Film Prize Junior Announces Return to In-Person Festival

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SHREVEPORT, La. — The Prize Foundation and Louisiana Film Entertainment Association will host the Film Prize Junior festival May 13-15 at the Shreveport Convention Center. It’s the first in-person version of the event since the pandemic began.

In total, 83 films have been submitted from 48 Louisiana schools, 23 of which are Title 1 schools. Student filmmakers and their supporters will watch films at the festival and online and then vote for their favorites.

New Orleans entries in the competition this year include four documentaries from students at the NET: Central City, a charter school on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard that serves young people who have had difficulty completing classes at other academic institutions. The film topics include education, post Katrina New Orleans, gun violence and immigration. 

Bonnabel Magnet High School has also participated in the competition.

“Film Prize Junior has given me the opportunity to challenge my students to not only create and produce their own ideas, but has taught them to be self-motivated, creative individuals worthy of sharing their voices with the world,” said Lindsey Lanson, a Bonnabel teacher. “It is creating our future artists. I have seen this program change lives.”

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see what these teachers and students have created,” said Gregory Kallenberg, executive director of the Prize Foundation, in a press release. “Creating film is a way for these students to learn how to work hard and get on the path to success, and we are very excited to celebrate these students in person this year.”

The Film Prize Junior program is free and open to high school and middle school students statewide. It provides mentorship and workshops to teach the process of filmmaking “from pen to production to marketing,” said a spokesperson.

The festival will feature a virtual red carpet for the student filmmakers, who will have a chance to discuss their projects. Film Prize Junior will also provide industry-led mentorship panels for students and their teachers, and Production Island, an interactive exhibit where students will have guided hands-on access to cameras as well as lighting and sound equipment. Everything’s free and there are stipends to help with travel costs. Students will compete for media and equipment grants for their schools as well as scholarships. Awards will be presented for best film, best comedy, best drama, best sci-fi/thriller, best stop motion/animation and best documentary/PSA. 

“This year represents a rebirth for Film Prize Junior,” said Shadi Darzeidan, the event’s director. “The pandemic challenged us to pivot into a virtual festival for the past two years, and it expanded our reach to parts of the state who didn’t know about us. Now we are able to offer both virtual and in-person experiences to provide a broader platform for Louisiana students to share their stories in a more meaningful way.”

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