Budding Filmmakers Descend on Seattle for NFFTY
For the fifth year in a row, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) will present a vast array of short films from all over the world, all crafted by filmmakers age 22 and younger (in quite a few cases, much younger). Things kick off Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m., when the Cinerama takes time out from its successful Science Fiction Film Festival to host NFFTY’s Opening Night Gala (limited walk-up tickets may still be available, beginning at 6pm that night).
Short film festivals are nothing new, but the niche occupied by NFFTY is. Co-Founder and current Artistic Director Jesse Harris helped start the fest in 2007 to give a definitive voice to the newest generation of filmmakers, an age group thought of more as consumers than creators of film. And with dozens of submissions from all over the globe and high-powered corporate sponsors like Volvo and XBox360 helping to foot the bill, his little film festival’s become a genuine international phenomenon.
Harris is elated at the response, but not surprised. “None of the big film festivals really showcase young directors,” he says. “[Our] festival’s a super-professional event. It’s at great venues, and it draws thousands of people. Plus, we have a really great demographic that most brands want to get to. They understand this is a great way to reach young people.”
The number of submissions from those young people continues to swell with each successive festival. “The very first year, we just went out and found 14 films to showcase as a little test. There weren’t really open submissions,” He reports. “The very next year, we actively got submissions and ended up screening, I think, 73 films. This year, we had over 700 submissions. There’s a huge database of schools and organizations around the country, and also a lot of word-of-mouth interest in participating.”
So what are these young filmmakers making movies about? “We do see similarities between filmmakers, no matter where they’re from,” Harris acknowledges, “so a film from Kansas can have the same theme as a film from Afghanistan. The trends that we consistently see are coming-of-age movies--films of discovery. Most of these filmmakers are very young, and they’re basically making movies about themselves. There’s a lot of love and romance, too. A lot of [the filmmakers] are just starting to deal with that, and figure that out.”
Those threads of connection aside, Harris says that the vitality--and the quality--of submitted films is almost dizzying. “When you see the films, you’re blown away. They have a lot of youthful energy, but they’re not amateurish,” he says. The standard of submissions, Harris asserts, “goes up every year, and this year’s just incredible. It’s the best line-up of films we’ve ever had.”
In addition to commandeering the Cinerama for Opening Night and the SIFF Uptown for the bulk of the actual film festival, NFFTY is also presenting the Future of Film Expo in the Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms on Friday and Saturday. “We already have the best [young] filmmakers from around the world coming to Seattle for the festival, so why not bring the best resources to them?” Harris reasons. Some of the most highly-regarded film schools in the country will be exhibiting, as well as cutting-edge technology companies like Canon and Panasonic.
The Expo will also host twenty different panels and workshops over the course of the two days (“Everything from basic 101 Beginners’ Workshops to advanced, high-level filmmaking discussions”). The idea, Harris asserts, is to allow anyone of any age to explore the art--and science--of filmmaking. “It’s really meant, not just for young filmmakers, but for filmmakers of all ages, from families with little kids that want to learn about film, to adult professionals. They’re totally free resources for anyone who wants to learn.”
More information (including details on screenings, Expo workshops, and ticket purchases) can be found at www.nffty.org.
Pictured above: Safe (A Tale About Hope), an animated short from the UK, screens during the NFFTY Opening Night Gala Thursday, April 26.