WESTFIELD, NJ — The Big Dreams Youth Film Festival, a program geared toward New Jersey students grades 1 through 12, will take place at the James Ward Mansion in Westfield on Saturday, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The festival encourages New Jersey students to submit a short film under 15 minutes in length of any genre. There is no cost of submission. Students can submit their films through April 20 using the festival’s online platform.

“The youth festival was designed specifically to cater to the younger generation,” Gina Marie Rodriguez, founder of Big Dreams and Silver Screens, said. “We wanted them to have a space all their own so that they wouldn't get lost in a sea of professionals. Filmmaking is not easy and these young filmmakers deserve just as many accolades and as much care as their elder counterparts.”

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The Big Dreams Youth Film Festival is a program under Big Dreams & Silver Screens, a non-profit organization. According to Rodrigues, Big Dreams & Silver Screens’ goal intent is to call attention to and encourage the artistic endeavors of women and minorities, whose work is often overlooked and, in so doing, fully advocate for equality. 

“Our futures depend on the next generation,” Rodriguez said. “If we can help to provide them with a platform to use their voices, then we have done our job.”

The grand prize winner of the Big Dreams Youth Film Festival will have his or her film screened at the organization’s main film festival, the Westfield International Film Festival, which will take place on September 20-23 at the James Ward Mansion.

This is the first year the James Ward Mansion will host the Big Dreams Youth Film Festival and the second consecutive year the mansion will host the Westfield International Film Festival, which was formerly called the Rahway International Film Festival.

“The James Ward Mansion has provided us with a beautiful venue wherein our filmmakers can be honored properly,” Rodriguez said. “The town of Westfield has been very supportive of the arts and it feels fitting that we should grow our organization in a safe and supportive space.”

The James Ward Mansion is located at 165-169 East Broad St. in Downtown Westfield. To learn more about the mansion, click here.