Undeterred by COVID, Flint Youth Film Festival goes on; will “make magic” online


By Patsy Isenberg

Faced with an unexpected pandemic shutdown and COVID-19 restrictions, those in charge of planning the 2020 Flint Youth Film Festival found a logical solution to getting the films out to the public:   they’ll be shown on the festival’s YouTube channel.

Films from the 5th annual festival, for Michigan young people 13-25, will be screened on YouTube July 1-18 at youtube.com/flintyouthfilmfestival. The awards ceremony will be streamed online July 23.

Festival Director Justin Brown says, “I think a lot of us are feeling weird that we’re not taking the time usually meant to plan our screening at Mott (Community College) or our awards ceremony at the Flint Institute of Arts, but, at the same time, we’re glad we can still make things happen.

“It’s different,” he said, ” but like a lot of others, we’ve had to adapt to the current times. We look forward to the day we can do this all safely in public but, for now, we’re going to do our best to still make some magic.”

Festival Director Justin Brown at last year’s award ceremony

Brown said the festival received 32 entries from 27 artists, most from Michigan but two from out of state. And at present festival officials are notifying these filmmakers that they’ll be part of the festival and getting the films ready to be judged by professionals from around the country.

The festival entrants are divided into three age groups, 13-15, 16-19, and 20-25 years of age. The two older groups’ films are divided into fiction and nonfiction. The younger groups is strictly judged by achievement so as not to make it difficult for kids that young that are just getting started in this creative pursuit. Brown said they’ve added a category for PSAs (Public Service Announcements) this year. 

Craft awards also are presented for writing, directing, and cinematography for the two older groups.  And there are other awards given which are determined by judges, for example The Heart Award, which is for a film that shows passion from the entrant(s) which outshine all others. And, of course, there’s the Audience Choice Award.

The 13-15 group must limit their film to five minutes. The 13-19 age group limit is ten minutes and the 20-25 group’s limit is 20 minutes. For the audience, one good thing about watching the films on YouTube, Brown noted,  is that the films can be watched more than once.

The festival expects to award a total of between $2,000 and $4,000, Brown said.

Workshops also available

“No matter what story they chose to tell or how they chose to tell it, we hope participants will take a closer look at their surroundings in the process,” Brown said, “and document the stories and events that speak to them.”

Workshops for the filmmakers are planned to launch online by July 6 for two weeks. They’ll be held 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The first hour will be about the different areas of filmmaking taught by Michigan film professionals.

This will be followed in the second hour for learning about video editing from Emmy award-winning Michigan filmmaker Rodney Brown. The workshops will culminate with each participant submitting a three-to-five minute documentary on the choice of “Black Lives Matter” or “Life During COVID-19.” These workshops will encourage budding filmmakers to enter future Flint Youth Film Festivals, Brown said.

Rodney Brown is the president of iMichigan Productions, a film production company based in Flint.

An informative website at flintyouthfilmfestival.com includes a rundown of all the rules for the submissions, other year’s winning films and pictures of awardees with their cash awards. The dates for all events are there as well.

The site also explains how to vote for an “Audience Award.”  It says on the home page to “… please stay tuned for details on that [the Awards Ceremony] and join us from the comfort and safety of your own home and support the young filmmakers of Michigan in these uncertain times.”

The Flint Youth Film Festival is sponsored by Mott Community College, Flint Institute of Arts, iMichigan Productions, UM-Flint, Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, James Al Welch Foundation, A.B. Bishop Charitable Trust, and EMAGINE.

As described in its press release, “The festival seeks to engage young people in media production to stimulate their creativity and develop their literacy and social skills while also developing their related science and technology skills. It is a member of the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network.”


EVM Staff Writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at pisenber@gmail.com.

Author: East Village Magazine

A Non-profit, Community News Magazine Since 1976

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