Summer School: SFFS Education Roundup

As families start saying goodbye to their summer vacations and school kicks into gear, we’re looking forward to another great year of exciting educational programming over at the Film Society. This year, we’re celebrating 25 years of educating Bay Area children. Before we move ahead into the fall semester, though, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the enriching experiences we provided this summer.

Back in June, we presented the lucky (and talented) winners of our Nellie Wong Magic of Movies Student Essay Contest — for which students wrote about films they saw at the 58th San Francisco International Festival (SFIFF58) through our Schools at the Festival program — with some once in a lifetime experiences: Our three grand prizewinners were invited to attend a special preview of Inside Out at Pixar Studios with their families. After the screening, they explored a special gallery of behind- the-scenes art from the film and heard from some of the artists during the Q&A.

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment from my evening at Pixar because there were just so many things that left me awestruck. Being in the very building where many of my dearest friends were brought to life was such a moving experience... I got my first real taste of my dream job and it was incredible.
— High School Winner


The runners-up of the contest were taken on a special tour of the Lucasfilm Studio. They wandered the halls and saw some of the amazing pieces of movie-making history from Lucasfilm and the 40-year-old Industrial Light & Magic. At the end of the tour, the students were treated to a presentation of behind-the-scenes work and trailers for upcoming films from the studio and were able to spend some time with Beth D’Amato, a senior artist at ILM who has worked at the studio for nearly 20 years. Listening to Beth, all three runners-up sat over open sketchbooks. This year these prizewinners were all girls with vested interests in film and animation. We’re thrilled to have brought them together with such a successful female artist.

In early July, we kicked off our annual Young Filmmakers Camp led by head instructor Jason Wolos here in the Presidio. This intensive film program is an opportunity for teens ages 14-18 to learn from first-class film professionals in a fun and collaborative environment. Students were able to learn screenwriting, cinematography, sound, editing and more. They then took this new knowledge to collaborate on the writing, production and editing of an original short. Working together on every aspect of movie-making and sharing roles on set, participants conceived and created a group project in just five days. Final films were screened for all students and their family members on the last day of the camp session.

On August 4, we traveled to the Pacific Film Archive on the UC Berkeley campus to screen SFIFF58 Best Documentary Feature Audience Award winner Romeo Is Bleeding for the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC). We were happy to present this documentary again after our successful experience with it during Schools at the Festival this spring — and the director and producer behind the project were thrilled to share the story with more students.

In the film, a fatal turf war between neighborhoods haunts the city of Richmond, CA. Donté Clark transcends the violence in his hometown by writing poetry about his experiences. Using his voice to inspire those around him, he and the like-minded youth of the city mount an urban adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with the hope of starting a real dialogue about violence in the city. Donté and Brenda Quintanilla — the co-subjects of the doc as well as co-Poet Laureates of Richmond — attended the screening and talked with students. 

This was by far the best presentation we’ve had for the whole program.
— National Student Leadership Conference Counselor

This was our sixth year working with the NSLC, which invites top students from all over the world to participate in a two-week program focusing on journalism and media communication.  In all, 130 high schoolers attended the screening — some from the far-reaches of the United States and others from international countries such as England and China.

The group was exceptionally bright and engaged in a thought-provoking Q&A after the film rolled. Donté and Brenda’s post-screening discussion encouraged many of the students in the audience to open up about their own frustrations with a media landscape that doesn’t accurately represent their youth culture. Donté and Brenda urged them all to express their unique artistic voices and to use creativity as a tool to positively impact their communities.

To learn more about SFFS Education, visit or contact Keith Zwölfer.

SFFS Education serves more than 11,000 students and teachers every year, from kindergarten through college, and helps them develop media literacy and cultural awareness as well as a global understanding and lifelong appreciation of cinema. Education at the Film Society aims to cultivate students’ imaginations and empower them to succeed in a media-saturated world.

The Nellie Wong Magic of Movies Essay Contest is made possible by the generous support of the Nellie Wong Magic of Movies Education Fund, endowed by Tim Kochis and SFFS Board Member Penelope Wong to honor the memory of her mother, Nellie Wong (1917-2007), who was an avid filmgoer and cinephile. Developed to support the year-round outreach efforts of the SFFS Education department, the Fund aims to cultivate students' imaginations, enhance their critical thinking and creative writing skills and instill a greater appreciation for the magic of movies in young audiences of the Bay Area.