They had so much fun last year, they are doing it again.[quote_box_right]For a chance to win tickets to Copa Shorts Film Fest, see InMaricopa on Facebook.[/quote_box_right]

The second Copa Shorts Film Fest is set for Feb. 16-18 at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The 68 films to be screened range from middle-school projects to a film short-listed for the Academy Awards. They also range in length from 2 minutes to the limit of 20 minutes.

Films are divided into film blocks, each block totaling less than two hours in film time but often ended with Q&A’s with the filmmakers. Each block includes seven to nine films.

Organizers have picked up more sponsors, contributing partners and resources since last year. Showcase film blocks are Native American, military veteran, college and noncompeting high school/middle school films.

In the Native American showcase is Lost Face, an Australian-produced film based on a Jack London story. It is short-listed for the Oscars in the short-film category.

“It is so well done,” festival Executive Director Shelley Gillespie said. “And it builds to a tension level. There’s an amount of violence, so it’s not one small children should see.”

She said she intends to create a 15-second moment in the block to warn attendees of the content and allow them time to remove kids from the audience if they choose. Most films with extreme violence or other adult content are in the “After Hours” film block late Saturday.

Gillespie’s personal favorite in the festival is in the College Showcase. The Chocolate Soldier is set in World War II, placing a young refugee in the path of the enemy.

Film block themes are “Human… Nature,” “After Hours,” “People and Challenges” and “High and Low Tech.” The script table reads are Sunday afternoon and will involve four screenplays and local actors.

The Native American Showcase includes the work of children, specifically the Ak-Chin Movie Club. Most of those filmmakers are between 8 and 14 years old. Their four short films are not competing in the festival and will be screened but not judged.

Jeffrey Stoffer of the Ak-Chin Library said Gillespie attended the club’s own festival and picked out projects they would like to see in Copa Shorts. One of those films, Ak-Chin Rez Dogs, is a public service announcement video that won the 2017 Tribal/EPA Region 9 Conference Youth Video Contest.

Being able to see their work screened among professional films in a festival setting is a big boost.

“It gives them the self-confidence that lets them know they can do anything they want to,” Stoffer said.

The movie club, 30 members strong with a long waiting list, uses the library’s teen room, which has three green-screened walls and movie-production computer programs. They script, shoot and edit with help from Stoffer, Cecily Peters and Sandiin Mitchell. Peters, for example, may polish their editing and then explain exactly what she did and why.

The program provides the resources for the “generation of makers and creators” who might not have the equipment or a script or even an idea for a script but want to create a story. Stoffer said the whole purpose is to “help build their creativity and confidence.”

Local middle school students are also returning with new films for the festival, having learned what they needed to do to improve from last year’s submissions. There are four middle school films and nine high school films, including one from the Philippines, in the showcase.

“I really hope we get a good audience for these because they’re really fun and imaginative,” Gillespie said.

Jason Stahl, a teacher in San Tan Valley, plans to bring busloads of students both days of the festival. That includes attending the free workshops. Stahl is on the festival’s advisory board.

“I’m thrilled because we’ll have all those kids,” Gillespie said. “They want to see their friends.”

The three workshops Saturday morning in Elements Event Center are presented by entertainment attorney Stephen Nebgen, cinematographer Steve Wargo and Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media Director Matthew Earl Jones. Nebgen will present “Film Funding: Show Me the Money!” Wargo will present “Drones, Moviemaking and the FAA Rules. Rules. Rules.” Jones’s topic is “Filming in Arizona: What Arizona Can Do for You.”

A film block showcase drawing notice is for films created by military veterans. The block includes seven films on Saturday afternoon. Military veterans can attend that film block for $3, thanks to two sponsors. The veteran and senior/student rate for all other film blocks is $10. General admission for each block is $12.

A day pass is $70 for Saturday and $75 for Sunday. Parties at the beginning and end of the festival are $30 each. The Opening Night VIP Party will feature entertainment by Brian Hammill & Native Spirit. The Closing Night Wrap Party, which includes awards, features acclaimed musician Arvel Bird.

In the spirit of full disclosure, InMaricopa multimedia journalist Mason Callejas’ documentary Still Standing: The Copa Central Story was accepted into the festival, and InMaricopa client loyalty coordinator Michelle Sorensen was a film reviewer for Copa Shorts Film Fest.

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.