Young filmmakers bring taste of Cannes to Sydney

Popcorn and laughter filled six cinemas for the launch of the 2023 Film By student film festivals. Alyssa Terese reports.

Students standing in a photo frame. Students standing in a photo frame.
Image: Archie, Luke, Ben and Daisy from Jannali East Public School at the Film By the Sea premiere.

Students from 30 public schools across Sydney watched became stars of the silver screen at this year’s Film By the Sea and Film By the City festivals.

The red-carpet events at Event Cinemas Miranda and George Street on 23 October featured 43 student-made films premiering across six cinemas.

Film By is supported by the NSW Department of Education’s Arts Unit and exhibits the achievements of student filmmakers from Kindergarten to Year 12 at local cinemas as part of a series of festivals across the state.

Grays Point Public School Principal, Narelle Betts-Smith, has been coordinating Film By the Sea for the past six years.

She said the growth of the festival among Sutherland Shire public schools had been exponential, with 22 primary student-made films submitted and audiences scrambling for tickets.

“We initially sold out two 400-seat V-max cinemas in five minutes, and then we had to open up two more cinemas to keep up with demand,” Ms Betts-Smith said.

“When the festival started 13 years ago, the films were just shown in school halls.

“We then branched out to the Sutherland Shire Entertainment Centre before coming to Event Cinemas, where we have grown from two to four sold-out cinemas, welcoming a crowd of 1200 people.”

Festival standouts included Jannali East Public School, which entered six films, while Grays Point Public and Caringbah Public each submitted three films.

Sutherland Public School coordinator, Ellie Wilson, said her school used Film By the Sea as an enrichment opportunity for Year 6 students and the teachers involved.

“It was really fantastic seeing the kids get excited and passionate about the arts and drama and the end result was just phenomenal,” she said.

“The professional learning and skill development offered by the Arts Unit was fantastic and I would absolutely like to be involved again next year.

“Seeing the students’ faces when their film was on the big screen made all the effort worth it.”

Two men standing in front of a media wall. Two men standing in front of a media wall.
Image: Brian, star of the Newtown High School of Performing Arts film ‘Mocha Madness’, with Film By the City lead, John Skene.

The metropolitan schools festival, Film by The City, celebrated its third year with matinee and evening showings of 21 films made by students from Kindergarten to Year 10 before a combined audience of 800 people.

This year saw the amalgamation of Film By the City and Film By Kidz at the Ritz, a film festival previously run for Eastern suburb public school students at the Ritz Cinemas Randwick.

Film By the City lead and Marrickville West Public School Assistant Principal Special Education, John Skene, said the film festival merger was box office gold.

“It’s created a juggernaut of a festival for the Inner City, Inner West, Eastern Suburbs, North Shore and beyond to make it more inclusive for students,” he said.

“Sharing the joy of filmmaking across the Department and engaging students and teachers to work alongside each other to create something phenomenal is a great experience.

“We in schools are in the memory-making business and Film By gives students the opportunity to be a part of something they will remember for a lifetime.”

Marrickville West Public School entered two films into this year’s festival – a stop-motion animation, ‘Four Seasons’, and breaking news-style report, ‘Inner West Insights’.

Both films involved 22 students from the school’s support class, including those with autism and moderate intellectual disabilities.

“The students absolutely loved being involved and would ask me non-stop during the process, ‘when’s it my turn to film?’” Mr Skene said.

“I’d show the students edits and drafts along the way and the big smiles, laughter and glee on their faces that came from seeing themselves on the TV was priceless.”

In celebration of standout film ‘Inner West Insights’, Mr Skene posed on the George Street red carpet in a standout bright green suit that that he joked “reflected the green screen skills” he had learned.

Kensington Public School Kindergarten student and budding film star, Mya, was excited to see her face on the big screen and said, “I feel like a real movie star”.

Mya’s parents were just as excited and were happy to hear that all ‘Film By’ films will go online in December so they can be shared with extended family and friends.

Director of the Bondi Principals’ Network, Paul Owens, praised the Film By program for the way it empowered students and developed partnerships between schools and their communities.

“Film By encourages students with a natural aptitude for learning and creativity to explore and express themselves in diverse ways and is a source of joy for students, educators and parents alike,” Dr Owens said.

Coming soon – Film By festivals

  • Film By the Vines – 8 November, Cessnock Performing Arts Centre
  • Film by the Eucalypts – 9 November, Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub
  • Film by the Pastures – 13 November, online
  • Film by the Northern Rivers – November TBA
  • Film by the Hospital – 12 December, online
  • Film By Online – 12 December, online

Selected outstanding films from all the Film By festivals will feature at the Film By Invitation film festival on 14 November 2023 at the Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, produced by the Department’s Arts Unit.

Film By Invitation is supported by RØDE, the Australian Film and Radio School, Compnow, Digi Ed and Videocraft Australia.

Students standing in front of a media wall. Students standing in front of a media wall.
Image: Students walked the red carpet at the Film By premiere events.
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