Photo by Shane Harms
Matthew Lawrence, Jesse Harris, Lorenzo Rossi, Kyle Seago at NFFTY April 25

NFFTY features 13 Ballard High School filmmakers

Ten students and three alumni from the Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking Program featured four films in the eighth annual National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY).

Lucy Harstrick, Isaiah Hoban-Halvorsen, Josh Vredevoogd and Kiana Wyld showed a music video called “Song for Anna.” Marlene Anderson, Khasbold Bataa, Gabe Fabens, Zach Green and Lorenzo Rossi also showed a music video called, “Stop Pretending.” Enjuli Chhaniara (’13), Dayan Flynn-Walsh (’13), Ana Krafchick (’13) showed their film, “Then & Now .” Leo Pfeifer independently produced a film called, “A Sleeping Giant.”

“Stop Pretending,” is a music video based on an original song Rossi wrote for his band. “We’re kind of a pop-punk-ska mixture with a lot of teenaged angst,” joked Rossi.

“I’ve been to NFFTY a couple times before. I’ve been an actor in a couple of films, and I’ve just always seen it as this really cool festival, and now I get to experience it on the inside. To have my film premier here is pretty awesome,” said Rossi.

The film depicts a relationship between a manikin and a young woman. Rossi said the film has a story line that reflects the lyrics, and shows a relationship held together by their friends' opinions. The manikin is well liked by other people in the film, yet the female character seems to be the only one bothered by the fact her boyfriend is a manikin.

As far as production, Rossi said they filmed all over the city but filmed many scenes in Ballard at Picolinos and the Sunset Boulevard area. The film ends with a wedding scene, and Rossi said the crew used a wheel chair to get a smooth shot while the actors walked down the aisle.

Rossi interned for NFFTY this year. He graduates from BHS this summer and said he is looking to pursue film at Emerson College or New York University.

“I was fortunate enough to have my film chosen. I’m very proud of how it came out, and I’m glad that it will be shown here today.”

As a nonprofit, the festival provides a chance for high school students to share the screen with college students and other young filmmakers. This year the festival featured 214 films from 30 states and 15 countries. Featured films were selected from over 800 submissions.

The festival started as a one-night event side project and has grown rapidly over the years. NFFY is the largest youth film festival of its kind in the world and attracts more than 10 thousand viewers. The four-day film festival started April 24 and was held at the Seattle Cinerama Theater and the SIFF Cinema Uptown in Queen Anne. The SIFF has a capacity of 510 seats and not a seat was empty the second night of the event.

“The growth is different every year as we add different film categories. We have more filmmakers and more people attending each year. This year we started a new initiative called the Female Filmmakers Initiative. 40 percent of filmmakers at NFFTY are female and in Hollywood it’s more like 10 percent. So starting new things like that are ways to grow the organization in the future,” said program manager Todd Kaumons.

This year NFFTY featured films by filmmakers from all over the country, as well as Egypt, Australia, and China. Filmmakers had to have produced the films before they were 22. Furthermore, NFFTY accepted films from all categories including shorts, documentaries, experimental, commercials and music video.

Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking alumnus Jesse Harris (’04) started NFFTY eight years ago with Kyle Seago (who was a Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking student at the time) and Jocelyn RC (Bellevue High School, ’07).

In 2004 Harris produced a film called “Living Life,” for his senior project. It was purchased by FilmMates and given a theatrical release. Harris realized there was no forum for young filmmakers to show their work, and he came up with the idea for the festival.

“We thought there was the biggest need for showing under 22 year old filmmakers' work. We found there were a lot of festivals for college graduates and adults, but not for younger people. It just seemed like they didn’t have a lot of support,” said Harris.

Both Seago and Harris studied film under the guidance of Matthew Lawrence at BHS. Lawrence started teaching film there in 2001 and started the Digital Filmmaking Program. He said he crafted the curriculum by looking around the country and finding what worked well for students and adopted those methods.

“We started with a diverse curriculum with different types of media production. A lot of high schools, if they had media at all, just did news. And news is really important, but it's just one slice of a large media pie. We did music video, we did documentary, experimental, and we did advertising both commercial and non- commercial. Students were not just learning newscast journalism. Now I see a lot of schools doing what Ballard has done,” said Lawrence.

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