Two hours, 12 high school, 25 films: N.H. High School Film Fest showcases nuggets of creativity

‘ S tar Wars was not the first film that George Lucas ever produced. Steven Spielberg didn’t start his career with Jurassic Park.

Lucas began filming car races when he was in junior college. Spielberg made his first film, about a train wreck involving his Lionel trains when he was 12 years old.

Here in New Hampshire, high school film makers have been given the opportunity to show their films before a live audience and be recognized for their talent.

Twenty-five short films, produced by students from 12 New Hampshire high schools and one home-schooled student, will be screened at the New Hampshire High School Short Film Festival at Red River Theatres in Concord on Saturday, beginning at noon.

“It’s a great chance to get some exposure,” said Matthew Newton, director of the New Hampshire Film and Television Office and founder of the festival.

“The top two films will go on to the Somewhat North of Boston (SNOB) Film Festival and the New Hampshire Film Festival.”

The rest of the selected films will get plenty of exposure as well. For the first time, the entire two-hour screener will go on tour to other cinemas across the state, starting June 11 at the Colonial in Bethlehem.

Newton said there was no such opportunity when he was growing up in Maine and getting started in film.

“One of the things I wanted to do when I got into this position was find a way to get an opportunity going for students where they can showcase their work,” he said, “and to try to find a way to promote the arts in the schools in general.”

Newton and a friend who taught video production hatched the idea for the film festival in 2008, screening all 20 entries.

“It just took off from there,” Newton said. “Every year we got more submissions. It was getting too long, more than three hours with intermissions.”

The festival is now limited to two hours, the length of a feature film. A small committee reviews the submissions and scores them.

“We take the top scoring films and put them into a two-hour slot. Once we reach the two-hour mark, that’s the cut-off,” Newton said. “It’s fairly competitive at this point.”

This year, 65 films were submitted, the most they’ve ever had, he said.

“A lot of these submissions are coming in from the southern half of the state,” Newton said. “We’d like to see more from the Lakes Region and North Country.”

Newton said many schools have actually worked this festival into their curriculum. He gets a lot of submissions from Nashua Technology Center; Pinkerton Academy, which has a career and technical program; an Oyster River High School and Londonderry High School, which have video production departments.

But, the absence of such specialized programs is no obstacle to participation in the festival. Some films are made in regular English classes and some are made independently, outside of school.

Brooke Solomon, a senior at Bishop Brady High School, has landed a spot in the festival for the third year in a row, with a little help from her friends.

“Bishop Brady has a film club, which I have been a part of in years past,” she said in an email. “Our wonderful advisor, David Afflick, introduced us to the film festival in the first place. I opted to work independently this year, but the film club still gave me a lot of support.”

Her film The Hope Chest was inspired by her grandmother’s gift of a china plate “for your hope chest.” Solomon realized that one could tell a lot about someone’s life from the contents of their hope chest, and after discussing ideas for a film with her parents, she created one based on her family’s heritage.

The story: A young girl of Lebanese ancestry finds her great-grandmother Clara’s hope chest while cleaning out the attic. Clara, living in the 1920s and new to this country, tells her story through a scrapbook, photos and objects from her life.

Besides directing, Solomon has written multiple scripts and acted in both short- and full-length films in Greater Boston. She plans a career in filmmaking and will attend Emerson College in Boston next year with a dual major in visual media arts with a concentration in screenwriting and business for creative endeavors.

Solomon credits The Hope Chest for her acceptance into Emerson, which she calls one of the best film schools in the country.

“The creative sample is a huge part of the application process,” she said, “so it was great to know that my film was of a high enough caliber to help me get accepted.”

As a homeschooled student, 18-year old Caleb Chamberlain of Strafford didn’t have access to the resources and support available to students in public and private high schools, but his film Bootlace won a place in the festival anyway.

“I found out about the film festival when a few people sent it my way via Facebook and texts,” he said in an email, “and I thought it would be good to enter.”

He used his own equipment, filmed in a friend’s driveway and enlisted his dad, younger brother and a friend as actors. His uncle, who is a radio host in California, recorded the opening radio sequence for him.

The idea for the film came to him as he was shoveling snow and thinking about how someone would survive in a catastrophic snowstorm, he said.

Bootlace, he said, “is about a father and a son who are trapped out in the middle of nowhere during a frozen apocalypse.

Their truck runs out of fuel and they need to get more before they can keep moving, which unfolds into seeing just how they survive together in the wilderness.”

Although Bootlace is his first festival entry, Chamberlain has plenty of film making experience.

He realized his passion for film when he was just 6 years old and got a disposable camera for Christmas.

“Instead of taking pictures to commemorate my childhood memories,” he said, “I made stop motion animations with my Legos.”

He stapled all the photos together and had a little flip book that lasted just barely a second long.

“Then, we got a home video camera, and I went nuts,” he said.

He created a YouTube account, 96Powerboy1, when he was 11, and started posting videos right away.

His most recent posting, he said, is a short fan film he created with some friends, based on Marvel’s The Punisher. It’s the most popular video they’ve ever created, he said, with close to 2,000 views.

“I do a lot of freelance work,” he said. “I shoot wedding films, promotional videos, ceremonies, photo shoots, camps, training videos and sporting events/games. I live and breathe filmmaking.”

Chamberlain has no college plans for now. When he graduates in June, he’s going to keep on doing what he’s been doing: making films.

Newton has high hopes for the future of film making in New Hampshire.

“We’re hoping that this festival opens up a conversation,” Newton said, “that what’s happening in New Hampshire is important as far as film making goes.

“And we’re hoping that we can keep some of these film makers in their own back yard and making their movies here.”




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