Get a WYFF of This: Westport Youth Film Festival Makes Changes for 2011

Get a WYFF of This: Westport Youth Film Festival Makes Changes for 2011

Brendan Rand’11
News Editor

The eighth annual Westport Youth Film Festival (WYFF) will showcase films made by local and international high school students. The festival’s Board of Directors is comprised of 18 members.

WYFF's photoshoot for its 2010-11 poster. | Photo contributed

“What makes WYFF unique is that… high school students run every aspect of the festival, from press to marketing to production,” Matt Kalmans, WYFF director and a Weston High School senior, said.

The festival may not officially start until May 13, but the board has already started planning ahead. A large part of that preparation will come in the form of promotional events that will attempt to generate interest from local teens.

“The film festival isn’t just a once a year event,” Kalmans said. “We have tons of events throughout the year to get the word out.”

One of these upcoming events is a VIP party that will be held at Wishlist in Westport.

“We’re going to invite kids from all different schools in Connecticut and beyond to come down,” Kalmans said. “We’re going to have music, we’re going to be selling some stuff and we’re going to be teaching them about WYFF.”

WYFF also brings students and professional filmmakers together through panel discussions and workshops to help them learn more about the film industry. The Board of Directors is closely connected with the WYFF Advisory Committee, which includes Dave Burstein and Chris Casey, the founders of WYFF, and Andrew Karpen, President of Focus Features, among others.

“The kids on the Board do the marketing and outreach for the festival and bring any problems they have to the Advisory Committee,” Program Director Kate Lupo said. “This way, they establish a mentor relationship [with the Board].”

The festival will also be undergoing some changes this year, including allowing teenagers to submit and view films online. In addition, it will be moving back to Fairfield, Conn., where it was originally held.

“One of the things that I think is significant about this year… and it’s kind of reflected in moving the festival back to Fairfield, is that… we’re kind of going back to trying to really make WYFF a kind of prestigious event,” Press Director Matt Silverman, a Weston High School junior, said. “[We want to] just return to the essence of WYFF and what it was founded as in the first place.”

According to Lupo, WYFF is also trying to coordinate its events with the Westport Arts Center. One of the ways it is doing this is via a Jan. 27 screening of “Stand By Me,” which will run alongside the Westport Arts Center’s “Kid Kulture” exhibit.

The members of WYFF have some many plans for the year ahead, which include increased submissions, more connections with other film festivals, and increased publicity.

“One of the goals for us this year is to get an article about WYFF in a big newspaper, like The New York Times,” Silverman said. “It’s kind of a big goal, but that’s something that we’re interested in.”

Lupo mentioned one particular place where WYFF is searching for more involvement, despite having already set the board for this year.

“We really want more Staples students involved,” Lupo said.

“We have our board now, but we want more applications next year and we need volunteers for the festival.”

Kalmans agreed. “This is a really amazing opportunity for kids to get involved, Kalmans said. “It’s just an incredible experience to run an international event as a high school kid and learn about all the skills that it takes.”