The 3rd Southern Tier Annual Film Festival was held at Allegany-Limestone Central School District on May 9th, 2019 under the direction of Suzan Snyder and was another amazing success. Teachers, parents, administrators, and students gathered together, watched student films, and awarded the trophy to the winning district, Cuba Rushford Central School. Participating districts included Alfred-Almond (@AlfredAlmondCS), Allegany-Limestone(@ALCSGator), Cuba-Rushford (@CR_REBELS), Fillmore (@FillmoreEagles), Olean (@OleanHighSchool), and Whitesville (@wcsbluejays).
As a teacher who loves to see the creativity of my students, to witness the brilliance of a new generation, to be part of collaborative communities, I look forward every year to the professional development that spearheaded the film festival. It is an ongoing experience that continues to bring teachers together–those that were there first and new faces that join each year.
Three years ago, a group of teachers gathered together for professional development offered by CA BOCES (@CABOCESit), bringing Dr. David Bruce from University at Buffalo and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan from Houghton College to guide us in our efforts to learn to use digital media in our classrooms. We left that experience armed with new ideas for our classroom, exciting project-based assessments, our own creative pieces, and with a vague idea that we wanted to come together at the end of the school year and showcase our students’ efforts. We met periodically and fleshed out an idea for a film festival—a good spirited, but competitive event that would allow students to try to win a trophy for their school, and provide recognition among their peers and throughout their communities. We also wanted our students to create the artwork to advertise the festival so they could own this event alongside their teachers.
That vague idea became a fully developed festival. Now, each year towards the culmination of the school year, students enter their best work from throughout the year to a film committee. The committee picks thirty of the best films to showcase, selects winners based on specific criteria, and creates a flight sheet for one final award to be chosen by the audience at the end of the event. This year we had a wonderful artist, Jazlynn Sullivan of Olean High School, create the image for the posters to advertise the event and the programs.
As an English teacher, I am constantly amazed at the writing that comes out of these projects. Teachers ask students to tell a story, to shed light on an issue or a poem, to be a magician with images, to create a parody or satire, and they deliver at the film festival with glowing outcomes and to genuine applause. When we ask our students to put themselves in the spotlight, we are asking them to be vulnerable, to be real, to be exceptional. And they do not fail. Students create comedies and tragedies, extrapolate meaning from a poem through image and sound or investigate the way color is used in writing. Sometimes they look at what it means to be a teenager, magnifying difficult issues like bullying, violence, and trying to find their identity. Students are investigating the deep issues of their lives and sharing it with their teachers and then a wider audience so that we can search for answers or laugh or be afraid along with them.
Sometimes our students bring tears to our eyes. Sometimes the adults in the room go back in time, spend three minutes as the adolescents that we once were. That is what happens every year at this film festival. Every year another group of students radiates their authentic selves and ask the adults and companions in their lives to go with them on that journey.
This small film festival is growing every year. This year there were over 110 attendees. The students propelled the hard work of a small group of teachers into something great. For all the future festivals, we hope more teachers throughout the region will attend the five-day summer professional development opportunity and begin making digital projects and films in their classrooms with their students. We can’t wait to see the work of the students next year. Maybe it will be your students that win your district the trophy.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources