BBA student filmmakers screen work

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MANCHESTER — On the big screen of the Village Picture Shows, you'd be hard pressed to distinguish professional films from those created by students in Burr and Burton Academy's cinematography program.

According to festival organizer Philip Gilpin Jr., opening the Independent Television and Film Festival (ITVFest) with a screening of student films has been a long standing tradition — elevated by the high-quality productions crafted by local students.

On Wednesday afternoon, those students got to see their productions projected at Manchester's movie theater for festival attendees.

"We always open the festival on the first day with the student film screening block, and BBA has a tremendous visual arts program," said Gilpin. "If you haven't been up there, it's like the dock of a spaceship from the future when you go into that editing room."

The films aren't just the result of high-tech equipment, however, as the students themselves are of an astounding caliber according to cinematography teacher Bill Muench.

"We got connected with ITVFest because Philip approached us to let us know this was happening in town, and since we have the cinema program it was an obvious match," said Muench. "When he came to the Gawlik Awards [Burr and Burton's own Academy Awards] he was so impressed that he wanted to make sure these films were featured at the festival."

"There probably isn't another program like this in the United States, at least that I'm aware of," said BBA's acting Head of School Meg Kenny. "I'm always blown away by what they produce, how creative they are, the storytelling, the acting, the editing -- it's outrageous."

The screening opened up with "Flaws," a short film produced by Brattleboro student Miles Anton, followed by a 20 minute compilation of highlights from films submitted for the Gawlik Awards this past May.

"Every film that we do is short, 30 seconds to a minute, but you're looking at something that kids spent four or five weeks on," said Muench. "We're showing PSA's, commercials, TV show openings, sketch comedy, serious films, and music videos. It's pretty impressive stuff."

For the students, the screening provides some "real-world" experience in the industry, and provides valuable exposure and feedback.

"The Gawlik's have always been awesome, but to be put on the same level with HBO and Viacom, just huge production companies, we can show that we're an incredible high school organization," said cinematography student Henry Kornaros, a senior who is already producing content for companies like Puma and Under Armour. "We create really great films, and we're really trying to push the bar."

"Everybody that's in the films are all from BBA," said senior Spencer Fowler, who aspires to be a director. "They're all student produced, 100 percent."Burr and Burton students are not only screening their work, but also volunteering behind the scenes throughout the festival. Still, those less glamorous experiences provide valuable context for students.

"There are some kids that just want to give every minute that they possibly can to it, particularly if they're interested in working in the industry, to see behind the scenes what it is," said Kenny. "This festival has been really fabulous for them."

"To actually be here, going from washing windows to having to look nice for a VIP event tomorrow night, is crazy; but I have to get used to it because the industry is exactly like that," said student Izzy Shapero. "Even the films that you just saw, in one of them I was the director, in another the lead actor, and for another film I wrote."

Those experiences go to the heart of ITVFest says Gilpin, who is committed to providing a pathway for young content creators to enter the often intimidating industry.

"Encouraging students to continue to make projects is really what the festival is all about," said Gilpin. "It's really important that we have everybody in town realize that you can now with ITVFest in town go straight from being a student in the area to having your shows screened at a professional festival without having to move to L.A. or Hollywood or New York after you graduate."

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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