Queens Film Festival Teaches Art Of Moviemaking On A Smartphone


A lot of elements go into making a good movie, but expensive equipment doesn’t necessarily have to be one of them.

That’s according to organizers of the Queens World Film Festival, who insists you only need two things to film like the pros: A smartphone and the training on how to use it. They’re giving the latter away for free at a pop-up film school in Jackson Heights on Sept. 15.

“You can make a very high quality piece of content, if not a full film, with your cellphone if you understand the apps out there and how to use them,” said Katha Cato, executive director of the Queens World Film Festival.

“We’re going to show people how to make short animated films and promote their content with their cellphones.”

The annual Indie film festival, which recently ranked among Film Freeway’s “Top 100 Best Reviewed Festivals,” received funds for the pop-up school from the Queens Council for the Arts in a grant designed to help would-be artists access equipment and education they couldn’t normally afford, Cato said.

She explained the pop-up school on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 82nd Street will be divided into stations that each last anywhere from two to 15 minutes.

First up will be the animation station, in which the group will bring a host of objects and toys for students to animate from their phones. Instructors will discuss the best apps to download and how to navigate them.

“We’ll talk about the concept of change and how to frame it,” Cato said.

Set up nearby will be the “Selfie Situation,” where instructors will use a giant green screen to coach wannabe filmmakers on how to frame themselves and appeal to different audiences.

“We’re talking about different ways to promote yourself and your content on different markets,” Cato said. “We look at what’s the best content to keep your followers engaged, and what sponsors are wanting to see from you.”

Amateur moviemakers will also be able to experiment with equipment on both ends of the spectrum, Cato said. One table will hold thousands of dollars in professional gear, while the other will feature an iPhone, and an iPad and a few small props to build your own scene.

The idea, Cato said, is to show young artists that a lack of money and resources doesn’t have to stand between them and their dream.

“We pride ourselves on being pretty original,” she said. “We’re always looking at how to engage the Queens filmmaking community, especially the young filmmaker who thinks, ‘I’ll never make it.'”

Cato said she was inspired to do the pop-up school after the Queens World Film Festival introduced her to international directors making movies against incredible odds.

“We see this resiliency all around the world from filmmakers in countries where there are sanctions against them and they have no access to money,” she said.

And if it can be done around the world, Cato is certain it can be done in the World’s Borough.

“We want to be a part of that system that is opening doors and leveling the playing field,” she said. “The young people here in this borough deserve that opportunity.”

Cato said the festival already partnered up with other local organizations to offer its first pop-up school at a Jamaica storefront in June, and it proved success.

“We really had a blast,” she said.

They hope to do several more across the borough, starting with the next one in Jackson Heights. The pop-up school will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 15, and there’s no registration necessary to take part.

“All you have to do is show up,” Cato said. “Oh, and don’t wear green.”


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