Cleveland International Film Festival } March 29 – April 9, 2017 Presented by Dollar Bank

Screening to His Peers at Film Slam

March 26, 2014   |   posted in Festival Events


Film Slam is the Festival’s longest-running educational program, offering Northeast Ohio’s junior high and high school students the opportunity to see new films from innovative filmmakers around the world. More than 6,000 students from the region attend special morning programs during the Festival, watching films, engaging in question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers, and learning about media literacy. The program is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year.

For sixteen-year-old Geoffrey James of Chagrin Falls, Film Slam has special significance: his film is playing in front of students his age. James is the director of “Check Please,” a live-action short about the lengths two friends will go to be the one who picks up a tab, playing in the Comedy Shorts collection and Ohio Shorts Program 1. James says that the story was inspired by a dinner that his family and some friends had, and the fifteen-minute negotiation over who would get to pay for it that occurred after the meal was done. He wrote and directed it over the summer of 2013, while fifteen, but he’s been making films for years.

When James was eight years old, a babysitter introduced him to iMovie. “I thought it was the coolest thing that you could make movies in your own house. I never thought that you could do that. I thought you had to go out to L. A. and be in Hollywood to make movies.”

James made movies using his laptop camera and posted them to YouTube, before he decided to take things to “the next level” two years ago. This led to a crash course for him, and his close friends and family, in the inner workings of filmmaking. He has a core group of friends who have helped him with all of his films, and his parents are deeply committed to his visions, too. None of them have connections to the film industry, but all of them have been willing to learn. James, meanwhile, “learned how to really produce, and pick up the phone and call people.”

The reactions that people had to those calls, particularly regarding his age, determined who would be on his crew. “Being sixteen, there’s two ways that people respond to it. They either have an immediate respect, or an immediate disrespect. And so, that’s really how I found this crew,” he explains. “If they don’t respect you when you’re on the phone, they’re not going to respect you on set.”

That’s where James is happiest. “I’m where I should be on set,” he says. “During the school year… it just doesn’t feel right to me because I’m just looking forward to the summer when I can finally get back on set.”

Showing “Check Please” to Film Slam audiences was exciting, too. “During certain parts of the film, they had the exact reactions I was hoping for, so that was really rewarding.” He thought it would be awkward to talk to other high school and junior high students, some of whom were older than him, until the questions started. “They were really intelligent questions that were fun to answer and fun to hear.”

Many of those questions came from aspiring filmmakers. His advice to anyone seeking to follow his path is straightforward enough: “Just grab a camera, write something or even improv it, and just go make movies, because that’s the way you learn: you learn by doing.”

Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
03/21/14 @ 9:40 PM – Ohio Shorts Program 1
03/23/14 @ 6:20 PM – Comedy Shorts Program
03/24/14 @ 9:10 AM – Ohio Shorts Program 1
03/24/14 @ 9:35 AM – Comedy Shorts Program
03/27/14 @ 1:30 PM – Ohio Shorts Program 1

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