Halloween-o-thon showcases young Upper Valley filmmakers

by Jordan McDonald | 11/2/17 12:00am

On Sunday, Oct. 29, Upper Valley television channel CATV’s sixth annual Halloween-o-thon took place on Dartmouth’s campus from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Loew Auditorium located in the Black Family Visual Arts Center, partnering with the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Halloween-o-thon showcased films made by students spanning in age from middle school to college from all across the Upper Valley who registered to commit three weeks of their time to writing, directing and casting their very own short horror films. On Sunday, their work was displayed on the big screen to celebrate the creative endeavors of local youth and embrace the Halloween spirit. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, Dartmouth students offered movie-making workshops for participants through which they were able to give advice, share filmmaking tricks and encourage new artists to refine their craft. On Sunday, the amateur filmmakers showcased their work, starting with middle school teams at 1 p.m., moving into high school teams at 2:30 p.m. and ending with the films made by young adults and college students at 4:00 p.m. The screenings ended with an awards ceremony during which film teams won awards for categories ranging from “Best Costumes” to “Best Scream.” After the viewings, the winners received gift cards, cash, candy and free registration for next year’s Halloween-o-thon. By the end of the event, 20 student horror films had been shown on the big screen. 

Parents, grandparents and siblings came out to support many of the contestants. In fact, many families starred in or inspired the young filmmakers. In this way, the atmosphere of the competition is one of excitement for both participants and their proud family members and friends. Johanna Evans, the acting director of film at the Hop, said that “[the event] is mostly geared toward teenagers and their families but other people involved in the competition show up.”

In awe of the continuous improvement in film quality over years, many audience members and staff were surprised to see what students came up with. 

“It’s interesting,” Evans said. “Every year they just get better and better.” 

Working with this year’s film prompt, “Good, you’re awake,” participants created scary movies centered on creepy clowns, haunted houses, possessed dolls, bad dreams and more. The vast interpretations and incorporation of the prompt was a testament to the innovation and creativity that informed each group’s final project. Many of the student judges were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the student work and the artistic commitment of the participants. 

“I was really surprised by how well done some of the movies were, especially from the younger participants,” Nicholas Gutierrez ’20, one of the student judges, said. “They were all very enjoyable to watch.”

Another student judge, Zea Eanet ’21, wrote in an email that while the films of the younger competitors may not have been as polished as those of the older students, it was “really wonderful” to see such a high level of passion about and commitment to film at their young ages.

The purpose of events like Halloween-o-thon is to encourage people outside of the Dartmouth community to take part in all of the programming that the Hop has to offer. A part of the Community Venture Initiative, which is dedicated to creating programming that expands the reach of the Hop, Halloween-o-thon is intended to bring young amateur filmmakers from around the Upper Valley to Hanover for a film competition. 

“[Our programming] is designed to bring new people to the Hop who wouldn’t normally come to the Hop, are from farther away or are of an age group that the Hop generally doesn’t serve,” Evans said. 

However, the Dartmouth community makes its mark on the event as well. This year, a team of Dartmouth students participated in the college film competition, winning second place in the collegiate competition, and a group of film students were selected to judge the middle school films. The event successfully brought together Dartmouth and the Hop with the greater Upper Valley community, starting off the holiday season with excitement.