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Journalism Student Starts Film Festival for Young Filmmakers

Journalism senior Michael Frank created a film festival to showcase work created by young filmmakers. The festival, named 25 Under 25, brought in 180 submissions from young filmmakers across California.

25 Under 25 Film Fest

The guidelines for submission were simple: the filmmaker must be under the age of 25 and based in California. Twenty-five films were selected to screen at the festival, which was held May 19-20 at San Luis Obispo’s Palm Theatre.

The idea came to Frank after he attended a screening of student-made films from ISLA 341 Media Arts and Technologies: Cinematic Process. Inspired by students’ excitement as their work came to life on the big screen, he set out to create a film festival catered specifically to young people for his senior project.

“I don’t think there are many platforms out there for young artists in general, especially if you’re not living in a huge city,” Frank said. “I wanted to create a platform for young people to show their work to larger groups of community members and to other young people.”

Frank and his friends called every university film department in the state of California soliciting submissions. This ambition led to a cultivation of 180 submissions: some from high school students, and others from graduate students at the renowned film department at the University of Southern California.

One film selected was created by Cal Poly alumnus Ericksen Dickens (Philosophy, ’17) and his brother Soren, a business sophomore. The short documentary film, Rivers of Recovery, highlights the work of Rivers of Recovery, a nationwide program that aims to rehabilitate combat veterans suffering from mental illness such as PTSD and anxiety using the “tranquility of nature.”

“Film allows the audience to have a firsthand look at them as individuals,” Dickens said. “A lot of them suffer from PTSD, and it gave me perspective. It humbled me and made me appreciate them a lot more.”

Dickens now owns a video production company in San Luis Obispo with his brother. Additionally, he is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology online.

Sharing films like these at 25 Under 25 brought together the growing community of future filmmakers. “I wanted to create more of a community of filmmakers, a group of people who make lasting friendships and connections,” Frank said. “These are probably the people who will make up the film industry in the next 25 years.”

ISLA professor and award-winning film editor Randi Barros served as Frank’s mentor throughout the creation of the festival. “He was the face of the festival, and no one could miss his passion for it,” said Barros. “Michael is also a talented screenwriter himself, and he brings this love of character and story to his passion for discovering other up-and-coming filmmakers.”

His journalism classes taught him the importance of creating connections with colleagues. It was through these connections that he attained sponsorship and support for the festival.

“The only way this event was made possible was through sponsorships, through people believing in me,” Frank said. “That’s by far the biggest thing I’ve taken away from journalism: how to find common ground with people, and how to make a bond with someone in just five or ten minutes.”

After graduation, Frank will move to New York City, where he has accepted a marketing and outreach position at a study abroad program. He plans to continue screenwriting, and one day, he hopes to host a large-scale film festival.

“Overall, I learned that when you work really hard at something you’re passionate about, something special will come out of that,” Frank said.

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