Festival hopes filmmakers ‘phone in’ submissions

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Students, consider this your chance to take more than a selfie.

The Western Smartphone Film Festival (WSFF), coming in January, is the brainchild of a group of second-year students who are encouraging others in the campus community to get creative and use their phones to film and edit a short movie.

“We want students to realize you don’t need to have expensive equipment to make a video and pursue film. We want people to see all you need is some passion and a good idea,” said Amanda Viveiros, a second-year student in the Media, Theory and Production, a joint program between Western and Fanshawe College.

In its inaugural year, WSFF will be the first film competition of its kind in London, said Viveiros, who is on the executive team. Submissions are welcome from any student enrolled in a postsecondary program in Canada, though the immediate audience is local and includes Western and Fanshawe students.

The event was entirely conceived by Western students, the same group organizing and running the festival. Those same students will host the event on campus. The festival premiere and film screenings will take place on Jan. 30 in the University Community Centre, McKellar Room.

“Everyone has a cell phone now; they’re versatile and they’re easy to use. You can do whatever you want. That’s the point – we don’t want to give people guidelines; we want them to be creative and innovative using any smartphone. We just want people to get involved,” Viveiros added.

The ultimate goal is to encourage students to put a creative lens onto their phone, she continued, working with a group to produce a film no longer than five minutes. Groups are encouraged to use editing apps and software – but are limited to software they can use only on the phone.

There are a few guidelines to follow: material must be original and appropriate (nothing above a PG13 rating). No trademarks are permitted without permission in the film and subtitles must be included for non-English submissions.

Registration (which costs $15) opens Nov. 23 and will remain open until Jan. 8. Students don’t have to have a movie produced by the time they register – they don’t even have to have an idea, Viveiros said. They just have to register to indicate they plan to participate. After registration closes, organizers will release a broad theme for filmmakers to incorporate into the movie, allowing for two weeks to shoot and produce the final product.

Once submissions are in by Jan. 22, a student jury will select 10 of the top films, which will be screened at the festival on the 30th. At the festival, a panel of film industry professionals will judge the submissions, selecting the Top 3, for which there will be cash prizes. First place will take home $500. There will also be an audience choice award.

Sherren Lee, a winner at this year’s Toronto International Film festival, will be joined on the industry panel of judges by filmmaker Dale Sood and director Jordan Canning, whose short films have been screened at festivals around the globe.

General admission to the festival is free.

“Since it’s the first year, we don’t know what to expect, but we hope for 40-50 submissions. It will be great,” she said.