Before the Judges

Chris Ankney, a New Smyrna Beach High School student, getsg ready to "pitch" his film to the judging panel of The Hub on Canal's second annual Student Film Festival.

Nearly a dozen high school students from around Volusia County sat quietly in the loft at The Hub on Canal in New Smyrna Beach Feb. 17, waiting their turn to be interviewed by some pretty big names in the film industry.

The occasion was the second annual Student Film Festival and these were the finalists, waiting to “pitch” their films to the judges.

Students from 10 Volusia County high schools, participating in Digital Video Production and Digital Multi-Media Design programs, had the opportunity to create film and movie poster entries for the festival. Film entries had to be between 3-5 minutes long. Film posters had to reflect collaboration with the student film producer.

Separate panels of professionals judged films and movie posters. As part of The Hub’s support, four local film industry leaders came to The Hub in January for a roundtable discussion with students and parents on film making.

The young producers had two minutes Feb. 17 to provide an overview of their films and to answer any judge’s questions. Categories included documentary, comedy, drama and other genre. There were many inspirations for the films.

Chris Ankney of New Smyrna Beach High School selected the subject for his film, “Learning in a Different Point of View,” based on inspiration from his parents and from a documentary called “Life Animated,” where the student was autistic. Mr. Ankney is autistic, too, and said, “We use movies to communicate with our surroundings and reality.”

Travis Sherwood, another New Smyrna Beach student, said he chose his subject, “Deadline,” on “Trying to do something personal, based on my own experiences.”

Conner Boyd, a Deland High School student, entitled his film “The Monster,” and says the movie “Jaws” inspired his film, because “You never see the monster for a while; you use your imagination.”

Mikayla Houston of Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange named her film “Hi, I’m Jordan,” and said the film is symbolic. “Everything is bland until they meet Jordan.”

John Quinones of Deltona High School entitled his film “Legend of the Kameratokage,” taking inspiration from old Japanese monster films.

Kayla Goncalvez, another Deltona student, entitled her film “Reality,” basing it around psychology disorders.

Danielle George, a determined New Smyrna Beach student, called her film “Do It.” She said, “I wanted to tell a story about someone who has trouble moving on and accepting bad things that happened in their life.”

Dr. Vicki White, director of Grants, Educational Outreach and Marketing at The Hub, said, “The festival resulted from a desire to provide a voice for teenagers and provide another avenue for the community to experience the arts.”

She said they collaborated with Volusia County Schools to develop a film festival that would support high school students and connect students with experienced film professionals, providing them with hands-on information about technical and career aspects of film.

The judging panel supports that endeavor.

Film judges included Rusty Burrell with over 30 years in the motion picture industry, past national vice president of the International Cinematographers Guild and current regional director of the guild. Peter Henning has covered numerous Olympic games and, in 2000, became senior vice president of television for the World Triathalon Corp. He has been nominated for 38 Emmy award, winning 18. Lou Iacoviello is an actor, writer and director, most recognized for portraying detectives and criminals on television. Heath Jones is an award-winning filmmaker, having produced, written and directed three feature films. He owns 2050eSports, an emerging eSports company. Alexa Sheehan has over 20 years’ experience as an assistant director and producer in Los Angeles. Jamieson Stern is another Los Angeles filmmaker and a New Smyrna Beach resident. Hector Valle is a professional instructional technologist and eLearning/media expert with over 14 years’ experience.

Movie poster judges included Mary Gerlach, teaching for over 30 years, most recently at Daytona State College in the Visual Arts Department. Allison Kline is a graphic designer and jewelry artist at Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach. Stacey Reynolds is assistant professor of painting and drawing at DSC with 25 years of professional art experience. Emily Steele is a graphic designer in New York and brings her experience “back to her roots” as a New Smyrna Beach High School graduate.

The Hub staff emphasized it is the experience and the excitement of participating that students will remember.

Richard England, HUB president, said, “The goal of The Hub on Canal Student Film Festival is to provide teenaged students with an opportunity to express themselves through film and digital art, to learn from industry and community professionals, and to experience the joy of sharing their creation in a community event, regardless of whether they win a prize.”

There will be a public screening of the finalists’ films at The Hub from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25. This event is free and open to the public.     

All of the student finalists “pitching” their films Feb. 17 are invited to attend an awards ceremony March 1, which will look something like an academy awards ceremony, complete with red carpet.

For more information, call (386) 689-6870 or email

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.