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Screen Film Fest Turns Ten Years Old

January 17, 2017 | by pacifica





In 2007, a new Pacifica Arts production was born. Not unlike all newborns, it was small and a little messy, loud and a bit unpredictable.  But its creators were proud parents, and hoped that someday it would grow up.  That idea has grown into a 10 year old Screen Student Film Festival.  Its character is emerging as a strong voice in the Los Angeles high school film community, and Pacifica is excited to celebrate its birthday this February 24 & 25, 2017 at the AERO Theater in Santa Monica.

When Screen first began it was a two-school event, whose highlight besides home grown student films, included a popcorn machine and folding chairs in a gym.  This year’s ten year old Screen looks more like the real deal.  Returning for the fifth time to the historic Aero Theater in Santa Monica, the 2017 film festival now hosts films from the best high school film programs in all of California.  Receiving a record 290 submissions to date, the students of Digital Production have a very busy January preparing for the event.

Says alum Amber Berck, Screen ’13 and ’14 Student Producer, “I remember the move from our auditorium to the Aero. Every year we were just hoping we could find enough great films to fill our program.  It was stressful, but such a great experience seeing the kinds of films that our peers were producing.” That is no longer the issue for the Pacifica student producers, who now worry having enough time to spend on the hundreds of submissions they now receive, in order to make sure they are choosing only the best of the best.

“Screen has always been, since the beginning, about empowering our film students with experiences that are applicable to the real film world,” says Director of the Arts Michael Balsley. “We want them to be students of the art, to learn how to communicate and collaborate with their peers, and how to raise their own voices in a very crowded room.  Film schools are looking not for technicians, but for creative voices that have something to say.”

Current Pacifica Film Instructor and Screen Faculty Producer Regina Hoffman has a whole new level of expectation for how the festival reflects the growing program.  “Every year, the Screen festival has grown in some important way.  From the quality of speakers we have attracted, to the shift in venue, to the quality and quantity of films- I am proud that for such a small school we have created such a diverse and impressive festival experience. No one else Pacifica’s size is doing what we are doing. For both our students and our audience, they really are experiencing something special.”

Mrs. Hoffman knows a little something about establishing higher expectations. Since taking over the film program from Mr. Balsley in 2014, her students have created films that routinely have won Fan Favorite awards at Screen, as well as been accepted at national high school film festivals.  Her students’ films were accepted to the prestigious All American High School Film Festival in New York City, with Elizabeth Hook taking the Female Rising Star Award in 2016.

Additionally, Mrs. Hoffman has overseen the expansion of Screen to include a Saturday Documentary Festival. Says Mrs. Hoffman, “Documentary filmmaking is a big deal these days, with the emergence of Netflix and Amazon programming. We have always received so many quality documentaries over the years.  The Saturday festival has allowed these submissions to stand-alone.  We were so honored to have Michael Apted as our keynote speaker to kick off our first Doc Fest last year, and this year’s submissions are impressive.”

Besides the high level of homegrown moviemakers, Screen routinely hosts spectacular films from other programs.  From Harvard Westlake, Orange County School of the Arts, Providence High School, or any of the arts high schools from LA, San Francisco, or San Diego- Screen sees them all.

“What is special about this experience is the sheer number of submissions our festival receives,” adds Mr. Balsley. “You cannot help but grow as an artist as you watch- critically- the work of your peers.  It sets the bar very high, and I think that is one reason why our own films have been able to improve year to year.  Our leading filmmakers, from Simon Packman in 2012 to Curtis Henderson and Amber Berck in 2014, to Molly Mars in 2015, to Ciani Walker, Liz Hook, and Emery Gomez in 2016- they keep getting better! It’s a pleasure for me to have worked with every film student we have ever had at Pacifica, in some way. From our first film teacher and Screen founder Mr. Knight, to me, all the way to Mrs. Hoffman, the film program at Pacifica has always had vision and high expectations.”


The Festival also has featured an impressive array of speakers, from every corner of the film industry. (For a complete list of the Screen Film Festival Speakers and their bios, see below.)

Tickets to the Screen Film Festival are available, starting February 1st.  They are FREE to the public and student body, but once they are reserved, they are gone.  Go to our SCREEN Facebook page for the latest information and a link to reserve your tickets starting February 1, 2017.



SCREEN Speakers Thru the Years

2011 – Jeb Brody, Creative Producer, Focus Features Little Miss Sunshine, Source Code 

2012- Jon Hutman, Production Designer Its Complicated, Unbroken

2012- Deb Bergman, Sony Pictures Spiderman

2012- Joe Russo, Producer / Director Captain America: Civil War, Captain America

2013- Scott Boland, Casting Director The Lord of the Rings, Flight

2013- Timothy Good, Editor Dead Man Down, Gossip Girl

2014- Ed Solomon, Writer/Producer/Director  Now You See Me, Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Men in Black

2014- Anthony G. “Nako” Nakonechnyj, Cinematographer / Chief Lighting Tech DriveX-Men Series


2015- Steve Hickner, Director The Bee Movie

2015- Spencer Locke, Actress Resident Evil, Cougar Town

2015- Hank Steinberg, Executive Producer / Creator / Writer The Last Ship, Without a Trace 

2016- Ayanna Floyd, Writer/Producer Empire, Private Practice

2016 – Michael Apted, Feature Film & Documentary Director / Exec Producer Up (Series), The World is Not Enough