In­die Mem­phis points to cre­ative fu­ture with first Youth Film Fest

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - GO SEE - By John Beifuss

A day of work­shops, sem­i­nars and other ac­tiv­i­ties high­lighted by a pub­lic screen­ing of 27 short films made by Mem­phis-area stu­dents, the in­au­gu­ral In­die Mem­phis Youth Film Fest at the Halloran Cen­tre is an am­bi­tious at­tempt to as­sist, mo­ti­vate and show­case the next gen­er­a­tion of vis­ual sto­ry­tellers.

The kids ap­par­ently don’t need much encouragement: More than 40 films were sub­mit­ted af­ter the event was an­nounced less than three months ago.

“Movies to­day seem like what books were to me when I was grow­ing up,” said Brett Robbs,

70, a long­time univer­sity pro­fes­sor and ad­ver­tis­ing pro­fes­sional who is vol­un­teer chair­man of the Youth Film Fest com­mit­tee, which nar­rowed the films to a roughly two-hour pro­gram. “The use of iphones and ev­ery­thing has made film a nat­u­ral vo­cab­u­lary for kids.”

But do the kids have some­thing in­ter­est­ing, im­por­tant or orig­i­nal to say with this “nat­u­ral vo­cab­u­lary”?

“For me, one of the mean­ing­ful things and a rea­son for adults to see these films is that they give an in­sight into what teens are think­ing about,” Robbs said. “And they are think­ing about teenage de­pres­sion and gun vi­o­lence and race, and they’re ex­press­ing them­selves in a pow­er­ful, cre­ative way, in both nar­ra­tive and doc­u­men­tary films. These may not al­ways be the most pol­ished pieces of film­mak­ing, but the chance to see what mat­ters to young peo­ple is in­spir­ing.”

Made pos­si­ble by a $10,000 grant via the GIVE365 ini­tia­tive of the Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of Greater Mem­phis, the Youth Film Fest is an an­swer to a ques­tion that In­die Mem­phis ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ryan Watt says he hears fre­quently.

“We have par­ents and teach­ers and even stu­dents ask­ing us all the time about op­por­tu­ni­ties for young film­mak­ers,” Watt said. “By help­ing to en­cour­age and in­spire these stu­dents, and let­ting them see their films in a large, beau­ti­ful au­di­to­rium with their peers and other movie­go­ers, we feel like we are build­ing some­thing for the fu­ture that could have a great im­pact. It could go be­yond Mem­phis in terms of what these young peo­ple are able to cre­ate.”

Jack Prud­homme, 16, a 10thgrade stu­dent at Chris­tian Broth­ers High School, agrees.

“It sounds like it’s go­ing to be re­ally fun,” he said. “I think there’s go­ing to be a lot of con­nec­tions that can be made with other kids who make films.”

Ti­tled “You’ve Been a Good Boy,” Prud­homme’s film, shot mostly in an al­ley off Union Av­enue near Down­town, is a mys­te­ri­ous mini-drama with a “Twi­light Zone” edge. “It was very,

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