Young filmmakers got the red carpet treatment at the Harquail Theatre on Saturday as students vied for a one-week film scholarship at the New York Film Academy.
Eight Young Image Makers finalists showcased their work on the big screen, representing months of trial and error through the filmmaking process.
The students, ages 10-17, expressed nerves and excitement as they passed from interview to interview to discuss their creative work.
While only two students were selected to continue on to New York, all demonstrated an ongoing interest in film, inspired by their experience with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation program.
Both junior category winner Sahil Jyoti, 12, and senior winner Aiden Hew, 14, described plans for future projects.
Aiden says he already has an idea for a film project for this summer. His award-winning short, “Homecoming,” presented an old Caymanian love story based on his grandfather’s seafaring experience.
He encourages other young people to get involved in filmmaking.
“Do as much as you can. The more you do, the more you’ll get recognized,” he says.
Sahil says the experience allowed him to explore the behind-the-scenes work that goes into popular YouTube and TV videos.
Along with 45 other students, he joined a Cayman National Cultural Foundation workshop in April, the first leg of the film competition, which provided him an outlet to dig deeper into his budding interest.
“I started thinking about, ‘What’s the story behind these films that are on YouTube and TV every day?’ I started searching but still didn’t know much. When I went to this workshop, I was really happy,” he says.
“We had three instructors (at the workshop) who knew everything about film. Even if you weren’t interested in film [before], this really got you hooked.”
His winning film told the story of a troubled young man who was saved by the kindness of a doctor.
“The people in my group were so talented so it was a mystery until the end who was going to win. I just feel so proud and lucky to be selected as the best among those talented individuals,” he says.
Winners will travel to New York City in August where they will have the chance to further improve their skill set at the New York Film Academy. Other prizes included passes to this week’s CayFilm, complimentary CayFilm workshops, and gift certificates for Red Sail Sports, Subway and Regal Cinemas.
The months-long Cayman National Cultural Foundation initiative began with a student workshop over Easter break that guided participants from film planning to production, explains Erin Bodden, the cultural foundation’s marketing and development coordinator.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them. Not only [did] they get to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking but they also got to execute an actual film that they get to keep in their portfolio, share with friends and family, on YouTube and develop a little bit of a name for themselves,” she says.
“If it’s something they wish to pursue, they can now learn from the mistakes that they’ve made and improve going forward.”
Workshop enrollment doubled this year, indicating a growing interest in filmmaking among Caymanian youth, Bodden adds. Inspired by the popularity of online videos, young people see a future in film.
“We’re really excited about the program, about the achievements of these students and their future, because it’s bright,” she says.
The students’ films can be viewed on the Cayman National Cultural Foundation YouTube channel.