Inspiration Academy preps for first film festival at Lakewood Ranch Cinemas Saturday

Saturday's event to include 35 films shown in Lakewood Ranch Cinemas

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- This year, there are only four students enrolled in the Inspiration Film Academy -- one student in sixth grade, one student in ninth-grade and two 10th-grade students.

To give the students a more hands-on experience and to raise the profile of the academy, which is in its second year, organizers are holding a film fest, the first one the school has done.

"We wanted to make people aware," said James Buck, the director of the film academy. "It's a very unique opportunity to study film when you're in middle school or high school."

Inspiration Academy is an independent Christian, coeducational, boarding and day, college-preparatory school for grades six through 12, and postgraduate students, that opened in the former Bradenton Preparatory Academy building in West Bradenton in 2013. The academy, which also includes a sports academy, graduated its first class of five students in May 2014.

The idea for the film fest has been bouncing around since March or April of 2014, but was formally announced in the fall, Buck said. More than 100 entries were submitted for the event and 35 of the submissions will be shown on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lakewood Ranch Cinemas after being narrowed by a panel of judges from Inspiration Academy.

"It's really, truly just going to be a fun day at the movies," said Alyssa Gay, the festival director.

Saturday's celebration includes a screening of a film made by students in Inspiration Academy's film school and the students also will be helping to work the festivities, seeing the ins and outs of how such a festival works.

For Autumn Spier, a 16-year-old student, the opportunity is amazing.

"I never would have thought a year ago I'd be screening a short film I made," Spier said. "It's basically a dream come true."

The students learn in a mentor-apprentice style, working alongside industry professionals to learn and put together the film projects, Buck said. The concept and ideas are all the students'. The students' film, called "Second Time Around," follows two high-school boys on a road trip. The short film is about eight minutes long, Spier said.

"It's amazing how much work goes into a seven- or eight-minute short film," she said.

Spier said she and her classmates are nervous but excited to show their film Saturday. She said she is most looking forward to her screening, but also to see the other short films from the rest of the participants.

The top prize is a $5,000 award for Best of Fest, but prizes also include audience awards and more. The awards ceremony will take place Saturday evening as well, and will feature A Conversation with Lawrence Gilliard Jr, of HBO's "The Wire" and AMC's "The Walking Dead." Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitternote>