Teenage filmmakers and their families flooded into the Plaza Theatre for the annual festival. (Photo courtesy of DeKalb County School District.)

By Hannah E. Jones

Georgia’s film and television industry continues to grow, with productions spending $4.4 billion on 412 projects last year — a record for the Peach State. And a group of DeKalb County high school students want to be part of it.

The theme was “Running Out of Time.” (Photo courtesy of DeKalb County School District.)

Tuesday, March 21 marked the fifth annual DeKalb County Student Film Festival, held at Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre. Fittingly, the production crew for a new Marvel movie was filming right outside.

Excitement and bustle filled the air that evening, with teenage filmmakers and their families flooding into the theater. This year, 35 student films were submitted to the festival and 19 were chosen for screening. The theme was “Running Out of Time,” a line that was required to be included in each short film.

The program was organized and held in partnership with the DeKalb County School District, DeKalb Entertainment Commission and Re:Imagine

“This [event] is about letting these kids put things on paper, put things on film and show it on the big screen,” said Tom McFerrin, DeKalb County career, technical and agricultural education instructional coordinator.

Each film had to fulfill three requirements: Use the line “We’re running out of time,” incorporate a specific framed painting and include a character named Azari Binx.

The films were split into two categories — novice and advanced. Films in both categories were up for the following awards: best editing, best cinematography, best acting, best sound, best set design and best wardrobe. Guests also voted in real time for the audience choice award. One was awarded best overall.

After screening each film, the winners and runner-ups were announced. The winning movies include:

Novice films

  • Best Editing, Best Cinematography: Guise, Chamblee High School 
  • Best Acting, Best Sound: Friendship, Lakeside High School
  • Best Set Design: Wishing Well, Arabia Mountain High School 
  • Best Wardrobe: The Shattering, Columbia High School 
  • Audience Choice Award: Eye of the Beholder, Dunwoody High School

Advanced films

  • Best Editing, Best Wardrobe, Best Overall: The Brink of Hell, DeKalb School of the Arts
  • Best Cinematography, Best Set Design: Presque Vu, Lakeside High School
  • Best Acting: The Sitcom, DeKalb School of the Arts
  • Best Sound: The Real Talk, DeKalb School of the Arts
  • Audience Choice Award: A Brush With The Past, Dunwoody High School

The submissions were evaluated by four judges: 

  • Javon Johnson — actor, writer, director, producer and teacher. Johnson currently stars in Tyler Perry’s “The Oval.”
  •  Mavro Diamanti — Development Assistant at Tyler Perry Studios and writer/producer of Rockstar Brothers.
  • Harrison Ellis — Development Manager at Crazy Legs Productions and writer/director of Rockstar Brothers.
  • Neriah Kharece — cinematographer, video editor, director, writer and producer. 

After the winning groups received their awards, Johnson took the stage to share about his career and the power of a good teacher. During his senior year of high school, a teacher changed his life trajectory because she believed in him, encouraging him to apply for college and helping secure a scholarship. 

“I’m here now because of that one teacher who stopped me in the hallway,” Johnson said. “You guys are in the midst of all of these great teachers who are pouring into you in a way that I didn’t even have, but yet here I am. Just know how far you could go in your journey because you have a strong support system.” 

In the past few years, the school district has emphasized increasing opportunities for students to match Georgia’s growing film industry. Currently, there are audio, video technology and film programs in 15 DeKalb County Schools, adding four in the last four years.

“There’s no pathway into this industry. You have to get out, you have to network, you have to know people that know you. This gives kids an opportunity to show their creativity,” Shelbia Jackson, director of DeKalb Entertainment Commission, told SaportaReport. “We can expose them to the industry so that when they come out of school, they have a portfolio they can present to their college of choice or the industry itself. We’re so excited to highlight our talented students.”

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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