By Emanuela Boisbouvier
Daily Press Intern
LeRoya Sanford refused to let a lack of actors stop her from entering the 11th annual Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival.
The young New Roads student knocked door to door in her neighborhood to find last minute actors after her peers canceled for her movie “Misguided Child,” which was due two weeks later in her high school film class — and the film is now one of 36 finalists in the show.
The festival will take place at the New Roads High School Theater and at the Santa Monica Main Public Library’s auditorium on July 9 and 10 respectively. It was created to honor Miles Memorial Playhouse’s mission of targeting the children and young men and women of Santa Monica.
Justin Yoffe, the cultural affairs supervisor, said Santa Monica is full of teens interested in careers in Hollywood and the Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival provides an outlet for them to express their talent and obtain recognition.
“Santa Monica is an incredibly creative community,” Yoffe said. “The city is perfect for this kind of festival.”
The festival will feature 36 short films selected from the 500 submissions. The overall winner earns a three-week intensive at the Relativity School, the only school created and paired with a major Hollywood studio, located in downtown Los Angeles.
Submissions came in from across the United States, as well as from a variety of international countries like Hong Kong, Pakistan, Russia, Ireland, Thailand, Mexico, Canada England, India and Iran. Local high schools like Santa Monica High School and New Roads School also participated. Most shorts were shot locally, making it entertaining for locals who can recognize certain areas like the Promenade for instance.
“(The Festival) is really entertaining because audiences get a unique glimpse into the minds of teens across the world,” Yoffe said.
Students make films for their local high school programs and submit them to the Festival afterwards. Participating in an entirely non-academic event offers a new experience to most teens. Festival organizers check in with local schools every year to make sure that the event is still relevant and of interest, which it has proven to be every time.
Silas Mitchell, a twelve-year-old middle-schooler at New Roads who is among the finalists, said that movie-making started off as a fun pass-time but started enjoying it increasingly with time.
“I’m only twelve right now, but I would really love to become a director one day,” Mitchell said.
The Festival involves teens in many different sectors, with eight participating as judges and local high school journalists covering the event.
“Teens are involved in all aspects of the festival,” Yoffe said.
One of the main aims of the Santa Monica International Film Festival is to help kids build careers. By interacting with peers from across the region and world, the Festival offers a major networking opportunity, which is a crucial aspect to succeeding in Hollywood.
For local youth, participating in the Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival is a major stepping-stone to bigger projects, Yoffe said. It helps teens pave their way towards a career in film, through networking. Past participants have went on to pursue jobs in the industry, gaining representation, setting up professional webpages and participating in many more festivals.
“Getting accepted to this film festival gave me so much inspiration and hope,” Sanford said.
This year, the Festival added “Honorable Mentions” for 10 films that will not be screened. Festival organizers understand that this kind of recognition helps kids go forth in their careers and enter more festivals and contests.
“We’ve seen such unbelievable growth in these kid filmmakers, both in the quantity and quality of their films,” Yoffe said. “It’s really inspiring.”
There will be two screenings, each under two hours in length. The first will be Saturday, July 9, from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Ann & Jerry Moss Theater at New Roads School, located at 3131 Olympic Blvd., in Santa Monica. This screening is rated PG-13 due to occasional violence and mature themes.
The second screening will take place Sunday, July 10 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium at the Santa Monica Main Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd. This screening will feature animated works, documentaries and short films rated G and appropriate for all ages.