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DeKalb Entertainment Commission hosts 6th annual student film festival

Chamblee DeKalb County Dunwoody Trending Tucker

DeKalb Entertainment Commission hosts 6th annual student film festival

Photo provided to Decaturish

By Grace Donnelly, contributor

DeKalb County, GA — Break out the popcorn — students from 10 DeKalb County high schools will walk the red carpet and share their work on the big screen this week. 

On Tuesday, March 26, the DeKalb Entertainment Commission is hosting the DeKalb Student Film Festival at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center. The evening will include screenings of 17 short films by young directors at McNair, Lakeside, Southwest DeKalb, DeKalb School of the Arts, Chamblee, Arabia Mountain, Tucker, Miller Grove, Dunwoody, and DeKalb Technology-South high schools.  

Isabella Brathwaite is a high school senior at DeKalb School of the Arts (DSA) and three-time entrant in the festival. Picking up Redbox rentals for a Friday movie night tradition as a kid led to a love of filmmaking. Participating in the film festival provided an opportunity to see films produced by other local students, she said, and she especially enjoyed the 2023 event at the Plaza Theatre in Midtown. 

“Seeing your own work on a screen in the Plaza Theatre was so cool,” Brathwaite said. “We treat it like the mini Oscars because it’s that important to us. It’s a fun event.”

This year, the red-carpet rolls out at 5:45 p.m., with a chance for photos and interviews before the auditorium opens at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. 

Films submitted to the festival are all three minutes or less and must incorporate several elements, including the line “I didn’t see that coming,” a deck of playing cards, and the character name “Kai Miller.” 

Winners for both the novice and advanced categories will be announced during the event Tuesday evening, with awards for Best Overall, Best Editing, Best Acting, Best Sound Design, Best Wardrobe/Makeup, Best in Show, and Audience Choice.

Brathwaite’s film in the festival this year, called “Butterfly Effect,” follows a rock band during their last performance before breaking up. She worked on it with several of her friends at DSA, which provides students with access to equipment and filmmaking tools that most high schoolers don’t have.  

“I’ve met so many people that I’ve worked with who I don’t think I would have met if I didn’t go to DSA. I’ve met some of my best friends,” she said. “We’re all really serious about film… everyone is passionate about doing this.” 

The competition is one way the county is encouraging students in DeKalb to explore careers in film and create a strong local talent pipeline for the industry. Partnership between DeKalb County School District & Re: Imagine Atlanta provides students with opportunities to gain experience writing, filming, and editing projects through the film production Career Pathway Program. 

 “Our goal is to ensure students are either workforce-ready after high school, ready to pursue a trade through a technical school or attend a four-year college. We’re passionate about our work and want every student to be successful,” Thomas McFerrin, DeKalb’s Career, Technology, Agriculture Education (CTAE) Coordinator, said.

Prior to the festival, Brathwaite and 19 other DeKalb County students traveled to Long Beach, California to attend the Student Television Network National Convention, where they participated in four days of film workshops and speaker sessions with industry leaders.

The festival and the conference trip were made possible by support from Assembly Studios and Shadowbox Studios, both production facilities located in DeKalb County, 

Brathwaite has learned from the pros that film is about showing, not telling. And that can be a powerful outlet for young people.

“Film can be a way to say what’s on your mind or tell people what’s in your soul without having to just blankly state it out,” she said. “It’s a great way of expressing yourself.”

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