Front Row: Katie Brostrom, Kimi Rutledge, Ana Krafchick, Helen Miller. Back Row: Leo Pfeifer, Sara Timmons, Isaiah Hoban-Halvorsen, Kiana Wyld, Sam Weller, Vann Fulfs, Brian Quandt, Josh Vredevoogd

Ballard students showcase films at NFFTY this weekend

Since the National Film Festival for Talented Youth was started in 2007 by Ballard High School alumni Jesse Harris and Kyle Seago (along with Bellevue High School alumna Jocelyn RC), it has grown into the world's largest film festival for youth, featuring a total of over 1,000 films.

"That's a thousand films that, in many instances, may not have otherwise been seen by large festival audiences and a thousand filmmakers that would not have met each other," Harris said in front of a packed audience for the festival's grand opening at the Cinerama.

Harris went on to say how important the festival was for youth in making connections, bringing their stories to the world and making a support network of filmmakers throughout the world.

Harris, who was part of the BHS film program and first made a feature film at the age of 17, realized the need to support young filmmakers.

"I was a filmmaker trying to get into film festivals and it was really hard," he said. "...I wanted to make their voices heard. A youth festival like this can do that."

In 2007, NFFTY began as a one-night festival with 14 films. From there, with sponsors such as Volvo, it expanded into what is now the largest film festival for youth ages 22 and under. In 2012, the festival featured 222 films, two galas, networking opportunities and the inaugural Future of Film Expo. this year, they are showing a total of 215 films.

For the BHS film program, a NFFTY regular, the film festival has been a boon, allowing young aspiring filmmakers to mingle with college-aged and professional people in the business.

BHS Film Program teacher Matt Lawrence said the Ballard Film Program has seen as much success as it has in recent years largely because of the diversity of media students are allowed to pursue. He said while other high school programs might get stuck in a niche, Ballard students are able t discover for themselves what they want to see

"Thats where you see the passion. It's kind of like a dream they're able to pursue. That's why they're so excited," he said.

Certainly, audiences can get a taste of that this weekend as they watch the students' films.

For example, you can catch "My Little Brony," a documentary (no, not a mockumentary -- really) about grown men who are passionate fans about the television show geared toward little girls.

It's just one of the many human stories that co-creator Vann Fulfs, age 17, is interested in.

"I feel like I don't have a lot going on with my life. I think other people are interesting," Fulfs said, adding that he wants to tell other peoples' stories. "(Film) is a good way for people to say things in a way that can be understood."

Or you can catch "Great Mimes Think Alike," which is styled to be fun for kids and something like a Saturday morning cartoon, according to co-creator Michael Vitz-Wong, age 16. It won "Best Editing" at 17th Annual Derek Freese Youth Media Film Festival at the Temple University in Philadelphia.

"I've always wanted to be a storyteller," Vitz-Wong said of his interest in filmmaking. "I've found I always told stories better with a camera -- I tell stories better with images than words."

Or there's the moody documentary, "Deep Down," about teenager Allesandro Gelmini's experience being trapped in an ice cave. It won "Best Documentary" at the Freese festival.

"I think people have different experiences and different feeling ... film is a way we all relate to each other," said co-creator Isaiah Hoban Halvorsen, age 17. "And I think it's just fun to make."

And there's more of course. See below for a schedule of all the Ballard films playing at NFFTY. For more info, visit


We caught three Ballard High School filmmakers at the MOHAI after party for the festival's opening. Left to right: Vann Fulfs, Michael Vitz-Wong and Isaiah Hoban Halvorsen. Photo by Zachariah Bryan


  • A Ballard High School team will have a submission in the 48-hour Film-Off at SIFF Uptown 1 on Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
  • "74" by Leo Pfeifer will be screening for the "Be Yourself" showing at SIFF Uptown 2 on Sunday April 28, 11 a.m.
  • "Great Mimes Think Alike" by Michael Vitz-Wong, Kiana Wyld and Will Slater will be featured at SIFF Uptown 1 as part of the "Bring the Kids" showing on Saturday, April 27, 1:30 p.m.
  • Five films by Ballard students will be featured as part of the "Northwest Scene" at SIFF Uptown 1 showing on Sunday, April 28, Noon. Films include "Deep Down," "My Little Brony," "Making a Mark," "Dream House" and "Sundown."
  • Ballard students will also be screening their films for special showings at Ballard High School on Friday, May 10 and thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium.

Zachariah Bryan can be reached at

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