Hosted by Dana Frankoff, Richard Yelland, Jeffrey Cavallaro and Wyatt Shipp - the Emerging Filmmaker Student Film Program held at the Coast Film and Music Festival showcased many inspirational ideas. Students from the Southern Orange County area submitted their completed work – self written, directed, edited and produced. These students ranging from grades 7-12 have a passion for film and storytelling - whether in a film, editing, media or animation class, these students brought their visions to life on the screen. They were given assignments by their film teachers to create something of passion and that showcases their growing cinematography skills.
The Coast Film and Music Festival held in Laguna Beach created this program because they believe the best way to gain success and become an expert at driving passion is from a young age. Being able to create, design and brainstorm at a young age will sculpt said youth into a forceful talent - it's also a way for them to speak about current issues they believe in. Young voices are important and should be heard tenfold.
The Student Films
Kicking off the wonderfully crafted set of films were Keanu and Zen with Water: A Teenage Perspective. “We have so many things that we do outdoors that we love and water is essential to them all - we care about humanity, we care about animals, we care about the earth” - Zen. Their film took the audience through their point of view of surfing, snowboarding, hiking and many other outdoor activities and stressed the importance of keeping our environment clean.
Films On The Environment
Many of the following films had a focus on the environment as well. Passions are Priceless followed the storytellers' journey to using the ocean as an outlet instead of addictive substance. DDT the Silent Killer educated the viewer on the still occurring harmful effects of the DDT spill on the coast of Catalina from the 1940s to the 1980s, and A View From Below gave a first-hand look into the maker’s passion for spearfishing and the ocean.
The environment as a whole was a major topic of interest at this event. One spoke about the negative impacts of global warming and showed an animated representation of the Earth’s future in Trashed, stating “Let’s not make a trashed earth our future.” Another Fast Fashion Contributes educated the viewer on the increasing textile waste in landfills caused by fast fashion around the world. Fast fashion is described as industries mass-producing certain trends and designs at an incredible speed, essentially leading to the dump and waste of an enormous amount of what is produced. Giving many alternatives to non-fast fashion companies - such as Converse, the film also touched on an artist Fuzzy Mall that takes textile waste and creates art.
Films On Mental Health
Some students decide to speak about social and mental health issues. In Tablets, there’s a point of view of someone’s difficulty with Schizophrenia. Angry Boy showed how bullying can lead to anger and possible internal personality change. The students that produced Angry Boy had experienced bullying and the feeling of exclusion and wanted to portray it through a non-audio film to convey the most emotion.
Disconnected touched upon society’s obsession with technology and the feeling of satisfaction one receives from it – bringing us a false reality. Another animated film, Perseverance, shows a person pushing through the difficult moments in life to get to the fulfilling ones – the style of sketch animation portrayed greater emotions.
Films On People And Passions
Films about people and their passions were popular among two; William Wilcoxen who was a resident and humanitarian in Laguna Beach. His plaque and achievements are displayed at Top of the World in Laguna Beach, and his legacy was brought to life in this film. Girls…A Young Woman is an empowering look into young girls playing sports and skateboarding, showcasing their talents and strong abilities.
Awards were given out after the completion of the films. The middle school winner was Perseverance and the high school winner, Water: A Teenage Perspective. The winners received a goodie bag of camera add-ons, filming technology and even a GoPro! The significance of the awards was for students to engage and contribute to storytelling through an important medium, film, and to continue to follow their passions.
The film showcase and awards were followed by a quick Q&A with the credited filmmakers in attendance.
A Live Q&A Led By Dana Frankoff
Leading the Q&A was filmmaker and Pixar’s own, Dana Frankoff. To give the audience and young filmmakers a solid picture of where these now world renowned filmmakers started, Frankoff started simply.
The discussion kicked off with the filmmakers expressing where their inspiration for film derived from and where it has taken them in their career.
