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S2F2 Celebrates Student Film

May, 2012
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emmanuel-benbihy-and-emilie-ohana-guest-speakersThe 2012 Shanghai Student Film Festival (S2F2) was held at the Shanghai American School, Puxi campus (SAS-Puxi), providing a weekend of inspiration, fun, and educational film workshops, culminating in a screening of some of the best films from young and aspiring student filmmakers from various international schools across China.

“This is one of the biggest years we have ever had,” says David Gran, art teacher from SAS Puxi and one of the original founders of S2F2. “Over 200 videos were submitted this year and we had to limit it to a 2-hour screening session at the ceremony. What’s really astonishing is that the videos we had to cut, most of them would have probably won in the previous year.”

S2F2 was a collaborative effort by teachers and students from SAS, Concordia International School Shanghai (Concordia), Dulwich College Shanghai (Dulwich Shanghai), International School of Beijing (ISB), Shanghai Community International School (SCIS), and many others. It was organized into a two-day film festival spectacle running from March 23rd to March 24th, consisting of film challenges, workshops, guest speaker forums, film screenings, and an awards ceremony.

dan-maslen-storyboard-workshopStudents participated in the “8-Hour Film Challenge” on the opening day to plan, write, shoot, and edit a short film within the time limit following a specific set of rules. Participants were given a film genre at random and had to center their theme on “regeneration.” They shot their films at the 1933 building, a top architectural attraction in downtown Shanghai in the afternoon, and edited their footage on the bus ride back to school. It was a race against time, but the results shown on the first screening night impressed all the audience in attendance including teachers, judges, and perhaps even the filmmakers themselves.

“It was a very challenging experience. We were placed into a group of complete strangers and everything was impromptu but it was really fun working with students from other schools and everyone brought their best to the table. It was a rewarding experience,” says Katie Fang, student filmmaker from SAS who won Best Director for her films “Paradise and Negative Space”.

Day 2 continued its energy and momentum with a series of film workshops and featured an assembly of industry experts and acclaimed filmmakers. Teachers from various international schools volunteered to host the workshops on different topics including acting, screenwriting, sound, special effects, make-up, music video, and much more. The workshops were comprised of lectures and hands-on activities. Many teachers found these skills applicable to more than just filmmaking, but considered them tools which the students can utilize as they progress into college and a future career.

“Just like an essay, a film also requires a theme, thesis and a beginning, middle, and end. However, an essay is one dimensional whereas film is a compilation of text, sound, and visuals. It requires multiple layers of critical thinking and teamwork in order to create compelling stories,” says Michael Lambert, teacher of media literacy at Concordia as he explained how film and media production can contribute to the students not just in film but in all of their future endeavors. “Especially in today’s environment, these kids need to learn how to tell a compelling story through a visual format so they can market themselves better in their future careers.”

One of the most popular workshops was the Acting/Theater workshop where students were divided into small groups and took turns doing script readings and performances by using facial expressions and body language. Students got the opportunity to observe and direct fellow actors.

acting-workshop-random-students“It gives them another facet of experience in terms of performance and helps them understand the world,” says Ash Huxtable, drama teacher from Dulwich College Shanghai. Ash demonstrated the difference between acting for theater and acting in films by giving students a variety of scripts to perform, and also studied scenes featuring Anthony Hopkins from The Silence of the Lambs. “It’s a very physical art form when you are acting for theater, but film is about character,” emphasizes Huxtable.

Aside from the fun interactive workshops, the highlight of S2F2 this year was none other than the amazing assembled cast of industry experts who all took time out from their overwhelming schedules to fill multiple roles, serving as guest speakers and judges to share their valuable experience and knowledge with student filmmakers. The list of guests included Dan Maslen, the storyboard artist from the Bourne Trilogy, C.B. Cebulski, Senior VP of Creative Development from Marvel Comics, Michelle Miao Chen, the director of “Sons of the Stars,” and Emmanuel Benbihy and Emilie Ohana, the producer and actress of “Paris Je t’aime” and “New York I love You.

“The art of storyboarding is transferring ideas from words to pictures”, says Dan Maslen, the storyboard artist from Hollywood Blockbuster, “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Maslen showed slides of his sketches and animation storyboards teaching students the importance of storyboarding and his experience working with acclaimed directors such as Spike Lee and Paul Greengrass. “You have to control or manipulate the eyeball and take your audience on a journey into the film.” Maslen explained how a precisely produced storyboard can contribute to shooting by allowing filmmakers to see the pace, shot composition, and overall flow of a sequence.

S2F2 provided an invaluable educational platform this year, allowing students to learn how a feature film was produced from scratch. One of the featured speakers was Emmanuel Benbihy, the producer of “Paris, Je t’aime, an anthology film with an incredible cast of international stars and acclaimed directors including the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, and many more. Benbihy shared his humble beginnings on how he raised funds for his film and talked about the initial difficulties in contacting potential directors and actors for his project.

“You have a thousand hurdles to overcome when you make a movie and the moment you stop believing in yourself, the film is dead,” says Emmanuel, who took nearly six years to overcome tremendous adversities to successfully produce his sensational film, “Paris, Je t’aime,” and the subsequent film, “New York I Love You. “Stay positive and never be discouraged and you’ll go somewhere,” exclaims Benbihy!

At the end of the night when the top student films were shown on the big screen, everyone was impressed. The standard and quality of the films truly inspired all teachers and judges. “These films are brilliant and so surprising and fresh,” says Dan Maslen. “The way these kids were able to capture love and joy in their films and seeing how they approach the world, it’s really fascinating.”

Some of the outstanding student films included “Touchscreen Tommy,” a film about technology and social media, created by Tommy Lynch, grade 7th at Concordia. His film won Best Video Art and Best Film in the Middle School division. “I got a better perspective living here in Shanghai. It’s more international and the teachers here are great. They inspire you,” says Tommy.

Many of the winning films shared an international theme that centered on identity search and self-discovery in Shanghai. This international theme was also spotted in the film, “The Other Side,” which talked about an upper middle class teenager who suddenly experienced a more humble lifestyle in rural China and ultimately learned to appreciate her more fortunate lifestyle.

“Living in the expat bubble in Shanghai, sometimes we forget how fortunate we are, so I wanted to show the audience that often we don’t need materialistic things to be happy,” says Madison Boll, Grade 8 student from Concordia whose film “The Other Side” won best narrative film in the Middle School division. Boll’s parents were at the awards ceremony and her mother shared her view on how filmmaking changed her daughter. “She has a real empathy for the world around her and films definitely allowed her to express herself,” says Lori Boll. “We just want the kids to explore their passion by being as supportive as we can!”

Please visit http://shanghaifilmfest.org/awards.html for a complete list of all winning films from the 2012 Shanghai Student Film Festival.


By Richard Chung


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  1. Michael
    May 10th, 2012 at 10:40 | #1

    Thanks for the article. Be ready for 2013 Shanghai Student Film Festival at Concordia International School Shanghai. This will happen May 3-4.

  2. May 10th, 2012 at 10:48 | #2

    Thanks Michael!
    We will be there!!


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