All-American High School Film Festival educates, inspires New Trier students


Winnetka, Ill. - Aspiring New Trier filmmakers got a taste of what their work could look like on the big screen after a weekend at the All-American High School Film Festival in New York City.

A group of seven students attended the festival Oct. 7-9 and left feeling motivated and inspired.

"The quality of films that we saw blew our minds," Film Teacher Iwona Awlasewicz said about the three-day event, the largest high school film festival in the country.

New Trier's films were not screened at the festival after the maximum amount of submissions were accepted, but the first-time festgoers enjoyed days of workshops, panel discussions, other screenings, musical acts and field trips.

Day trips included a visit to the 1910 Century Theatre in Brooklyn, where they walked a red carpet and toured the stage theater. But most of the action occurred at the AMC Theatre in Times Square, where all the films were screened.

"They started screenings at 10 a.m., and I had a hard time peeling the students away at 11 p.m.," Awlasewicz said.

Upon viewing their peers' short films, the New Trier students learned they have all the necessary equipment to technically deliver a proficient film, Awlasewicz said, but their storylines could use more development.

"All the films that we liked had really convincing stories," she said. "We learned it's all about the story - if the story doesn't work on paper, it will not work on screen."

The group also attended a workshop about the nine steps of storytelling - the same approach taught by Awlasewicz in Winnetka - to learn more about what they can do back at home.

The All-American High School Film Festival was capped with an awards ceremony called the Teen Indie Awards, with a program similar to the Oscars.

"Now that the dust has settled from the weekend, it's become clear on what it will take to receive an award in each category," Awlasewicz said. "We are going to submit as soon as possible next year."