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Sea to Sky Student Film Festival returns for sophomore year

The deadline for submissions is April 1

The Sea to Sky Student Film Festival (S2SFF) is back for its second act. 

Teenagers in Grades 8 to 12 who attend school in Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton and Mount Currie are invited to submit a three-to-five-minute short to be displayed next month at Whistler Secondary School (WSS). More than $2,000 in prizes is up for grabs, including a cat skiing experience offered by Powder Mountain. 

All genres and formats that fit within the time limit are welcome, from live-action to animation to stop-motion. Footage must be from 2024 and can be shot on cameras, GoPros or smartphones. 

WSS senior Soren Weetman has taken a lead role in organizing this year’s festival after the first one left an impression on him. 

“When I saw it, I was just so blown away by how well they had done it and how good all the films were,” he remarks. “I decided that I really wanted to do this next year, and I think the grads also had it in mind to continue this project.” 

‘We just lit up’ 

The S2SFF was originally the brainchild of WSS alum Kenta Tanaka. An avid Whistler Film Festival (WFF) fan, he wanted to give himself and other youth a chance to flex their creative muscles—just as more established local filmmakers do on a regular basis. 

Tanaka approached his close friends Jayden Inniss and Sho Brooks last year. They were immediately keen, seeing Tanaka’s idea as an opportunity to both make movies and raise some cash for their graduating class. 

“We do Halloween haunted houses, dances and other typical stuff [to fundraise], but I feel like growing up in Whistler is so unique and we really had to harness that,” explains Brooks. “When Kenta came to us with the opportunity, we just lit up, because we knew how many different ways it could go.” 

Spoiler alert: they hit a home run. The inaugural S2SFF took place on April 20, 2023, with more than 300 audience members filling every seat in the WSS Multi-Purpose Room and then some. More than $5,000 was raised, well above the initial goal of $3,500. 

Isa Guerrero earned first prize for his film Solitude, and Sakura Lord took the runner-up spot with Girls Who Ski. Third went to newly-minted Freeride Junior World Championships (FJWC) king Lukas Bennett and Above Average Days. The judges included Kris Dontas, Hailey Elise, Trish Bromley, Darryl Palmer and Jeremy Allen. 

Guerrero’s mom, Farha, penned a heartfelt letter thanking Tanaka, Brooks and Inniss for “the extraordinary effort” they put into making it happen.

The boys can hardly take all the credit, though. They stood on broad shoulders to reach their goal: namely those of WFF founder Shauna Hardy and WSS vice-principal John Hall. 

“In 2017, I was a top-10 finalist for the 72-hour Filmmaker Showdown and Shauna was a part of that too, so it was cool to see both sides [having been a contestant],” says Inniss. “And then to work with Shauna to put our festival together? Totally mind-blowing to see what’s needed to make it happen.” 

Adds Brooks: “Before we invited Shauna, we had to bring the idea to our vice-principal to see if it was even doable, and in that process, I feel like we became so much more integrated into the school system. We felt like we were actually doing something meaningful. 

“A lot of the time, you go through school without taking any initiative. The moment when we brought our idea to Mr. Hall and he gave us the OK was so memorable, because then we were like: ‘now we’ve got to actually put some work into this.’ I want to say thank you to Mr. Hall and Shauna because without their guidance, this festival wouldn’t have been executed as professionally and smoothly as it was.” 

Other players in the community stepped up, too. Mountain FM conducted a live interview with the boys, and a number of local businesses agreed happily to lend their support.

“Sho and I went out around Whistler Village asking companies or businesses if they could donate to the festival, and a lot of them agreed on the spot,” Tanaka recalls. “There was a lot of communication and we managed to get a lot of prizes, which we’re really grateful for. Whistler’s a super small community and everyone helps each other out.” 

Fun and lighthearted 

What is it about the particular idea of a film festival that many local youths have found compelling? 

“My mother studied film in university, and so I’ve always had that in my family,” Weetman says. “It’s such an interesting thing to see film here within our community. It’s such a broad thing and everyone is able to relate with it. You’re able to tell a story in a way that uses many different things.” 

Brooks, for his part, hopes to see a wider array of talents celebrated in the Sea to Sky corridor. 

“A lot of sports, athletes and Olympians are celebrated in Whistler, but in the process of making this festival we recognize that the creatives and the artists aren’t being noticed as much,” he opines. “Giving this opportunity to the youth creates an acceptance and a chance for people to get involved in creating. 

“Because it’s such a fun and lighthearted type of environment that we’re trying to build, it makes things easy for students who may be insecure about art to get into it and gain recognition for what they’re doing.” 

The deadline to submit projects for the S2SFF is April 1, while the top 10 films will premiere April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at WSS.

Learn more about the festival at