‘This is who we are’: Archer’s 11th Annual Film Festival amplifies female voices


Photo credit: Lucy Williams

Board members Grace DeLossa (’23) and Olivia Jarvie (’22) interview special guest María Ellingen and speakers David Ronn and Jordan Kerner about gender’s role in the film industry. DeLossa said she was inspired by their advice about the importance of communicating your values through the big screen. Following the interview, the audience watched 12 films by high school filmmakers that shared their identities, including perspectives from experiencing racism in school to grieving over a deceased mother.

By Lucy Williams, Voices Editor

A “Scarlet Letter” spinoff painting a secret lesbian love story. An animation of two strangers pondering the apocalypse. A scientist’s search for butterflies turned thriller in the woods. A black-and-white murder by a woman in stilettos. A comical animation of Beethoven’s fistfight against a bird for the copyright of his Symphony No. 5. These aren’t just films, but stories — stories that were told at Archer’s 11th Annual Film Festival.

The Film Festival board hosted the event Wednesday, April 20, at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills and showcased 12 pieces: three by Archer students and nine by high schoolers all around the world. Archer families, friends and staff piled into the red velvet theatre at 6:30 p.m., munching on popcorn in anticipation of the first in-person festival since 2019. Freshman Mia Vosicher attended the event for the first time and said she was awe-struck at the professional quality and artistry of the films.

“I’ve been wanting to go for a while. It was so real, being in the theater. It was breathtaking. It was stunning. The visuals were incredible,” Vosicher said. “What really blew me away was the fact that there are people my age creating these films. It inspires me to create more.”

Since 2012, the festival has aimed to highlight and encourage a generation of younger female filmmakers and create a public outlet for underrepresented voices to exhibit their art. Featured panelists spoke about gender inequality in the film industry, the progress needed to support all voices and advice for succeding in the industry. Past speakers include “Hunger Games” producer Nina Jacobson, president of Fox Studios Animation Vanessa Morrison and “Legally Blonde” author Amanda Brown.

“Watching your film on the big screen with a real audience to react teaches the most about the impact of the films. Not many schools have a festival or even a film program. The film industry is such a huge component of our lives, so it’s unfortunate that film isn’t prioritized as much as some of the other art forms in schools,” Jacobson said. “The festival is the public face of Archer’s film program. It encourages more students to think about film as a career and the impact of the images they create and watch. To have such a high profile event showcasing that medium is rare.”

Every fall, film teacher Steven Jacobson chooses Archer’s Film Festival leadership board. After their first brainstorming session in November, the board designs a logo, selects films, makes their promotional video and interviews keynote speakers. This year, they received 400 film submissions from high schoolers across the world. The board hosted watch parties and graded the films, later reassessing the highest-scoring films until they compiled a group of 12 finalists. Board member Grace DeLossa (’23) said the large applicant pool was due to the famed reputation of Archer’s Film Festival.

“We have been putting the festival on for 11 years now, so we have awareness and larger circles as a high caliber festival,” DeLossa said. “Part of the reason we get a lot of submissions is that we’re so open, as anyone who’s a high schooler can submit.”

This year’s keynote speakers were actress María Ellingsen, producer Jordan Kerner and screenwriter David Ronn. In a Q&A led by board members DeLossa and Olivia Jarvie (’22), they discussed helpful tips for being in the film industry and described the progress being made to overcome sexism and racial discrimination, from screenwriting rooms to theatres.

“I especially loved their emphasis on seeing the world around you, because filmmaking is about telling stories and reflecting the world as it is. It’s very human to make films that reach people through those emotions,” DeLossa said. “Making connections, networking and talking to people will also go a long way toward being in the industry.”

It’s very human to make films that reach people through those emotions.

— Grace DeLossa ('23)

Sophomore Tess Hubbard was featured in “Confession,” a 40s femme fatale noir film that she wrote, directed, filmed and starred in. From the clacking of black heels to the focused shots of pasty red lipstick, the vintage visuals told the story of an orphan woman escaping a monetary debt to a wealthy man, and her eventual plot to murder him. Hubbard was also on the festival board for the first time this year.

“I have always loved the 1940s film noir and femme fatale trope, so I watched a ton of film noir as inspiration for a super short film noir story,” Hubbard said. “I wrote the screenplay, shot listed and filmed, which took a while because I did everything by myself. That was definitely the most tedious part because the screenwriting came naturally after all of the film hours I watched.”

After the screenings, the audience had the chance to vote for their favorite film through an online poll. They gave the Audience Award to “Belated Wishes” by Angela Kwak, a film about a girl honoring her mother’s dying love. The board’s favorite film was “나비잠 Good Night” by Jung-seo Lee, Seo-bin Lee and Ji-yeon Yoon. This animation by a school in Korea depicted an abused doll seeking comfort in an imaginary world, an allegory for the horrors of child abuse. The board said all of the films were chosen for their ability to spark a human connection.

“There was one film in particular that I watched a couple of times about a queer love story, and as a queer person, I realized it’s so important to use film as a medium to make the broader statement that these are the people of the world,” DeLossa said. “This is who we are.”