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Germantown Academy's Film Now Festival Brings the World to Montgomery County

Germantown Academy rolled out the red carpet on Sunday, April 17, 2016 for the first-ever Film Now Festival screening and awards ceremony at The Ambler Theater. Overall, the Festival was a great success as student filmmakers, film buffs and members of the GA community came together to support up-and-coming artists from across the globe.

The star-studded affair featured nine films hand-picked by jurors Tony Pitone '87 (Narrative Juror), Cameron Yates (Documentary Filmmaker) and Natalie Difford (Experimental Juror) to be the finalists. The inaugural screening of the international high school film festival received 137 submissions, 85 of which were in consideration, from 19 countries (seven in consideration).

"I am so excited by the quality of the work submitted to the festival!" said GA's Visual Arts Department Head/Director of Innovation & Special Programs Gaby Russomagno 1760. "The sophistication of the projects from concept to execution was wholly unexpected from high school students. I have sat in juries for college programs where the work was not nearly as sophisticated. Equally impressive was the range of imaginative and weighty subject matter that gives me great heart about this generation."

The Film Now Festival was launched by GA and was born out of a passion for guiding young people to the art of filmmaking. Taking inspiration from GA's Digital Media program, alumnus Geoffrey Jackson '87 and his family offered support to create a film festival that would offer high school students from all over the globe the chance to submit original short films to be judged by a panel of industry experts.

During the screening and reception, which was emceed by actor and writer Chris Elwood, the Festival screened the nine winning films. The jury selected First ($300), Second ($200) and Third-Place ($100) winners in each category: narrative, documentary and experimental. The Jury Prize, a Padcaster Kit, which was decided by GA graduate and Padcaster Founder/CEO Josh Apter '89, was selected from the top nine films across the three categories based on skill and creativity in cinematography. The Padcaster is a patented, rugged multifunctional iPad case that transforms the iPad into an all-in-one mobile production studio. The innovative company also features another GA connection in Jon Goldberg '89, who is the current president of Padcaster.

  • CLICK HERE to see a list of winners and to watch their films!

"Our jurors did a fabulous job vetting the entries," said Russomagno. "The fact that they are filmmakers with impressive credentials of their own contributed to the excellence of the submissions. Were I a young filmmaker, I know that having my work reviewed by these jurors would be a great thrill and to have been selected by them as an award winner must be extremely validating."

Pitone, a first assistant editor at Laika Stop Motion Animation Studio, has built a 20-year career in the film industry specializing in post-production visual effects. While at Industrial Light and Magic, he worked on each of the three Star Wars prequels. For Blue Sky Studios, Pitone was the First Assistant Editor on Ice Age: Continental Drift, and now at Laika Stop Motion Animation Studio, he is currently working on Kubo and the Two Strings for an August 2016 release.

Pitone also directed and co-produced a short independent film, The Secretary, in 2007, and is in early talks with a fellow GA alum on an indie feature.

Yates is a documentary filmmaker and curator. He is the former Documentary Programmer for the Hamptons International Film Festival. He has also worked for the Sundance Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, NewFest, Albert Maysles, and Zeitgeist Films and has been a contributor to indieWIRE.

Yates' first documentary, The Canal Street Madam, premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and is distributed by Cinema Guild. He is currently working on two feature documentary films, one about a prodigy chef and his mother and the other about Mariela Castro, President Raúl's daughter, who is at the forefront of the LGBT rights movement in Cuba.

Difford designs and oversees the development of filmmakers at Cinereach. Prior to joining Cinereach, she ran the non-profit film fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures. She has extensive film experience from development to festivals including, This is That, IFP, London Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, as well as various TV productions for A&E, Comedy Central, IFC and MTV Productions.

As an independent producer, Difford was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Adam Leon's feature debut, Gimme the Loot, and is co-producing Leon's forthcoming Tramps. She also produced the interactive documentary 11/4/08. Natalie was named one of the "Jezebel 25 Amazing Women" in 2012.

Prior to founding The Padcaster, Apter founded the Manhattan Edit Workshop, an Apple, Avid, Adobe, Autodesk, Assimilate and Blackmagic Authorized Training Center that offers a variety of classes in the art and technique of film editing and production. He is also an award-winning writer, director, and editor who has worked in all areas of filmmaking.

"I couldn't be happier with the results from the first year of the Film Now Festival," said GA Assistant Director of Communications & Marketing Adam McGrath. "Meeting several of our finalists in person at the screening, seeing the joy in their faces and hearing from their proud families, validated all the hard work that went into launching this festival."

CLICK HERE to see photos from The Film Now Festival Screening & Awards Ceremony on SmugMug.

CLICK HERE to learn more about The Film Now Festival.