15th annual Slick Rock Student Film Festival features nearly 200 short films
By Anthony Ferranti
Special to the Sun-Gazette
VISALIA – Early Friday morning, the doors opened at the Fox Theater in downtown Visalia for the 15th annual Slick Rock Student Film Festival, Central California’s premiere film competition for middle and high school students featuring nearly 200 short films. Throughout the morning and afternoon the films played to a nearly full house. Large groups of energized high school and middle school students sat together and displayed their collective exuberance for their favorite films with boisterous bursts of applause, punctuated by shout-outs for the actors and directors.
The Slick Rock Student Film Festival differs in a few ways from a typical film festival. Only films solely produced by middle and high school students from the following San Joaquin Valley counties may submit films: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare. All films in competition are first approved by school officials and must align with the moral codes of that school and are deemed suitable for a general public viewing audience. Similar to other film festivals, “Slick Rock offers the student filmmakers an excellent opportunity to express themselves through the visual medium.” said Eric Ham, former festival award-winner and presenter at this year’s festival.
There is a wide variety of categories that the student filmmakers can choose from as the focus of their films including narrative blockbuster films, documentaries, commercials, music video covers, and PSA’s for topics like Bullying Prevention and Suicide Prevention. Even with specific categories, which serve to focus the students’ creative energies, a wide range of skills was on full display as these young filmmakers showed their ability to take unique approaches to storytelling.
All the films deliver a keen sense of the community that is the Central Valley, with memorable locations like the citrus groves that seemingly stretch out endlessly to the mountain peaks high above populated by groves of ancient sequoias.
As the afternoon gave way to early evening the screenings of the films finished, the end result of some 1,100 students’ filmmaking efforts, and it was time for the red carpet to be rolled out to honor these artists. Throngs of family and friends gathered around the entrance while nearby a local brass band played upbeat tunes for the crowd. Soon stretch limos began to deliver groups of students and advisors to a reception of screaming fans in front of the Fox Theater. Like paparazzi, parents snapped off dozens of photos of the filmmakers standing in front of the festival backdrop where the young artists put on their best faces and reveled in the hard-won limelight.
Once everyone made it inside and into their seats it was time to present the awards. The co-masters of ceremonies, Gene Mendes and Gus Ramirez of TCOE Choices Program, pumped up the crowd and kicked things off by first congratulating all the filmmakers and thanking sponsors. Not that the crowd needed any encouragement, the exuberance was something you’d expect to experience at a homecoming Friday night football game. As the awards were handed out some filmmakers shared what they learned. One that was particularly memorable from a now seasoned filmmaker – “make that thing that inspires you so you can inspire others.” Also noteworthy, the students who won Best of Show for their barbershop commercial announced that these newly minted filmmakers had just been hired by a local business to produce another commercial.
If you were not able to make it to the Slick Rock Student Film Festival this year, you’re still in luck. All the award-winning videos will play May 25 on public access channels: Comcast channel 93 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. To find what time the films will air, check your local listings or go to the Community Media Access Collaborative web site cmac.tv for more information.
Also, if you want to know more about the Slick Rock Student Film Festival go to www.tcoe.org.