Have you ever had a good idea for a movie? Maybe you haven’t let your imagination wander like that in a long time. But you probably did…once upon a time…when you were a kid.
The Sconniewood Youth Film Festival, presented by the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Green Bay, is a growing community event that’s uncovering all sorts of creative talent in Northeast Wisconsin.
The fest is preparing for its second year with a daylong affair at the Meyer Theatre this month. It’s all happening as other student filmmaking programs in the area take root and take off.
Past Green Bay Kiwanis Club president, Joe Jacques, has been at the heart of organizing and raising awareness for the Sconniewood Film Festival. His own children have shown an interest in independent filmmaking, and he realized this is an art form young people are getting excited about.
“The reason why Kiwanis started the film festival in the first place is to help students learn how to create projects, to become very productive in the craft of movie-making and thereby learn management skills that would help them later in life,” Jacques explains. “We also believe that many were making films anyway, mostly on their cell phones, so this was a natural fit for the youth community and Kiwanis.”
While there are plenty of teenagers shooting goofy videos to share online, there are also kids in Green Bay who are learning from experienced filmmaking veterans.
Independent filmmaker, Alex Zacarias, has produced corporate videos, broadcast television and PBS documentaries. Now he’s leading a program within The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay that’s turning 10 to 13 year-old kids into young auteurs.
The Boys & Girls Club is able to run this program thanks to a Youth Arts Initiative grant from the Wallace Foundation. Zacarias describes it as “an experiment to find out what it takes to implement exceptionally high-level art programs in an after-school setting.”
“While learning how to make videos, the young artists are gaining life skills in a safe environment including time and project management, self-confidence, teamwork, flexibility, problem solving, communication and creativity,” he says. “It’s a rich, creative and collaborative process for both the mentors and the youth.”
One of the Youth Arts Initiative’s principles is to include student participants in public events with a real audience. Zacarias says last year’s Sconniewood Film Fest was the perfect place for his students to show off what they’d made.
The so-called “Creative Crew” from Green Bay’s Boys & Girls Club took first place in 2014 and rushed the stage inside the Meyer Theatre to celebrate their victory.
Watch the Creative Crew Win at Sconniewood 2014
“When the Boys & Girls Club kids took the top prize and were recognized as artists it was an important life lesson,” Zacarias says. “As young artists they now have a better understanding of what hard work and persistence in mastering new skills can do for them, and what they will need to do to thrive in the 21st century.”
The students involved with the Boys & Girls Club are often kids in need of a confidence boost as well as mentors and role models to help guide them in life. Now there’s another program for at-risk young people in our area that also involves filmmaking.
Wyatt and Carolyn Keuther are in the middle of launching an effort to support youth in the Wisconsin foster care system. It’s called The Production Farm, and WhooNEW first told you about it several months ago.
Since our original story, The Kuethers have left their jobs in New York’s entertainment industry and moved back to their home state of Wisconsin. The couple purchased a farm and will soon be transforming it into a production studio with the goal of using it to transform young people’s lives.
The Kuethers were a natural fit to get involved with the Sconniewood Youth Film Festival. They’ve become Kiwanis members, and The Production Farm is receiving support from the club.
The Kuethers are also supporting Sconniewood by promoting the festival and helping it grow. They’re using their connections in the entertainment world to bring in skilled specialists who will have valuable advice for participants of the 2015 festival.
“This year we have the master class and breakout sessions where local professionals and some special guests from New York will be talking and working with the student filmmakers,” Wyatt Kuether explains. “That is something that I hope can grow in future years as we get more ideas out there to the students.”
Community support for Sconniewood has also grown in 2015. Joe Jacques is very grateful for the many local businesses and individuals who’ve stepped up to donate finances as well as raffle prizes.
“You can be very proud to support an impactful effort, allowing students to go as far as they can dream while keeping their feet on the ground,” Jacques says of his sponsors.
He’s also excited about what people will witness when the festival takes place on Sunday October 25th (Green Bay Packers’ Bye week). “You will get to see raw talent at its beginning. Ideas of the younger generation, how they see the world, and a demonstration of the experiences they are having today.”
The Creative Crew from the Boys & Girls Club will be back with new film projects and new members. Zacarias says this year’s films include humor and adventure with themes involving Big Foot and pizza.
Sounds like they could be the team to beat. But you never know who could pop up among the competition. Keep in mind, Wisconsin is home to some of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
That includes Orson Welles, director of the critically-acclaimed classic Citizen Kane – among many other movies. There’s also the comedic filmmaking team of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker. Plus, former Green Bay resident, Zak Snyder is breathing new life into the stories of Superman and Batman.
So could the next Steven Spielberg premiere an early work at the 2015 Sconniewood Youth Film Festival? It’s certainly possible. Don’t miss your chance to be there from the beginning!
Tickets for the festival are on sale now. They’re just $6 for adults and $3 for students. Pick them up at Will Call inside Meyer Theater the night of the screenings.
If you have a film you’d like to submit, there may still be time to get it accepted. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about a late submission to the 2015 film festival.
Details on the 2015 Sconniewood Film Festival
- When: Sunday, October 25th at 6pm
- Where: Meyer Theatre, Downtown Green Bay
- More info: Visit Sconniewood.com to find out more
- Online: View past films on the Sconniewood YouTube Channel
- Like Sconniewood on Facebook to keep in touch
Watch the Winning Film from Sconniewood 2014!