KWHS Film Students headed to NYC

The All American High School Film Festival (AAHSFF), the world’s largest high school film festival hosted in New York City (NYC), has been struck by Conch Pride from Key West High School’s (KWHS) Conch 5 Studios program. 

On July 22nd, Tom Oliva, the co-founder and executive director of AAHSFF, announced the official selections for this year’s festival on Instagram live. AAHSFF will feature the winning students’ videos in NYC from October 8th-10th. Our Key West Conchs worked so hard to get here, but it all paid off when they saw that nine of their submissions were selected. “I almost lost count of how many we got,” said Ed Smith, the director of Conch 5 Studios. “I was shocked, proud, and blown away as a teacher.” These students entered various categories for the event, ranging from action sports videos to short films. 

Tom Oliva, the co-founder and executive director of AAHSFF, is announcing the official selections for the 2021 festival. Photo Provided by Ella Hall

An AAHSFF official selection is one of the highest honors a high school video production team can aspire to earn. Watching their film become featured on the big screen in NYC is a dream come true for the students. However, there is a step higher: becoming an AAHSFF finalist. Only a tiny portion of the official selections are honored as the “best of the best” for each category. Smith has confidence that some of the Conch 5 entries have the potential to become a finalist.

At the event, each student has the opportunity to advance in college before even going there. AAHSFF provides networking and college recruiting opportunities, with also a potential shot of winning some scholarship prizes. The future is waiting for them, and this event shows the kids that hard work earns a place for them in this industry.  

In Conch 5 Studios, the teenagers enter every production they create with an “if you can dream it, you can do it” attitude. “With no student production budget, it is a struggle to compete against the big city schools,” explained Smith. “They have support from filmmaking icons, like New York University (NYU) and University of Southern California (USC), and actual film studios.” 

The latest equipment the KWHS students have was purchased in 2015, proving that you do not need fancy technology to make something spectacular. Instead, the sweat and dedication put into something is what makes it worthwhile. 

Christopher “Andre” Otto, a member of Conch 5 Studios, is operating a RED camera to record a time lapse for his film, A Day. Photo Provided by Ella Hall

The last time KWHS representation appeared at this competition was in 2017. Although a four-year gap seems like a mishap, Smith has learned new techniques to share with the current 2021 team. “I like to be able to give my students as much as I possibly can, giving my knowledge gained over the past two decades of leading Conch 5 Studios can give them an advantage and more experience.” 

At Conch 5 Studios, every member is a part of something better, a family. The connection between Smith and his students is everlasting, proven by staying in communication with his former students. “I’m a teacher, coach, mentor, cheerleader, and harsh critic,” said Smith. “My students are free to ask me anything at any time, which explains the 3,875 texts on my phone.”

Due to COVID-19 and leadership change at KWHS, the fundraising for this trip has just gotten a kick start. With less than a month till the event, Conch 5 Studios needs all the help possible to make each student’s dreams possible. On September 19th, they will be hosting a car wash from 11 am to 3 pm, and on the 25th, they will be hosting an outdoor movie event at the KWHS Backyard. 

For any additional information about Conch 5 Studios, contact, and on AAHSFF, message tom@aahssff.

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