Thursday, August 15, 2019

2nd Annual Just Be You Performing Arts Youth Film Festival August 30

A new film festival designed just for the youth is now free for kids and teens. The 2nd Annual Just Be You Performing Arts Youth Film Festival takes places on Friday, August 30, 2019, at the Paul Robeson Campus Center Dance Theater at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Kids and teens under the age of 17-year’s-old are admitted free of charge with an accompanied adult. The festival features a diverse collection of short-films created by youth filmmakers.
Thanks to the generosity of sponsors and individual donations made by supporters of the event, the festival organizer, Mahogany Reynolds, decide to make the festival free for children. Parents who purchase an adult ticket can bring their children at no additional charge. Tickets can be purchased on the festival website
“It is important to me that parents can afford to bring the entire family to this youth driven festival.  I feel honored to be in a position, thanks to sponsors and supporters, to serve the community in this way. The Just Be You Festival has something for everyone. Films, singing, theater, and music. It’s truly a one of a kind event designed for our youth,” said Reynolds, the founder and executive director of Just Be You Performing Arts.
“What makes this festival unique is that its sole and main focus is the youth. To see a festival in which the youth have the opportunity to display their talents and abilities is remarkable. What inspired me to return as the host again this year; was the children, and the founder of the festival. I want children to know that they are a major contribution to the entertainment industry, and that their work, and voices matter. Mahogany has such a genuine heart, and her impact on children; and her love for what she does makes this festival stand out,” said Crystal NuChurch, accomplished actress of Jersey City, New Jersey, who hosted the inaugural festival in 2018.
This year’s festival is co-hosted by kids from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. CJ Thompson of Jersey City, New Jersey, Mya Mosley of Newark, New Jersey, and Amelia Alfriero of Pipersville, Pennsylvania. Reynolds; a seasoned journalist and talk show host, held a casting call and children from all over the metro area applied. She is training the three selected co-hosts, on stage presence, public speaking, and interviewing skills, to help prepare them for the festival.
Special Addition Films in ASL
A special feature being added to this season of the Just Be You Festival is showcasing films that include American Sign Language (ASL). Reynolds deemed it vital to make the festival all-inclusive and saw a need for children with hearing disabilities to be able to enjoy a film festival. The new children’s comedy series “CHI-nanigans” will be the festival’s special featured film. Jil Ross, of Chicago, Illinois, creator of the series, will be in attendance for a rare Q&A session. Based upon  a diverse cast of kids and their adventures in their Chicago neighborhood, Ross produced several episodes of the “CHI-nanigans” series with ASL, to reach a wider audience of children.
“I have a cousin who was born deaf and as children I felt bad that he usually sat apart from us (other cousins) because he couldn’t hear the television and captions were not an option at the time. In addition most individuals born deaf learn to sign by the age of six months but typically read between the ages of 9 and 11.  I identified  a  market of people (between the ages of one and nine years old) who are otherwise, still today, are ostracized because they can’t hear, and have not yet learned to read captions. This bridges that gap and makes the conversation and televised content more inclusive,” said Ross.
Reynolds decided to make “CHI-nanigans” a special feature at the festival because Ross’ shared vision of all-inclusiveness. Ross is an American author, playwright, storyteller, screenwriter, and producer who is best known for The Shenanigans Series™ of children’s books which she began publishing in 2003. While growing up, she was often in the company of family, neighbors, and friends who lived with conditions such as stuttering, deafness, albinism, dwarfism, vitiligo, and alopecia, Ross explained. Her goal has been to create comedy; in a humorous yet respectful way, that showcases inclusion in a way that’s not currently being explored. The stories she writes are inspired by her real-life events.
I’m honored to be a finalist in the Just Be You Performing Arts Youth Film Festival. My intention was simply to change the trajectory of film, televised content, and the overall viewing experience. So being recognized for this effort is truly the cherry on top. It’s not what I was seeking. My ASL episodes currently have more views than the non ASL, which confirms to me that there is a need for this kind of inclusion. I think in today’s tense social climate, it’s important that we reach across the line to include people with different abilities, whatever those abilities are,” said Ross.
Highlight on New Jersey Youth Filmmakers
The Just Be You Festival will screen a diverse array of short-films in the categories of: animation, documentary, short feature, dance video, music video, and live action. The submission process was world wide and youth filmmakers from all over the globe submitted their films. A special emphasis was placed on New Jersey youth filmmakers and the festival will include films made by several students at New Jersey schools. One such school is Middletown High School North, in Middletown, New Jersey.
Film and Television teacher, Christopher Cullen, submitted films on behalf of his students. Three of those films were selected as finalist in the festival. “Pieces of Mosaic” a dance film by Yazemin Yilmaz, “The Letter” a short feature by Joanna Downing, Alyssa McCall and Joanna Downing, and “Beyond Dreams” a documentary also by Yilmaz. In 2018, one of Cullen’s former students, Alex Lehotsky, received the festival’s Best New Jersey Filmmaker Youth Division Award. They are now up for three awards this year.
“I am very excited for my students having three films in this year's festival.  Last year I went to the festival and saw so much talent and had a wonderful time. One of my students won an award for her short film last season and now she is attending Montclair Film School.  I can not wait to come to this year's screenings and represent my students and Middletown North High School.  I will be going into my third year as the TV/Film teacher and I hope we can continue our success,” said Cullen.

Tickets to the festival can be purchased at Kids and teens attend free with an accompanied adult ticket purchase. Seniors receive a special discount to the festival. The festival starts at 12 noon with a free workshop for kids in the performing arts. Following the workshop will be the film screenings. The festival concludes with an awards ceremony that features special performances and VIP Special Guest Speaker, Skyy Luke, of Jersey City, New Jersey, an award-winning actress and professional public speaker. To close the event, Reynolds will premiere her original short-play, “Bereaved, Befuddled & Bewildered”, a family drama, inspired by a true story, staring actors from New Jersey and New York.

“We are all very excited about this year’s festival. A lot of hard work and love has gone into the planning process. Our goal is for every seat to be filled with kids to enjoy a festival that is made just for them,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds is actively seeking sponsors and vendors to participate in the festival. To learn more about the how to become a sponsor or register to be vendor, visit their website. 

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