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Why You Need to Watch Student Films

By. Danielle Nicole Husband, Film Programmer

Putting the word “student” before anything makes it sound amateur. Think about the feeling you get when you see a vehicle marked with “student driver.” The idea of a student film conjures up the image of an inexperienced film novice with a borrowed camera, a group of friends, and a hastily written script. As a person who has embodied all of those descriptors, I can tell you that the student films you will see on the festival circuit will defy these expectations and are on-par with the other films in the festival.

Filmmakers who submit to the student film category range in abilities, with some students starting their film school career just out of high school and others returning to school for a Master of Fine Arts after years in the industry. While their backgrounds and skills may differ, all of these filmmakers share a few things in common: a great story, a passion for the medium, and the desire to experiment with visual storytelling. These attributes result in films that break rules, evoke raw emotion, and/or use the unexpected to depict a piece of the filmmaker’s imagination.

The push for originality is just as strong for students as it is for professionals; however, students also have the flexibility to push boundaries because the consequences for a failed concept are different. This allows students to experiment, so the films we show at the festival often use the medium in nontraditional ways that give the viewer a new kind of experience. While these films can sometimes challenge our notions of how a film should proceed, they also offer a unique method for storytelling that provides us new avenues for exploring the ideas present within the story.

Because student filmmakers are by definition still learning, their films also show their progress in finding their voice and expanding their portfolio. This means that the audience becomes part of this journey, which is an opportunity that few get. Imagine seeing the early works of the next Wes Anderson or Steven Spielberg.

Part of being a student is pushing yourself to grow in your field, and that is evident in the official student film selections on the festival circuit. The creativity found in these films goes beyond writing a great script, securing talented actors, finding the perfect set, creating the right lighting, recording audio, and editing the film; these filmmakers must be creative and flexible to stretch a nonexistent budget to finalize their polished film. These #filmhacks add to the experience of the student film: as you enjoy the films, you can also admire the tenacity and skill of the filmmakers who made them.

Student films leave the audience thinking about what it means to watch a film, give the audience a unique take on a story, and challenge the expectations on what a film should or shouldn’t be. When you see that a film is categorized as “student,” don’t be so quick to dismiss it because it may be the best film that you watch all day.