Kent’s VisFest puts student filmmakers on big screen

Jessica Nawar compares going to the Kent School District's VisFest Film and Game Festival to attending one of the high school's drama productions. "It's like going to a play at a school to see acting, only you're going to see what students can do with technology," said Nawar, a Kentwood High School senior and a member of the VisFest student advisory board, during a May 14 interview. "They (festival attendees) would have a lot of fun seeing what everyone from elementary to high school students are making." VisFest is short for "Visual Literacy Arts Festival." The district started the event in 2002 to give students an outlet to display their creative and artistic visual-literacy talents to fellow students, teachers and the community.

Kent-Meridian’s Catherine Nguyen

Kent-Meridian’s Catherine Nguyen

Jessica Nawar compares going to the Kent School District’s VisFest Film and Game Festival to attending one of the high school’s drama productions.

“It’s like going to a play at a school to see acting, only you’re going to see what students can do with technology,” said Nawar, a Kentwood High School senior and a member of the VisFest student advisory board, during a May 14 interview. “They (festival attendees) would have a lot of fun seeing what everyone from elementary to high school students are making.”

VisFest is short for “Visual Literacy Arts Festival.” The district started the event in 2002 to give students an outlet to display their creative and artistic visual-literacy talents to fellow students, teachers and the community.

The theme for the videos this year is “How has technology helped you learn?”

Students must limit their films to three minutes. The festival received 50 entries.

The free event runs 6-9 p.m. May 25 at Kent-Meridian High School. Festival goers can watch the films at the Performing Arts Center as well as at the old theater at the school.

VisFest expanded this year to include a Video Gaming Expo, featuring games created by students. The eight gaming entries will be displayed in the school cafeteria.

Student judges will give out trophies and prizes at the end of the festival to the top films produced by elementary, middle school and high school students.

A volunteer group of students meets outside of regular school hours to organize VisFest each year. Nawar entered the first festival eight years ago as a fifth-grade student and has served on the student advisory board since the seventh grade.

“I get to judge and see what others did,” Nawar said. “It’s really neat. I’ve always enjoyed video production. It’s neat to see others produce something. It’s really rewarding.”

Nawar said she made her first video in the fourth grade for a school project and has produced videos for other school projects every year.

Teacher Tom Riddell, who helps to oversee VisFest, said students enjoy the chance to learn the skills of reading, writing, film making and getting in front of a camera.

“So often in school you think it’s just about tests and scores, but there is so much to education beyond that,” Riddell said. “Visual literacy goes so far beyond reading from a textbook. If you tell students to write a one-page report, they might not have any motivation. But they are motivated if you tell them to make a movie. It’s an opportunity to learn in a far more exciting way.”

Jon Goodjion, a Kentlake High senior and member of the VisFest advisory board, said he submitted a video to the contest his sophomore year.

“It was exciting to see my video on the screen at the festival,” Goodjion said. “Now I get to make that happen for others.”

Riddell said VisFest is the end result of a lot of hard work by students to work with others to write, edit and produce a film.

“This gives students a platform to show their work,” Riddell said of the festival. “Communication today is far different than 20 years ago with the way technology is used. These students are able to be in front of a camera and to work in groups and learn skills they need to be successful.”

If you go

What: VisFest, annual Kent School District film festival

When: 6-9 p.m. May 25

Where: Kent-Meridian High School, 10020 S.E. 256th St.

Cost: Free


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