Sunrise Rotary boosts Westport youth film programs

Westport Sunrise Rotary members, from left, Dennis Wong and Nancy von Euler present a check to Westport Youth Film Festival Director Matt Kalmas and WYFF Program Director Kate Lupo.
Westport Sunrise Rotary members, from left, Dennis Wong and Nancy von Euler present a check to Westport Youth Film Festival Director Matt Kalmas and WYFF Program Director Kate Lupo.Contributed Photo

Silk-screened t-shirts, a field trip and an award will be funded by a $6,000 grant from the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club.

The Westport Youth Film Festival and "The Art of Filmmaking," two programs of the Westport Arts Center, received the grant from the club's "Rising Young Voices" program, which provides financial support to youth organizations that promote diversity among their members.

"It is very exciting and very beneficial to us," said Jonathan Naar, the film festival's deputy alumni relations director. "We hope that in the future we can strengthen this relationship even more."

The teen-driven film festival is held each spring and showcases high school student films in a professional setting, and provides panel discussions, professional development opportunities and filmmaker roundtables.

Since its inception in 2003, the film festival has showcased more than 600 high school student films and received more than 2,000 submissions from around the world.

"The Art of Filmmaking," which shares the grant, is a 35-week curriculum where 32 high school students from the Bridge Academy learn to write, edit and shoot their own films.

The grant money will be used to fund a collaborative program between Bridgeport, Weston and Westport high school students who will work with musician and mixed-media artist Dylan Cotton to produce film-themed, silk-screened t-shirts. The shirts will be sold at sites around Westport.

The money will also be used to pay for a field trip to a local film festival for WYFF students, as well as support the creation of a Sunrise Rotary-sponsored Social Action Award. The award will be given to a film at the festival that effectively addresses a critical local issue and inspires viewers to take action.

"Sunrise Rotary's `Rising Young Voices' program is committed to supporting students as they make their way into community and international service," said Dennis Wong, a WYFF Advisory Committee mentor and Rotary Club member. "Advocating diversity and the inclusion of other schools is what we are looking for ... it really helps a lot."