“Well, I don't even make films, I guess I make people make films - I hope everyone in the audience, all you guys can see that your stories do matter. They're not just something that you turned in an assignment. These are real stories that can have legs and go further and you can expand on them and develop them.” - Jeremy Cavallaro, the Director and Founder of Community Roots Academy.
Cavallaro continues to state that the inspiration behind creating the Emerging Filmmakers Student Film Program within the Coast Film and Music Festival came about when Richard Yelland, Director and Producer, had an opportunity to show his new film at Cavallaro’s Academy. The concept of the film is about voting with your dollars and how businesses that have solutions to climate change are built into their business models. Both Yelland and Cavallaro thought the program would be a great way for the younger generation to express themselves and increase their creative skills.
Yelland has been directing and producing films for over 10 years and believes the festival is a way of showcasing a film’s purpose and creating a committed way of storytelling. When he creates a film, he is always looking for something inspirational that can invoke positive change.
“It's always been kind of an exciting opportunity to work with the kids of the next generation and inspire them - It's amazing to see you guys in your films because your voices are so grown up. In every film there's such a mature voice and there's some really inspiring executional elements and I almost feel like we should have started this years ago.”
“We see new ideas, fresh executional ideas and animation and choice of music and all those things. And I think that it just shows you how we can use film as a medium to inspire people and to really address problems in the world, but also make great entertainment. I think at the end of the day, if you're a mission-driven filmmaker, you're trying to come up with films that actually don't just go to educational distribution, but are actually out in mainstream distribution and reaching as many people as possible. So we have to make great entertainment and we build those messages in great entertainment. We're gonna touch people and make them change, and that's how we're gonna solve our problems. So I'm committed to that and I really feel excited because I think that I feel hope when I see the kids putting those messages and believing in that change in the films – it’s exciting.”
Wyatt Shipp, a new filmmaker that just graduated from Arizona State University, has been filming and creating stories since he was eight years old using his mother’s camera in the backyard. Starting out with his own YouTube channel, Shipp, quickly gained a strong passion and talent for filmmaking.
“I think what really inspired me to make films was just kind of the aspect of visual storytelling and just finding a way without words to tell these really important stories. And that's just one thing I really appreciated about today's films was that there was such a diverse subject range, and not just as far as subjects go, but as far as how you presented it. I'm really proud to see that we've got such an awesome new program here and I hope it continues because this is what it's all about. It's about sharing these stories and celebrating them with one another and getting the next generation excited about filmmaking.” - Wyatt Shipp
Cavallaro, Shipp and Yelland went on to advise the audience of the younger generation about how they can hone in their craft and evolve as aspiring filmmakers.
“Keep trying. I know this is our second year of the film festival and we have some filmmakers who've made two years worth of films and I'm so proud of them for experimenting, like going with documentary, then switching it up to animation and vice versa, and doing more in dramatic films. Keep trying and keep putting your work out. There are definitely spaces where the world wants to see.” - Jeremy Cavallaro
Yelland worked as a writer in advertising before going full time in filmmaking, but in order to start perfecting his shooting and editing talents, he would shoot short films on the side - whenever he got the chance. His company created commercials and would hire professional directors and videographers, so he would study from being on set.
“I would say shoot as much as you can. If you have an idea, go execute it, go for it, finish it. Even if you're frustrated and you don't think it's going anywhere, finish it. Just finish your projects. I think that's like that, having that completion element to whatever you do is really important.”
“I think that really the big message is get started, get going, and awesome things will happen because it's just such a great journey as a filmmaker. It's really challenging. It's extremely competitive but it's so worthwhile because it's such a powerful opportunity to take journeys and tell stories and meet people and make change. And then going off of that it is definitely, once you're kind of in the thick of it too, it's a little difficult to finish up because at times it's really fun.”
Overcoming Public Opinion
Yelland expressed that any criticism can be used as long as you filter out the unnecessary noise. They may have found something within your work that you may have not seen, and if they are taking the time to express their opinion, then something in said film must have triggered that. It’s also important to create a crew and professional environment with like-minded people, that gives way to stronger feedback.
