Yale News

The 2024 Yale Student Film Festival is set to screen 50 student films from over 30 nations, hosting renowned speakers like Oscar-nominee David Hemingson, writer and producer of “The Holdovers,” and Pamela Koffler, producer of “Past Lives” and “May December.” 

The festival will take place from April 11 to 14 and will provide opportunities for Yale students to connect with alumni and other professionals working in the film industry through a series of Q&As and workshops. Eight of the 50 student films screened at the festival will be recognized at an awards ceremony on Saturday.

“On the Yale campus, hopefully [the festival] can be a hub of student filmmaking. Of a way for Yale student filmmakers and just Yale arts people in general to be welcomed into the broader filmmaking landscape,” Eli Berliner ’26, the Festival’s co-director, told the News. “It is a congregation of all different aspects of film at Yale.”

Earlier in the academic year, a subcommittee of the YSFF combed through 600 student submissions to select the 50 that will be screened at the festival, organizing these into seven thematic categories of films that will be shown together. Marissa Blum ’24 served on this year’s subcommittee as the Festival’s Director of Programming, personally watching all 600 films.

Themes showcased at the festival include “Narratives of Resistance,” which highlights stories with powerful social impacts, and “Finding Voice,” a category of films centered around strong characters in the process of developing their identities. Within each of the categories, distinct modes of storytelling will be on display, including documentary, narrative and experimental films. In addition to dedicating a category to Yale student films, the Festival will include a block for submissions from high school students around the world.

“We really were intentional with choosing films that had some level of social impact, some deeper philosophical meaning behind their writing,” Blum said. “What makes films exciting are films that are both able to say something deeper, and entertain at the same time.”

In addition to screening student films, the festival will host a variety of speakers from the entertainment industry to discuss topics like writing for TV, film financing and independent production. From 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, David Hemingson will hold a talk and Q&A at 53 Wall St. Auditorium, where he will discuss the process of writing “The Holdovers,” the critically acclaimed film for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay earlier this year.

On Saturday, Michael Saltzman, known for his work in Mad Men and Arrested Development, will host a workshop on TV writing and producing in Humanities Quadrangle at 1:30 p.m. Blum shared that during the workshop, Saltzman will show clips of his own work while walking students through the process of writing a scene.

For those interested in independent filmmaking, the festival will host a discussion later on Saturday with Anthony Bregman and Pamela Koffler, respectively the president and CEO of Likely Story and the founding partner of Killer Films. Koffler is also the producer of Past Lives, which was nominated for Best Picture in the 2024 Academy Awards, and May December.

“We have a good mix of Hollywood and independent. A panel I think is really cool to highlight would be the independent producing panel,” Berliner said. “We also have the writer of The Boys and Arrested Development, who is very much in the Hollywood setting, talking about his writing on the TV side, and producing, and working in studios. So I think there’s a good mix.”

The film festival is also set to host a variety of events dealing with the business side of entertainment, with events such as Financing Your Short Films with Debbie Vandermeulen, the founder of Fusion Features, and The Business of Film, a discussion with Bungalow Entertainment CEO Bobby Friedman. 

Daphne Joyce Wu ’26, the president of Yale Cinematic Productions, explained that this emphasis on business comes as a result of Yale film classes’ focus on the theoretical rather than practical elements of filmmaking and YSFF’s interest in correcting this discrepancy. 

“All the classes are how to analyze the film, or how to study a film, or what the types of films are, or the film history,” Wu said. “But the things we actually need to know are distribution, copyright, how to send your script to producers, or how to produce a film.”

Wu continued by describing the YSFF as a completely student-run attempt to make up for the Yale film program’s failures by providing opportunities for student filmmakers at Yale to break into the industry. Among students’ frustrations with film at Yale is the fact that the film program is unable to offer tenure to professors because it is not a department, causing constant turnover. 

Additionally, Wu explained how funding for film students through the Creative Performing Arts grants was cut this year. For example, the maximum grant available for film senior theses is $1,200, even though most budgets reach around $8,000, forcing students to crowdfund from family and friends and creating great inequities within the program. 

“The Yale Student Film Festival is really an incredible effort by the student body to create those opportunities that Yale does not for their students,” Wu said. 

Spots at the Yale Student Film Festival can be reserved here, with events beginning Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and ending on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.