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Film festival recognizes student work

YOUNGSTOWN — Students from seven schools in Mahoning and Trumbull counties will show off the short films they created for Operation Keepsake at the Friends 4 Friends Film Festival.

“The Friends 4 Friends campaign began eight years ago to help give students the opportunity to stand up and speak out on behalf of a friend that is experiencing risk behaviors — bullying, dating abuse, underage drinking, pressure to do drugs, vaping,” said Deborah Landis, program liaison for Operation Keepsake, which is based in Twinsburg and works with school districts in 11 northeast Ohio counties.

Participating schools and film topics this year are Campbell Memorial High School, sexting; Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown, street violence; West Branch High School, underage drinking; Hubbard Middle School, vaping; Mathews High School, texting while driving; Western Reserve High School, sexual pressure; and South Range High School, bullying with an emphasis on social media.

“What we do is go into a school and form a peer leadership group, usually made up of 10 to 15 students selected by a school liaison, sometimes a guidance counselor, sometimes a health teacher,” Landis said. “We meet with the students and allow them to select the topic, things they are seeing in their school or in their own lives.”

All of the films are posted on Operation Keepsake’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/OperationKeepsake). Some past films have been viewed more than 35 million times, and Operation Keepsake’s YouTube page has more than 133 million combined views worldwide and 439,000 subscribers.

“These are made by students for students. That’s what I think is so special,” Landis said.

At Thursday’s event at DeYor Performing Arts Center’s Ford Family Recital Hall, all seven films with be shown and the evening also will feature music created by students participating in the program. Awards will be presented in such categories as best extras, best adult performance, best actor and supporting actor and best actress and supporting actress. The event will be set up like an awards show, complete with a red carpet and paparazzi.

The top prize of best film will go the short with the most views by the time the ceremony starts at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“We want to celebrate and highlight and honor the creative work of the students and give them an opportunity to perform and receive awards,” Landis said.

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