January 30th, 2017
On March 10th, Howard County Schools will host its 13th annual Film Festival at the Charles E. Miller Library in Ellicott City for high school filmmakers. Each film will tell its own story, and a handful of these films are produced for HC Drugfree, a partner and sponsor to the film festival that raises awareness for alternatives to drugs when handling stress.
The Howard County Film Festival encourages students to use filmmaking as a platform to share stories and be aware of consequences of drugs and alcohol with the help of HC Drugfree. In addition, students who are interested in filmmaking as hobby or career are able to find inspiration from their peers with similar interests through the Film Festival.
“Everybody’s got a story inside them. It doesn’t have to be based on real life, it could be a story they dreamed about, it could be a story they once overheard, but to make a story and to put it to film is a really fun creative thing to do,” said Binki McKenna, cosponsor of the Howard County Film Festival for three years.
Many Atholton students have participated in the Howard County Film Festival because Mr. Mackechnie integrates it into his Television class. “I like to, each year, have [students] do the PSA, and that way they can decide after they’ve created it, if they want to enter it or not,” he said. A handful of these students submit their PSA or an entirely new film to the Festival, like Matthew Bloom, a sophomore at Atholton. Just last year Bloom went on to win the second place prize for this Film Festival as well as winning NHD for his documentary.
Those who enter often earn scholarships, win other film competitions, or pursue careers relating to filmmaking. The top three filmmakers receive an Amazon gift card, but a handful of trophies are offered as well. The first place winner receives a $250 Amazon gift card, the second place winner receives a $150 gift card, and the third place winner receives a $100 gift card. The winner of the HC Drugfree submission and the judge’s choice award winners will earn trophies, as well.
Unlike other creative outlets such as art and music, the Film Festival allows students to tell their stories more directly and provides a crucial platform for peer to peer connection. Each film must be story-based, so it must have a plot that can be followed for people to watch and react to. The stories can range from categories such as comedy, drama, action, or advocacy.
Jill Lee, the other co-sponsor of this event said, “Films bring people together and allow us to see different perspectives. We live in a wonderfully diverse community with many different stories to tell. Film brings us together as a community to let everyone know that we all have a story to tell.”
HC Drugfree offers a film category for students to make short 30-90 second films that explore why students resort to drugs. The films are designed to help students recognize healthy choices to make when confronted with a problem or conflict. McKenna furthered, “We often can’t see solutions. We’re under such stress we can’t think of like, ‘oh I could do this or I could do that.’”
The Howard County Film Festival was created in 2004 by two River Hill High School students, Yuri Stone and Rebecca Zia, as their G/T Independent Research project. From there, the countywide event continued to grow with more and more students participating each year. Last year, with around 200 people coming to the film festival and 62 film submissions, it seems as though the festival will only continue to grow as a Howard County tradition.
As the Festival gains traction as a platform for sharing movies and PSAs, Howard County residents should take five and come on Friday, March 10th when the cameras get rolling.