Opportunities for student filmmakers: AAHSFF


Jade Kratochvil

Co-Founder and Executive Director of AAHSFF, Tom Oliva, speaks to high school film students from the Prosper High School auditorium stage. “I fight for student filmmakers. You guys are the future of film,” Oliva said. The Roadshow means to encourage young students to tap into their creativity.

Jade Kratochvil

In The Weeds - Nick Milczarczyk - 2021 Best Direction & Audience Choice Award Winner and submitted video in the All American High School Film Fest

On Friday, Jan. 21, aspiring filmmakers and broadcasters from both Rock Hill and PHS had the opportunity to meet and learn from Tom Oliva– an expert in the field. Oliva is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the All American High School Film Festival. 

Students in Margie Raper’s Principles of AV class and Russell Olsen’s AV Production classes joined members of the HTN staff and PHS’ AV students. Everyone was seated in the auditorium in wait for the presentation. 

Oliva calls these presentations “The AAHSFF Roadshow” as he travels worldwide to talk to high school film students. “I absolutely love this part of what I do, Being out presenting the best of student filmmaking around the world to future filmmakers or current filmmakers,” Oliva said. He showed many previous award-winning short films by students within a range of genres, including horror, comedy, PSA, sports, and broadcast packages. 

For more than a decade now, the AAHSFF has been an international success. Despite the festival’s title, the company will accept student short films from all over the world. 

According to their website, the submission guidelines are as follows:

  • The film director(s) must have been in high school or of high school age (or younger) at the time of the filming
  • All entries must be submitted by Jul. 1, 2022, 11:59 p.m. 
  • All entries must be completely original and legal (no copyrighted music) 
  • The filming cannot infringe on the rights of any person or entity
  • Any film in a language other than English must have English subtitles

The entry period for the 2022 festival began on Oct. 15, 2021, and officially ends on Jul. 1, 2022. 

There are four possible submission deadlines for this year’s festival:

  • Early deadline: Mar. 4, 2022 (FREE)
  • Normal deadline: May 2, 2022 ($15)
  • Late deadline: Jun. 3, 2022 ($40)
  • Final deadline: Jul. 1, 2022 ($65)

Any student can submit as many of their films as they want and enter each film into only one award category. The best films are streamed in the famed AMC theaters in NYC starting on Oct. 7, 2022. Shortly after, the process will begin again in 2023. 

With such a wide entry window, every young filmmaker has a chance to create and submit a film and gives the judges enough time to watch them. Oliva “pulls back the curtain” and shares that the submissions are then watched by Oliva and his founding counterpart, Chris Omar. “We are the only two people in the world that watch every single film that gets submitted,” Oliva said. Omar adds, “It is one of the most rewarding parts of our job. Sometimes we put one on, and we just know.”

Unfortunately, not every film can be shown in NYC and not everyone that is can get the ‘Best Cinematography’ award. Oliva, however, realizes this can be discouraging, especially for young filmmakers just starting. “We accept about 30% of the films that are submitted to us, which is pretty high for a film festival, but we work with students, so we want to give you the opportunity to stream,” Oliva said.

Equality and accessibility are prioritized at AAHSFF. For example, not every film festival allows students worldwide to enter a contest for free with such a high acceptance rate. Oliva acknowledges that filmmakers come from different backgrounds and celebrates that. 

Oliva addressed the general privilege of the Prosper community and reminded everyone that “Not everyone is set up for success the way you are.” Stepping onto the stage, he said, “You guys are so lucky to have a program like this. I travel the world doing this, and so many students do not have the kind of opportunities that you have. This is great,” Oliva said. 

Oliva encourages kids to be creative, to want something more. As a result, AAHSFF survives on creative, passionate students, giving them experience whatever the outcome.

Never stop creating.”

— Tom Oliva, Co-Founder and Executive Director of AAHSFF

Oliva values Losing and urges listeners to discover that for themselves. “Losing should motivate you more than winning, so when the time comes, [for the film selection] if you don’t hear your name–don’t give up. It should give you more power, more strength to do it again and to do it better,” Oliva said. He left the kids with three words: “Never stop creating.”