Screen spirit

Screenagers is a Bay Area youth film festival curated by students in the Communication Arts and Science Program at Berkeley High School. In partnership with the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Rim Archive Film Theater, the 16th annual Screenagers Film Festival showcases a diverse selection of films made entirely by Bay Area high schoolers. 

Each year, student curators spend five months planning the festival while reaching out to other students through media productions teachers, via social media, and by putting up flyers and posters in local schools.

I talked with Olivia Cueva, independent producer and curatorial mentor for this year’s festival, to learn more about the process behind the screens.

Final Publicity Poster
The Recollective: How did you become involved with Screenagers?
Olivia: I participated in the student curator internship when I was in high school. The experience was really fulfilling and I loved being a part of such a selective and challenging process. Being a curator combines artistic vision with administrative action. This fall I was asked to step in as the curatorial mentor for the students. It was a challenge because teenagers are so hardheaded and skeptical of adults trying to advise them (I can’t front, I was like that too) so I put a lot of energy into making sure each student felt valued and autonomous in their work. There were bumps in the road (like not getting enough submissions in the beginning, or having to rework the order of the festival several times to fit in to the Pacific Film Archive’s standards) but overall this experience has been really rewarding, especially after hearing what the student curators learned through the process.
The Recollective:  So what are your responsibilities as the curatorial mentor? ——————
Olivia: The curatorial mentor is essentially the project manager of the internship and film festival. My role is to schedule deadlines, assign and manage tasks the student curators take on (everything: researching and contacting media teachers, outreach and follow up, design work, organizing and screening all films, tech work, etc.), and act as the liaison between the students, the Pacific Film Archive, and CAS. I act as an advocate for the students.
The Recollective: Can you describe the role of the student mentor?
Olivia: This is a new role that has been implemented in the past couple years. The student mentor is someone who participated as a student curator with Screenagers the previous year. Because they have been through the process and know the ins and outs of the internship, they help advise the current students curators and assist the curatorial mentor.
The Recollective: How many teens participate usually?
Olivia: It is hard to say. In the past, the festival got WAY more submissions, but now that there are other youth festivals out there (which is great!), Screenagers submissions have dwindled. Aside from the ten student curators, it is safe to say that over one hundred students participate each year.  We encourage teens to keep submitting films each year – even if a film doesn’t work for the current year’s program, it doesn’t mean it won’t be accepted the following year.
The Recollective: What is the mission or the end goal for the program?
Olivia: The goal of the internship is to teach students all that goes in to organizing and curating a film festival. The goal of the festival is to have a showcase that includes films made by a diversity filmmakers from different high schools all over the Bay.
The Recollective: In the years that you’ve been involved in the program, what has been most surprising about the teens and their work?
Olivia: I’m thrilled to learn that there are lots of media programs that support youth development in the Bay Area, and it is awesome to receive films from programs I’ve never heard about! I’m also generally surprised (and thrilled) with the quality and subjects of the films we receive.
You can learn more and “like” Screenagers by going to

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