WYFF: Not Just Another Teen Film Festival

WYFF: Not Just Another Teen Film Festival

Photo by Annie Nelson '11

After a whole lot of lights, cameras, and action-packed film sequences, the films in the eighth annual Westport Youth Film Festival (WYFF) was finally shown at neighboring Fairfield’s Community Theater on May 14.

The festival has reached new heights since its creation in 2003. This year, the event was run by a board of directors including Festival Director and Weston High School senior, Matt Kalmans, and Weston alumnus Kate Lupo, who was hired by the Westport Arts Center to oversee the students as Program Director.

Lupo has been involved with WYFF since high school, but says she learned a lot about large-scale arts and event planning while at Middlebury College, through the promotion of her a cappella group there.

“David Bernstein, one of the founders of the festival, said they needed a festival director,” Lupo said.  “I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool thing to do right out of college – work on this grassroots youth organization that I was a part of and that provides a venue for youth filmmakers to shine.’”

This year, WYFF received over 250 submissions, hailing from Fairfield County itself to some faraway Scandinavian countries and even the American midwest. 

The program was narrowed down to 50 films, which were shown in two adjacent theaters throughout the festival, which lasted for 12 hours.

This year, judges awarded “Best Drama” and “Best Connecticut Film” to local teen filmmakers from Westport and Weston, respectively.

 Matt Lindahl ’11 and Spencer Fox ’11 were thrilled to take home the “Best Drama” award for their work on the film, “Light”. 

While Lindahl is more interested in the directorial and production components of filmmaking, Fox has a clear interest in screenwriting and wrote the script for the film.

 This was the first time that both students have been involved in WYFF, but festival directors assure that WYFF is not only for those involved in filmmaking. This was the case for Festival Director Matt Kalmans.

“I’m not a filmmaker; I just think it’s cool to have high school kids running an international organization,” Kalmans said.

While he adds that a good amount of involved students are “passionate filmmakers,” he also notes that many others, like him, “just think it’s really cool.”

Caroline Perry ’12 agrees   that WYFF is equally useful for “film buffs” or filmmakers as it is for everyone else.  Though Perry does not make movies herself, she has an active role in WYFF and plans to apply for a board member position for the 2011–12 year.

“[WYFF] really is the only film festival for high school students,” Perry said – and this uniqueness is what she loves most about it.  “Everyone is really involved, so you get a lot of responsibility and experience, not just with networking but also with meeting a lot of really cool people.

Also featured at this year’s festival were special panels and workshops, one of which was run by Ann Lupo, the younger sister of Kate Lupo and a Weston graduate.

Ann Lupo, whose film won the highly coveted “Audience Choice Award” at the 2009 festival, is currently studying film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  Her workshop was entitled, “How to Make a Viral Video,” which she was invited to teach after one of her videos surpassed 50,000 views.

Ann Lupo shares her great acclaim for the organization. “WYFF provided me with a great foundation in what it’s like to market and distribute [my] films,” she said.  “And getting audience recognition for your work is very important.”

“We love that we’ve made strides in getting more support from Staples High School because we’re called the Westport Youth Film Festival,” Kate Lupo said.  “We’d love to get more Staples students to submit their films and come out to volunteer in the future.”

Kate Lupo leaves students with a final message: “Go Staples, come to WYFF, and be a part of the movement!”