Students show their talents on the big screen at ArtsQuest filmmaker festival
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — A group of Bethlehem-area student filmmakers helped kick off the 2023 Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival on Saturday at the ArtsQuest Center.
Two dozen students from the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts showed off their writing, editing, special effects and cinematography skills in a series of short films.
The 90-minute student showcase was the first event of this year’s film festival.
- The first event of the 2023 Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival showcased work from students at Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts
- The festival will continue Sunday after expanding to two days this year
- The charter school is set to hold an event on May 9 at Becky’s Drive-In in Berlinsville to show more than 40 films made by its students
Three forms of filmmaking were on display Saturday.
Six high school freshmen debuted their “cine-roman” films, which feature still images and narration; seven juniors aired one-shot films that feature no cuts; and 11 seniors premiered their final film projects.
Many of the films made the audience break out in laughter, while some were fear-inducing and others were deeply personal works of art.
‘Go crazy with it’
The charter high school has showcased students’ work at the Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaking Festival for the past four years, and every year, “we get a little better,” Heath Mensher said.
Mensher is the film and screenwriting instructor at Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts. He worked with the 24 students who showed their films Saturday.
The showcase “is the culmination of years’ worth of projects” for the students, Mensher said.
“The first year we did this, I actually got choked up to see the kids be so excited to have their films” on the big screen.ArtsQuest programming manager Anthony DeSanctis
An “overwhelming majority” of students in the 2023 showcase think of themselves as writers and poets, but filmmaking offers them “different limitations” and challenges, he said.
“What's amazing is, we teach them to take that talent of writing and poetry and bring it into a visual medium, and they get to kind of go crazy with it,” he said.
Mensher said for him, the best part of the showcase is watching students’ “reactions as they listen to applause.”
“They’re writers, they’re literary artists, so they are not used to applause,” Mensher said. “They’re not used to people really enjoying their stuff.”
A team of teachers and instructors watched 45 student-submitted films — more than three hours of content — before selecting 24 for the student showcase at ArtsQuest, Mensher said.
Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts is set to hold an in-school film festival in May for all 45 films, Mensher said. The films also will be shown May 9 at Becky’s Drive-In in Walnutport.
‘A lot of incredible talent’
The previous four editions of the Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival have started with a student showcase, according to ArtsQuest Programming Manager Anthony DeSanctis, who said he hopes that tradition continues “forever.”
“The first year we did this, I actually got choked up to see the kids be so excited to have their films” on the big screen, DeSanctis said. “It was a great moment, and that's why we're going to do this forever.”
The filmmaker festival expanded to two days this year after the 2022 festival had a “great turnout,” DeSanctis said. He said he hopes to eventually add a third day of film screenings, panel discussions and events for filmmakers.
The festival is meant to serve as a resource for local filmmakers and a venue for them to connect and celebrate each other’s work, DeSanctis said.
There is “a lot of incredible talent” in Lehigh Valley’s filmmaking community, and local filmmakers are “very supportive” of each other, he said.
The 2023 Greater Lehigh Valley Filmmaker Festival continues Sunday. The second day of the festival will include an adjudicated film block and a discussion about the theater-going experience and the current state of the film industry, DeSanctis said.