Lights, camera, WYFF! Youth film festival hits Bridgeport Saturday

As June 2 draws near, the Westport Youth Film Festival (WYFF) Youth Board of Directors are working at full force to transform downtown Bridgeport into a full-scale hub for the festival. The ninth annual Westport Youth Film Festival is taking place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, June 2, in Bijou Square in Bridgeport.

Festival passes available online for $10 for students and $25 for adults. They will also be available at the festival with an additional $5 charge per pass when purchased at the door. WYFF is a program of the Westport Arts Center.

“Our Festival is a day full of films, music, cutting edge filmmaking workshops, and panels with industry professionals. There is something for everyone — filmmakers and enthusiasts, families, adults and teens,” said Festival Director Evan Neidich.

Throughout the day, The Bijou Theatre will play host to seven film blocks, together screening more than 75 films, all made by teen filmmakers.

More than 200 submissions came from across the globe, from Fairfield County to Canada, England, Denmark, and Israel.

All of the films have been carefully screened and selected by the WYFF student board and advisors and are mostly appropriate for all ages. The third film block (12:55 – 2:35 p.m.) is for mature audiences.

All films will be judged by experts in the field, including Missy Papageorge-Sonnenfield, who will be judging the Experimental Films.

Other judges include Tim Finn (Animation Judge), who teaches animation and animation history in Massachusetts; Tom Caldarone (Music Video Judge), a former head of MTV and current president of VH1; and Roxana Walker-Canton (Social Action Judge), who has worked on numerous documentary films.

“It’s all about networking. We have judges from the writer of Valentines Day and New Years Eve, several WYFF alumni who have created an impact on the industry already, and panelists that will provide information to budding filmmakers. You can interact and exchange information with really talented filmmakers,” said Development Director Michael Kalmans, a junior at Weston High School.

Other events will be taking place throughout the day, all within one block of the film screenings. Two Boots Pizza, next-door to the theatre, is offering both food and a screening of the Civic Life Project Films at noon, a program “fostering civic participation through the use of documentary films conceived of, researched, directed, and produced entirely by high school students.”

The “WYFF Lab,” half of a block down the street, will host workshops throughout the day, including Film-Painting for Kids (10 a.m.), Direct Filmmaking (noon), and Human Stop Motion Puppets (2:30).

The “WYFF Lab” at 295 Fairfield Avenue will also have two panels: The Startup Film Generation Panel at 5:15, led by Chris Casey, David Burnstein (two WYFF founders), and Brean Cunningham; and It’s Never Whatever at 6:30, run by Jay Miles.

The “WYFF Pop-Up Shop” at 303 Fairfield Avenue, will host T-shirt screen-printing workshops throughout the day; and Melt Market and Café will serve as the official WYFF Lounge, where filmmakers and movie buffs can discuss the festival selection.

The Bijou Square will host live bands all day, including Borrowed Glory, Chillingsworth, Cheeky, Clay Garner and other popular teen artists.

The night will end with the awards ceremony at 8:15, which will award the best of each film category (Experimental, Comedy, Animation, Music Video, Documentary, Social Action, and Drama), as well as Audience Choice and Best in Connecticut.

Sarah Gruen is a Senior at Weston High School and a member of WYFF’s Youth Board of Directors.

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