Film Festival Highlights Nonprofits Through the Eyes of High Schoolers

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Representing high schools from Alamo Heights to La Vernia, and from Boerne to South San, about 300 students from six area counties will be represented at the second annual Bexar County High School Film Festival on Monday, April 23.

The festival takes place at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. and will feature 30, three-minute videos, each telling the story of a local nonprofit organization through the eyes of students from 30 different high schools.

Over the course of the year, students with interests in storytelling and journalism are paired with nonprofits who need such skills, said Randy Lankford, executive director of TRL productions, a video-production nonprofit that organizes the festival. “We give these kids a marketable job skill, and expose them to community service. … Everybody benefits.”

Students select the nonprofit organization they want to work with from seven categories, including living with disabilities, food service, community service, and animal care.

Led by a faculty or staff member from the students’ high school, each team of 10 students  work with their selected nonprofit to produce an informational video. The videos are judged by a panel of experts, who give awards for excellence in the various aspects of video production.

Winners in nine categories, including best cinematography, editing, and overall production, will be announced at the close of the 90-minute program.

“The grand finale of the night is when we actually donate the videos to the nonprofits,” Lankford said.

“Even if we don’t win, we’ve already won,” said Leslie Kingman, executive director of Snack Pak 4 Kids, a San Antonio-based organization that provides weekend food supplements to chronically hungry kids. Snack Pak 4 Kids will use the video to promote its work by posting the content on its website, Facebook page, and Instagram feed.

According to TRL Productions’ website, 57 percent of donors to nonprofits make a donation after watching such videos.

A professionally produced video would have cost between $5,000-$10,000, Kingman estimated.

“Video productions are very expensive for nonprofits,” Kingman said. “Even though we know we need them, it’s a lot of dollars,” she said.

I thought [the film festival] was a great opportunity for us to partner with these kids,” Kingman said. “Part of our message is kids helping kids, so it was right up our alley.”

Students from Thomas Jefferson High School selected Snak Pak 4 Kids. “They were very professional. It was obvious they had a passion for doing this well,” she said.

Their team leader was Will Callahan, the audio/video teacher at Jefferson, who said he appreciates the “real-world experience” the students get, and seeing them evolve throughout the project.

“Just watching them grow from beginners, to picking up the equipment and seeing a vision, then going out and shooting and telling a story, bringing us into their minds,” Callahan said, “it’s inspiring to watch them.

“[The students] didn’t even know how to use a basic camera at first,” he said, yet now have a video to show for their work.

“It’s such a great, collaborative piece,” Kingman said of the Snak Pak 4 Kids video, appreciating the idea that “we can use [it] to further our cause, through the eyes of a kid.”

The business team from the Rivard Report, which is also a nonprofit organization, is judging a new award for this year’s festival, for “Outstanding Storytelling.” Among the eight award judges are Nathan Cone, vice president of cultural and community engagement for Texas Public Radio, and Katrina Kehoe, KLRN vice president of marketing and communications.

“We try to get people from the media who have a storytelling background, so they can give the kids some meaningful feedback” on their productions, Lankford said.

Award winners gain not only recognition, but the potential for new audio-video equipment and other prizes meaningful to video production work. By winning the music category last year, Callahan said Jefferson High School received a yearlong subscription to a music licensing service for students to access soundtracks for their projects.

Tickets to the festival are $10 and available on the Tobin Center website.

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