Students enter virtual film festival, reignite filmmaking passion amid pandemic

 Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, two Cal Poly Pomona students participated in the second annual West Covina Film Festival, reigniting their passion for filmmaking. The festival, hosted virtually on Sept. 4, showcased 27 short films.

 Despite last year’s event being tailored to the youth, this year’s film festival was open to all West Covina residents, in hopes of reaching a broader audience and gaining support from the West Covina Unified School District Board of Education.

 “I just made videos for school before and they were fun,said Daniel Ynchausti, a first-year apparel merchandising and management student. They would come out pretty good, and I just wanted to do something fun with my friends.

 Ynchausti participated in the festival with his short film Quaranteens,” hoping to find something to cure his boredom.

 Along with Ynchausti, Jessica Juarez, a third-year psychology student, submitted her short film Movie Night,” which included clips of activities she engaged in at home with her family.

 The two short films both featured the students’ personal interpretations of this year’s theme, “Together at Home.” While “Movie Night” was focused on how the coronavirus brought the Juarez family together, “Quaranteens” emphasized how Ynchausti and his friends have kept in touch despite social distancing regulations.

 Although community members were concerned that the film festival would be canceled due to the pandemic, the event instead adapted to a virtual format.

 “I thought it was a good idea that they still had the event,” Ynchausti said. “It gave people something to do, especially because a lot of people aren’t busy. It was good to bring people together and lift up their spirits.”

The drive-through award ceremony was held on Sept. 4 at the Hurst Ranch in West Covina. (Courtesy of Film It West Covina)

 Ynchausti pointed out that participants and viewers alike can relate to this years theme because many people have been staying home over the past six months practicing social distancing and redefining what it means to be “together at home.”

 It was super cool and nice to know that people around the city interpreted (the theme) differently and were super creative,” Juarez said.

 Participants were required to submit a five-minute (or under) film to a panel of five judges in order to win cash prizes — with the first-place prize being $800. Although neither Juarez nor Ynchausti won the cash prizes, they were able to use this event to rekindle an old passion for video editing.

 Juarez said the film festival was an eye-opening experience as it reminded her of the editing skills she had not practiced in years.

 Both Juarez and Ynchausti graduated from West Covina High School, where they learned how to film and edit in the video production class offered at the school.

 The idea for a film festival came in 2019 from the festival director Letty Lopez-Viado, who is also mayor pro tem of West Covina. Wanting to provide opportunities for the community to come together, Lopez-Viado initiated the establishment of the festival by strongly advocating support.

 “Im a community person, so I said, I want to do that here in West Covina,’” Lopez-Viado said. There’s not really anything surrounding film festivals in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s usually all in Los Angeles or Hollywood.”

 Juarez and Ynchausti’s videos, along with the 27 other submissions, are available to view on the Film It West Covinas YouTube channel. For more information on upcoming events, visit Film It West Covina’s website and Instagram.

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