John Musker, Japanese Monster Movies and Planning and Pitching a Documentary to name a few.

“Part of it is developing the audiences of the future so they will have a real appreciation of cinema outside of the multiplex or the mainstream movies that kids usually gravitate to or only get to see, broadening their appreciation of the film experience.””

Joanne Parsont, who speared headed many of the educational programs available today such as Filmmakers in the Classroom, Teacher Training, Causes & Impacts and most of the ones mentioned previously, encourages students to apply for internships with the Film Society. “As our students begin making their own films, they are also encouraged to apply for fiscal sponsorship or for any of our grants or residency programs through our Filmmaker Services department,” says Parsont.

As the director of education, Parsont strongly believes in the power of exposing youth to film and media. “Part of it is developing the audiences of the future so they will have a real appreciation of cinema outside of the multiplex or the mainstream movies that kids usually gravitate to or only get to see, broadening their appreciation of the film experience,” explains Parsnot. “Film is also an incredible medium for connecting young people with the world and developing their cultural awareness—kids can actually see other cultures, other people, and especially their peers in other places, on screen. To learn how an art form is constructed and created from the artists themselves is incredibly inspirational for them, whether they are interested in film making or not, and helps them to better understand how media is constructed.”

Whether you need an extra-unit for the Spring semester or you are a cinema aficionado, Bay Area college students can attend the San Francisco International Film Festival for a fraction of the cost.