Katonah NY Film Festival at the Katonah Museum | Life in Katonah NY

The community will be impressed with the talent hidden within the walls of John Jay High School, say student organizers of the first annual John Jay student film festival.

But they’re not boastful. They’re serious about film. Serious about the skills they’ve acquired over the last year in Diane Nerwen’s Digital Moviemaking and Animation class. 

“This is something we’ve been working toward all year,” said Maya Felder. “We’ve all been thinking: I want to be good enough to get into this festival.”

The festival was organized by ArtsALIVE, the school district’s arts booster organization, and a student sub-committee of the organization.

The committee solicited submissions from the entire student body and received 37 films, which were juried by a panel of community members and professionals. A range of genres and subjects were considered, from documentaries to dramas and parodies, to music videos, films about skateboarding and a mockumentary about prom.

“This experience has expanded what we’ve learned—it’s become a real-world focus instead of just a class assignment,” said Sarah White, a film student and festival rganizer.

Her classmate, Connor McCune, added that it was gratifying to see his hard work “go somewhere.”

“It’s great to be able to show it to an audience,” he said.

Though some films were cut after the selection process, most of the film students had their work accepted for Saturday’s event. Emma Harckham said she made a film about people and their self-perception versus how others view them. McCune and White both made promotional videos for the film festival (one YouTube version is posted with this story.

The students were advised throughout the year-long planning process by Kelly Miller, a member of ArtsAlive, and Donna Walsh, the organization’s president. “We’ve been so lucky to have the Katonah Museum as a partner—they have hosted meetings for us and are donating the space for the event,” said Walsh.

The film students had a steep learning curve, but they said they are already looking forward to planning the second annual festival. Next year the moviemaking class has been re-worked and will be called Take Two: Film Studies and Filmmaking. It will have an interdisciplinary focus including English and art. “Students will analyze films and make nonfiction and documentary or issue-oriented films,” said Nerwen.

The evening opens with a panel discussion of film industry professionals, including:

  • Chris Wedge (an Oscar winning film director, producer, and co-founder of Blue Sky Studios www.blueskystudios.com)
  • Robert Kessler (Grammy award winning composer, sound designer, and producer/director of voice recordings at Kessler Media Productions www.kesslermedia.com)
  • Vanessa Smith (Producer, director and cinematographer for PBS, BBC, Discovery, and more www.vanessasmithfilm.com)
  • Brian Ackerman (Programming Director at Jacob Burns Film Center www.burnsfilmcenter.org)
  • Sarah Fields (documentary filmmaker, member of the Int’l Council of Advisors for the Asian University of Women, and student at Reed College). 

The panel will be moderated Nerwen, a video artist in her own right who has screened her experimental and documentary videos at film festivals and museums including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Guggenheim Museum, NY and Berlin Film Festival in Germany.

The event begins at 7 pm on Friday, May 20th, the cost is $10.Tickets must be purchased online, here. The program is spon sored by Acadia on Main in Mt. Kisco, and Rooftop Films, in Brooklyn. For more information on the festival or ArtsALIVE, contact:  Kelly Miller, kwheelermiller@hotmail.com or 914.523.9788 or, Donna Walsh, ddwalsh@optonline.net or 914.301.5424.

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