Pace Academy junior Jack Wagreich become enamored with film and cinema as a child. Now, the teenager has started the International Youth Film Festival with the goal of bringing an inclusive and accessible platform to young filmmakers.

He began building the festival at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — spring and summer of 2020 — when he realized that people were using filmmaking as a tool to communicate, cope and create during quarantine. As he dove further into filmmaking, he found that many film festivals required submissions fees that can cause barriers for aspiring filmmakers.

“In researching film festivals, I discovered that many require filmmakers to pay a submission fee to participate,” Wagreich said. “I wanted to create an inclusive platform for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status. At the beginning, it was challenging to spread the word about the festival and recruit ambassadors. However, through persistence and social media I soon connected with filmmakers around the globe.”

And so the International Youth Film Festival was born. Their mission — to create an inclusive platform for young filmmakers and screenwriters to showcase their work.

“Our mission is to create an inclusive platform for young filmmakers and screenwriters to showcase their work, reflecting a diversity of international identities that are represented in an annual virtual festival,” Wagreich said. “We are also deeply invested in expanding the reach of age-appropriate quality film to students.”

Each year will bring a new theme and submissions from students across the world. This year’s virtual film festival takes place Jan. 22, 2022, and all films will be free to watch.

“I hope that young filmmakers gain experience in exposing their films to a wider audience and establish connections with other young adults interested in cinematography and screenplays,” Wagreich said.

Students can submitted one film each in any of the festival’s recommended categories — drama, comedy, action, documentary and animation. There is no minimum or maximum length and films must include English transcriptions. There are fours cash prizes students can win — the Grand Prize of $500, 2nd Place with $250 and three Honorable Mentions at $100 each.

Films can be submitted through Dec. 31, 2021.

For more information or to submit a film, visit www.internationalyouthfilmfestival.com/.

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