MONTROSE, N.Y. – The Hendrick Hudson High School Film Festival’s 10th anniversary is less than one week away. As students titter about the arrival of MTV documentarian and alumnus Andrew Jenks, the once leaderless film club is planning the last details of the show.
Film club members say the abrupt leave of film club faculty sponsor, Tom Oliva, was shocking, but that the club came together and video editing teacher Paul LaVallee was a natural fit.
“It was tough,” Lavallee said. “Because it’s hard when you don’t know how they used to do it.” LaVallee himself produced a film about signs of teen dating abuse, after one of his students was tragically murdered by a girlfriend.
LaVallee’s new approach to the festival could be the key to its future. He said next year the festival will seek a theater for the show, possibly the Paramount in Peekskill, and that it will emphasize networking with neighboring schools to create an even bigger high school filmmaker event.
The 30-year veteran educator said he intends to submit student films into other festivals in Texas, Los Angeles and Westport, Conn. He added that the film festival can become something “kids can really dig their teeth into.”
Students also credit Jenks, the festival’s keynote speaker, for creating the festival.
Jenks’ show, “World of Jenks,” was a 30-minute, day-in-the-life style episodic documentary in the first season, where Jenks as host and narrator followed everyone from world-class poker players to up-and-coming U.K. pop stars. Jenks’ show was so successful that in the second season each episode has doubled in length, and Jenks will follow the same three characters throughout.
“All of this wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for him,” said Dan Marra, a student filmmaker who plans on attending college for filmmaking.
Lavallee said a 16-year-old Jenks managed to get James Earl Jones to attend the high school film festival.
Film club members said Lavallee has brought a raft of new ideas to the festival – red carpets, red velvet ropes and limousines – to complete the MTV celebrity effect.
About 50 students entered films into this year’s festival. Between eight and 10 films were selected. One-minute “in-betweens” introduce each of five genres, including comedy, drama, animation, documentary and music video.
“We don’t know what to expect next year, but this will continue,” LaVallee said.