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Citywide Middle School Film Festival Launches

April 1, 2009 - The Middle School Film Festival, a citywide writing, directing, and producing competition open to every seventh- and eighth-grade student enrolled in public school, has recently launched. Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, New York Film Academy President Jerry Sherlock, and Best Buy Director of Community Relations Jeffrey Peterson joined together to announce the initiative that will see selected participants chosen to produce their films in summer workshops with the New York Film Academy, which is sponsoring the Film Festival. The workshop program will culminate at a red carpet film screening in the fall.

The Middle School Film Festival is one component of the Department of Education's Campaign for Middle School Success, a multi-year plan to improve academic performance among middle school students across the City. The theme of this year's festival is "My Life, My Lens," which is designed to guide students as they develop a film from the first seed of an idea through to a finished product. Students will not only learn the techniques required to become proficient in the film medium – first on paper, then with a camera – but will also be provided with a unique opportunity for using this medium as a platform for sharing stories from their own lives.

"In no other city are students more talented, more inventive, or more technically-savvy than in New York," Chancellor Klein said. "I've already reserved front-row seats for the fall screening. Sundance, watch out."

"Film is the literature of the 21st century," New York Film Academy President Jerry Sherlock said. "I know the children of New York City have a lot of stories to tell-stories that I want to see and hear. I can't imagine a better way than the contemporary language of film for them to express their ideas. The New York Film Academy is thrilled to be a part of this educational effort."

"Best Buy is proud to support the Middle School Film Festival, an innovative program nurturing the talents of young people and supporting their creative expression," said Jeffrey Peterson, Best Buy Director of Community Relations. "This aligns well with Best Buy's @15 social-change platform, an effort to connect with teens and give voice to their perspectives."

"With the Middle School Film Festival, we're combining the best of both worlds," Deputy Chancellor Marcia V. Lyles said. "The opportunity to produce a movie will be a rewarding experience for many middle-schoolers, but it also promises to be a valuable learning experience.

Students will get hands-on experience in writing, camera-work, and editing; they'll learn to solve problems and work in teams; and they'll see a major creative project through from beginning to end. That we'll be able to offer this opportunity to so many students is truly thrilling."

"New York City has so much to offer these enterprising students," said Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. "As they come up with ideas for their films, I hope each and every student finds inspiration in the diverse people and amazing locations that make this City so great. This program is an ideal way to help develop the next generation of homegrown filmmakers."

"We created the Middle School Film Festival mindful that students can become empowered by exploring their own life and their own story," Chief Academic Officer Sabrina Hope King said. "This is a critical piece of adolescent development. We also view the Middle School Film Festival as an opportunity to share the work of our students with families across the City. We're grateful to Best Buy @15 and the New York Film Academy for helping to make this program a reality."

The Middle School Film Festival is being sponsored and produced through a donation from the New York Film Academy. This spring, the Film Academy will meet with middle school educators across the city to help them work with their students to develop polished film stories. The Film Academy will also host 250 student finalists at a two-week summer camp, where, using state-of-the-art equipment, professional film instructors will work with students to bring their visions to life. The Middle School Film Festival is also being funded through a donation from Best Buy @15, a partner of the Department of Education and a national supporter of film education.

Over the next month, the New York Film Academy will work with middle school educators interested in helping their students to develop and submit film stories for the competition. A panel of judges will read the submissions and select 250 finalists, who will attend the New York Film Academy summer camp and work together to develop their own short films. Winning films will be shown at a red carpet screening in the fall.

Applications for participating in the film festival are due on April 22. Interested students, parents, and teachers can find more details at

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