Annual Paly film festival to showcase student work

Emma Jiang and Ryan Wisowaty

The Performing Arts Center of Palo Alto High School stands ready to host the annual Paly Film Festival. The festival showcases the works of Paly’s filmmakers and graphic designers in a unique venue while also highlighting the often-challenging work of media arts. “Filmmaking and graphic design and animation are not easy subjects,” said Brett Griffith, Paly video production and graphic design teacher, and sponsor of the event. “They’re ones you really have to put passion into and they’ll test patience, test your ability to work with others, and test all of your modalities, how you see, how you hear, how you organize.” Photo: Ryan Wisowaty

Students of the filmmaking and graphic design programs of Palo Alto High School will debut their work in the annual Paly Film Festival on Friday evening in the Performing Arts Center.

Shying away from more traditional end-of-the-year showcases of student accomplishments, the festival displays student works amid the grandeur of the PAC. Almost as an homage to the era of gilded theaters and old-school film, the festival, which runs from 7-9 p.m., is designed to offer a refreshing experience in a rapidly-modernizing world of film, according to Brett Griffith, Paly video production teacher, and the festival’s sponsor.

“To see movies historically and in a way that we all experience them as a community in a theater is a really different experience than we’re starting to get a lot of now,” Griffith said. “A lot of times it’s on our phones, or at home, or on an airplane, with maybe ourselves alone or one or two people. There is something very different when you experience it in a community.”

The emotions that filmmakers try to convey are amplified when their films are experienced as a group. Filmmakers create their works with that in mind, said junior Max Rosenblum, whose film “Blooming Spirit” was recently awarded the nationally-recognized Scholastic Gold Key.

“I think nowadays the home viewing environment is definitely better, but most people make movies with the intention of it being shown as big and as loud as possible, and also there’s the audience experience,” Rosenblum said. “You don’t laugh as hard when you watch something alone as you do when you’re watching it as a group.”

Graphic design students created posters to accompany the films. They were assigned to groups and a random film, and were expected to pull aspects of the film into a graphic created in Adobe Photoshop, Griffith said.

“Graphic design touches hugely on digital culture and new media, inner media, multimedia,” Griffith said. “Media arts encompass a lot of these things, so to try to reach out and be inclusive, I want to do that.”

Animations created by graphic design students are featured alongside the films. According to Griffith, all elements in the animations are designed by the students, from the characters to environments, to gear and items, following rigorous work in Adobe Illustrator and After Effects throughout the school year.

“My goal, ultimately, with this class, is to open the door to the many different types of digital art that we have,” Griffith said. “There’s a variety of careers with that, here in Silicon Valley especially.”

The festival began in 2014 and has since become an annual Paly media arts tradition. Showcasing selected works ranging from newer students to veteran Paly filmmakers and graphic designers, the festival offers an opportunity for students to learn and grow.

“You might see a new idea, you might connect ideas, you may model good ideas and learn from those,” Griffith said.

While the films, posters, and animations are based on a broad range of topics, their stories are as genuine as it gets. The festival is a forum to experience the pulse of Paly students and share in these unique insights.

“When young people our age are making stuff, you can see a lot more personality, a lot more raw vision in it, even if it’s not as technically polished as what people make when they are more experienced,” Rosenblum said. “There’s a lot of creativity there and I think you see this a lot in this festival, there’s a lot of very unique and very creative concepts that you watch.”

All of the films shown at the festival will be available to view after the event here.