‘NFFTY’: Age Is Not A Premise For Film Talent

A man wakes up on a planet with no people. A boy accidentally sends a sext to his girlfriend’s mother. A mime falls in love with a woman who can make sound out of anything she touches. A group of thieves use time travel to fix a crime.

What do all of these things have in common?

They are just a few of the storylines on display at this year’s National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY). This year’s festival promises to include some of the year’s most novel film ideas.

Jesse Harris, one of the festival’s three founding members, produced a film when he was 17 with the money he had originally intended to use for college. The movie, “Living Life,” obtained distribution, and Harris made a small name for himself in the film world.

Soon, young filmmakers from all around the world were sending their scripts to Harris and soliciting advice about how to get their work distributed. It was this lack of an audience for young filmmakers that initially got Harris interested in putting together a film festival.

One of these young filmmakers, Jocelyn R.C., voiced an interest in putting together a “socially responsible youth arts organization.” The two teamed up with Kyle Seago, another young filmmaker, and formed a nonprofit together. In April 2007, NFFTY had its first ever night of films.

“It’s definitely a one of a kind experience for young filmmakers,” said Todd Kaumans, NFFTY’s program manager. “There’s really no other festival out there that is focused just on promoting young filmmakers.”

Since its start, the festival has grown larger and larger. In 2008, the festival became three days, featured over 70 films, and was attended by over 1,800 people. By 2010, the festival had grown to a four-day event and was attended by over 6,000 people.

This year, NFFTY received 800 submissions from young filmmakers all around the world, and will be premiering 14 of them.

The selection process, because of the large amount of submissions, is an exhaustive one. According to Kaumans, a screening committee of around 40 people watches all of the submissions and takes notes to help decide the films for the next round of viewing. Afterward, Kaumans and Seago watch all of the submissions on their own, taking into account the notes of the committee, and make their final decision. From there, the films are organized based on similar themes and placed in the schedule.

This year’s different groups all host a number of themes: “Afternoon Eclectic” features a different combination of documentaries and dramatic shorts; “A Guide to Growing Up” features movies about, you guessed it, growing up; and “The Last Laugh” features a number of comedy films.

Overall, there are over 20 different screenings over the course of the four-day festival, all of which feature intriguing and refreshing premises.

Attending filmmakers will also get a chance to meet and network with industry professionals. This year, Adi Shankar, the director behind “Killing Them Softly,” “Dredd,” and “Lone Survivor,” will be speaking to audiences about how to make it in Hollywood while maintaining their “indie spirit.”

“This is a really unique experience just because, not only do they get a chance to showcase their films they’ve made to the world.” Kaumans said. “But they also get a chance to come and connect with other, like-minded filmmakers like themselves. And network with industry professionals.”

Kaumans said that, in many regards, the festival offers viewers a number of films that are much more interesting than what we usually see produced by large studios.

“In my opinion, the films you’re going to see at NFFTY are way better than the films your going to see in regular theaters these days,” he said. “The stories are all amazing and they’re all very original. It’s not like you have a typical Hollywood rehash that you see in theaters these days.”

He also commented on the fact that many of the films, despite being made by young people, are incredibly high quality.

“They’re not just films someone made in their garage or their back yard. These are high quality professional films. And if you didn’t know it was a youth film festival you might never know. Because they don’t look like that.”

NFFTY takes place this Thursday through Saturday, April 24 through 27, at Cinerama and SIFF Uptown. Tickets are $22 per day or $56 for a three-day pass.