Shipp discusses the different cameras that can be used during the shooting of a film. Since the IPhones now shoot in 4K, they have become a viable option but the more iconic and standard film cameras are - GoPro, DSLR package, Canons, 35 Millimeter Cinema, and more depending on what type of film you are shooting - a documentary, a film, a short film or an animation. The thought process that goes into choosing the correct camera for a specific shot is very important for the execution of the film and creating the best possible visuals.
Approaches To The Purpose Of Film
Richard Yellen explains how his journey has impacted his films and brings critical issues in society to life. “I've been looking for vehicles through my passions. Using that method, I've been able to find subject matter that I find inspiring but also visually intriguing. ”
Yelland goes on to discuss his first film, A Surf Again, about the journey of adapted athletes with spinal cord injuries competing in the Paralympics for surfing. This film sparked a passion for the ocean in Yelland and showed him what a transformational experience filming could be. It gave him the knowledge on how to tell a good story through visuals and that the documentary wasn’t ultimately about the ocean or surfing, but about humanity.
Shipp shared his input, “What's the aspect of the story that touches every human? So we're looking at these things and when I'm kind of coming up with an idea to develop films but that's a great question and it's a long answer, but I think that the universal truth, human truth, I think is something I'm looking for. An idea that is not just related to a certain subject matter, but a bigger idea. And, when it's actually within an environment or a world that I feel visually can be powerful and compelling that I think that there's something there to work with. And going off of that a little bit I have a similar experience as far as making films, purpose-driven filmmaking and personal filmmaking but for a very different subject matter.”
Shipp went on to share that he was diagnosed with Autism when he was 2 years old and how he used that in creating his film, The Hidden Voice, when applying to film schools.
“Obviously not everybody has autism, so they can't relate to that, but what they can relate to is just perseverance and just finding a way to make your place in the world and do something you love despite whatever you feel like is stacked against you. So it really is just kind of about finding those stories that you're passionate about and that you connect with and translating them to a broader scale because that's what's gonna resonate with your audience. And then that's how you get them involved in those kinds of stories and promote awareness.” - Wyatt Shipp
Dana Frankoff chimed in on how she found inspiration to create what she does now.
“I've worked in film for a long time, mostly with big studios and it wasn't until 2020 that I found my voice and started directing and producing my own films. I wish I would've done that earlier. I would say don't be afraid of doing that. Once you kind of unleash and decide that that's what you're gonna do, there's a certain magic that happens, and especially when it's these important topics that protecting the environment or schizophrenia or something that's so personal to us, but so universal at the same time, the world opens itself up to you and allows you to make something really valuable to share with other people.” - Dana Frankoff
How Emerging Young Filmmakers Can Create
Yelland, Cavallaro and Shipp unanimously agreed that there are many ways for the younger generation to become involved in filmmaking.
Starting a YouTube channel and creating content for that platform, creating a LinkedIn profile and applying to filming internships at a community center, a studio or high profile animation studio. Any position and any setting that will allow skills to be found and perfected is the idea.
Shooting, filming, writing, and creating from home is a good start to find one’s passion and path of storytelling. Taking film, writing, or editing classes at school or at an outside program, will assist with creating a strong skill set. Getting involved in local or global issues may spark an inspirational storytelling side that may not have been known.
Applying to programs and festivals such as the Coast Film and Music Festival is a great opportunity to showcase your creations but to also speak with in the industry professional directors, producers and creators. Becoming known to and receiving advice from high-profile people like Yelland, Cavallaro and Frankoff develops an advantage.
If you or anyone you may know wants to become a filmmaker or become a part of the film industry – programs, class courses and at-home filming are the best ways for someone to get a head start.
The Emerging Filmmakers Student Film Program hosted at the Coast Film and Music Festival is a great way for the younger generation to become involved with societal issues, harness their filmmaking skills and develop important contacts with others in the film industry.
The Community Roots Academy has developed a strong film foundation for the younger generation and has brought multiple opportunities to showcase talent.