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14th Annual Canyons Film Festival: Nurturing the Next Generation of Story Tellers

Virtually every U.S. household has a streaming device, and Americans spend more than three hours a day streaming digital media, or 21 hours a week. Add to that the $6.5 billion spent in 2022 on movie tickets and it’s easy to understand why the film industry is such a big draw for those looking to make a career out of movie making.

In Canyons School District, we work to provide students with opportunities to gain practical experiences in the fields they’re interested in, which is the impetus behind the District’s 14-year-old film festival. On the latest episode of the Connect Canyons podcast, we learn about how the film festival got its start and where it is now more than a decade later.

In its infancy, the Canyons Film Festival had about 10 entries and the original awards and viewing ceremony was held at a middle school. Katie Blunt and other founding members of the festival knew they could build it into something bigger. “It started out as a fun event,” Blunt says, “then you add in the academic and creative purpose of the festival, and it just grew from there.”

From less than a dozen entries in the first year, the film festival has grown to roughly 400 entries per year, with roughly 700 students participating.

“Our teachers have really taken to incorporating it into their curriculum,” says Justin Andersen, broadcasting specialist and the founder of CSDtv. “Canyons has always had a college and career focus and I feel like the film festival supports both of those. We tie in a lot of the career and technical skills needed when it comes to production and it’s an opportunity to be introduced to the different career possibilities.”

Students of all ages can compete against others in their grade level and teachers are invited to participate as well. Along with a poster contest for those who want to join the fun, but may not be into the film side of things, there are five film categories: Short Film, Documentary, Animation, Public Service Announcement, Newscast, and Teacher Film. Films are generally five minutes or less and students are able to get creative on the topics they choose to cover.

“It’s always fun when all of a sudden, we have 72 videos of the life cycle of a butterfly because a teacher turned it into a project,” says Blunt.

Blunt and Andersen agree, the films not only vary in their creativity on the screen, but in their story telling abilities, and sometimes poignant messages.

“It’s enjoyable seeing all of the stories these kids tell,” says Andersen. “From kindergarteners who are just telling a story with some Legos, to our high school students who are telling really compelling stories that blow me away. There were a few we had about distracted driving that got to me emotionally.”

Andersen recalls a documentary submitted in the festival’s 10th year, the Burrito Project, about a project to help feed those dealing with homelessness in the Salt Lake valley. Andersen says that film and others submitted on the decade anniversary of the festival, helped other students to see what a student film festival truly could be.

As the film festival has grown, so too has the awards ceremony. Every year students and families gather to watch films and find out who receives top marks for their films. Some years celebrities even give cameos and shoutouts. Attendees dress up in everything from tuxedos and dresses to sequin covered jackets as they celebrate the accomplishments of their friends and family.

This year’s film festival will be held at Alta High School’s auditorium Thursday, April 25, at 6 p.m. Some good news for those who may still want to participate, the deadline for submissions has been extended to April 12 at 5 p.m.

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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