The last group of more than 15 selected student-made films featured by AETN (Arkansas Educational Television Network) through its 12th annual series, "Student Selects: A Young Filmmakers Showcase," will premiere Friday.
The wide-range genres of chosen films made by students across the state and submitted to AETN last school year started airing Sept. 8 continued on the 15th and 22nd and will conclude Oct. 6.
Student Selects is an annual event that gives future filmmakers an opportunity to submit films and video handiwork for possible broadcast on AETN, streaming on its website and screening at the Young Filmmakers Showcase and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in October, while also giving possibility to being selected from applications for scholarship awards and other film honors, according to a news release.
Films shown included comedies, family dramas, documentaries and historical films but also include ones recognized with the Thea Foundation Young Filmmaker Scholarship, Historic Arkansas Film Prizes and the Central High Desegregation 60th Anniversary Film Challenge honors.
"Oiche: The Night Sky," was submitted by Conway High School and chosen to air Sept. 22.
CHS former student Vera Lambert said "Oiche" represents a specific time in her life.
"Earlier this year I was preparing to move out of the only life I had known and dive into something brand new," she said. "I had always found comfort in the arts so I knew that I wanted to write a new story, but internalized doubt overshadowed the creativity I was trying to access."
She said she was struggling to understand who she was as a person and turned to parts of her identity that she knew, eventually learning that even things around her can change, she will always be herself and be able to draw from her own strengths.
"I wanted to share this empowerment with everyone else who might be struggling with their identity as their futures look uncertain," Lambert said.
Out of that, "Oiche" was born.
Lambert said the film follows an overwhelmed composer, played by Sidnie Thompson, who is preparing to graduate high school and open that new chapter of her life.
"She has always been at home with her music, but as she faces the intense uncertainty of her future, her ability to connect with her music slips away," she said. "Wrestling with self-doubt, she turns to the unerasable aspects of her identity to find inspiration once more."
The project, Lambert said, was small-scale with a cast and crew of only high school students including assistant director Emily Montrose, makeup designs by Phoebe Darley, "the glue" Mary Dean Johnston and composer Brent Fatherly who created the film’s original score.
Screening movies like that, AETN’s Casey Sanders said, it what makes it fun and interesting.
"You kind of tend to just kind of sit down and start watching and really [immerse] yourself in the student films," she said. "The talent in our state is amazing."
Sanders said she’s screened movies for so long that knowing they’re going to get amazing stuff is a no-brainer, which is what the program is all about.
Student Selects, she said, gives AETN the ability to showcase student-made films, supplies them with content for air that is interesting and different and gives them a way to engage with that kindergarten through 12th grade age group that they usually lose.
"The idea being that we wanted to see the work that the youngest filmmakers are doing and help support them," Sanders said. "We connect the students to opportunities."
Throughout the years, she said, there have been several films that have stayed with her and Sanders said she is looking forward to the next group of entries that will be submitted come Spring.
"The fun thing is showing these films or having people work with the films that don’t know what to expect," she said. "We have some really sophisticated student film makers and that’s what is really wonderful to show our viewers, people that come to [the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival] just how sophisticated some of these young filmmakers are."
While films can be submitted all year long, Sanders said AETN will contact schools across the state in March and give them an entry deadline for the content.
"Monte Ne," by Fayetteville High School, winner of Arkansas Historical Places Film grand prize, "History of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church," by Springdale District Television, winner of Arkansas Historic Places Film first place prize and "German Prisoners of War in Arkansas," by the Delta School, winner of the Arkansas Historic Places Film second place prize will all be shown this Friday.