At the prodding of her guidance counselor, Johanna Salazar first volunteered for the Hamptons International Film Festival during her freshman year at East Hampton High School.
Though she didn’t realize it at the time, the proximity to the festival would make a big impact later.
A lifelong storyteller, Ms. Salazar, 32, is now a documentary filmmaker.
During the Hamptons International Film Festival, which kicks off next week, Ms. Salazar will work to help bridge the gap between local residents and festivalgoers.
Though teachers and students have long participated in past festivals in a piecemeal fashion, a new program titled Filmmakers in the Classroom hopes to expose the community’s youngest residents to the riches of cinema.
“Growing up here, there’s not a lot to do and kids can get bored,” said Ms. Salazar, who is responsible for reaching out to local community groups on the festival’s behalf. “By bringing filmmakers into the classroom, the possibilities are just endless.”
Filmmakers in the Classroom is funded by a $20,000 grant the festival received from the Long Island Community Foundation, based in Syosset. According to David M. Okorn, its executive director, besides showing films and hosting conversations with filmmakers, the program also aims to teach conflict resolution through the vehicle of documentary films.
Vivian Treves, a resident of East Hampton, is helping to coordinate the films being shown at South Fork elementary and middle schools. Marianna Levine, a resident of Sag Harbor, is responsible for coordinating the films being shown at local high schools.
“For years, the film festival has wanted to figure out how to reach out to the community,” said Ms. Levine, whose daughter attends Pierson Middle School. “With the cuts to school budgets, we saw there was a need to bring the arts back into the schools. I’m so happy that students will finally have these resources available to them.”
Though the details were still being finalized, filmmakers and producers will participate in school-wide assemblies or visit individual classrooms to discuss filmmaking and the subject matter of their films.
Amagansett School students will watch “Ocean Keeper,” a short documentary about the Amagansett Life-Saving Station.
At East Hampton High School, students will preview a film titled “Beyond Right and Wrong.” Sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students from East Hampton Middle School will attend a private screening of six separate short films and preview “Brooklyn Castle.” Finally, John M. Marshall Elementary School students will preview “Dumbleweed” at an all-school screening.
Students at Springs Public School and Sag Harbor Elementary School will also preview “Dumbleweed,” Montauk Public School is also slated to preview “Ocean Keeper,” and students at the Ross Upper School campus will watch “Anosmia.”
In most cases, directors and producers will visit the schools alongside their films, though the details were being worked out.
Advanced math students at East Hampton High School will be offered free tickets to see “A Beautiful Mind,” the feature film about John Nash, the Nobel prize-winning mathematician, who will be in attendance at the festival. Further, all students with a valid student identification card can purchase tickets to any of the festival’s films at a discounted rate of $8.
For Linda Fuller, who taught English for 35 years at East Hampton Middle School and High School, every fall means “festival.”
Each year, Ms. Fuller would walk hundreds of middle school students down Newtown Lane in order to kick off the festival. Lacking a budget for bus transportation, she encouraged her students to bring an umbrella.
“It’s taken 20 years but it was like seeing a dream come true to watch what it’s now become. It’s just amazing.” said Ms. Fuller.
“To know this is going to be in the classes and available to children who wouldn’t have otherwise had this opportunity is a great moment for the children of this community and for the 20th anniversary of this festival,” said Ms. Treves, whose daughter attends East Hampton Middle School. “Who knows if a filmmaker won’t come out of our community?”
Karen Arikian, the festival’s executive director, was similarly excited by increased outreach to South Fork schools.
“With the students, it’s a way to introduce them to a critical way of thinking about film and to build an audience from a younger base — which is essential to our business,” said Ms. Arikian. “It’s a great opportunity and especially on this, our 20th anniversary year.”