Jaden Mathews (holding the clapboard) and students from OPRF who submitted films for the first ever OPRF Student Film Festival. | Provided

After a successful first showing of the first ever Oak Park and River Forest High School Student Film Festival, the short films are headed to the silver screen, giving everyone in the community a second chance to see local talent. 

Jaden Mathews, 17, who organized the event as a way for students to have a creative outlet for storytelling, said the first viewing, held on May 7 in an OPRF lecture hall, had 50 attendees who watched the submitted student films, ranging across many genres. 

Mathews graduated this month.

“Each of them are very different,” Mathews said. “Some are shot black and white with one actor, some are horror, mystery…we have some weird cool stuff from every side.” 

Although Mathews had set a goal of receiving 15 film submissions for the festival, he said he was very proud of the turnout and quality of the 14 submissions they did receive. 

“Getting 14 was a great number,” Mathews said. “Especially from the students who I wasn’t expecting. Going to OPRF, there is a whole community I don’t see, and I was beginning to notice it as I was going through the short films.” 

Showing support for the student, the Oak Park River Forest High School Alumni Association donated $500 towards the prize fund. Additionally, Mathews decided to run his own fundraiser and managed to garner an additional $1,500 from community supporters, putting the prize pot at $2,000. First place winners, Joshua Bonds and Sion Clay’s “Nous De Rois,” received $500. Second place received $300, and the third-place winner received $200. 

Mathews said the remaining students who submitted films received $50 as a “thank you” for being part of the event’s first year.  

The remainder of the money was allocated to the second screening of the event, which will be held at the Lake Theatre in downtown Oak Park. Out of the 14 films, 10 of them have been chosen to be showcased for the second screening. 

“It will hopefully put the student short films more on the map and give them a chance to be well received on a larger scale,” Mathews said. “Everyone was amazed at how high quality and top notch the films were. These short films came out as powerful moving pieces of art.” 

With a second showing, Mathews hopes to make the festival more inclusive of the Oak Park community, not just students. Mathews, who said he loved the involvement from students, also said he felt the festival was a little too removed from the community, especially after the original showing location, which was intended to be held at Austin Gardens, had to be swapped out for a lecture hall at the high school due to technical issues. If Mathews succeeds in growing community involvement, he hopes that would push the festival to take off on a larger scale, hoping to outgrow the halls of OPRF. 

“I felt that is the way these things really grow,” Mathews said. “There is only so far an event can grow within the high schools’ parameters. There are only a certain number of students who will submit, only so many parents and family who are willing to attend but if I could post this event towards the community more, we can give it the space for it to grow to something much larger than ourselves.” 

The second showing will be held at Lake Theatre, 1022 Lake St., Oak Park, on Monday, June 26 at 6 p.m. Moviegoers are encouraged to get a ticket through Eventbrite but can also get a ticket at the door. Tickets will be free.

Join the discussion on social media!