‘It’s time to go’

14th annual Greg Harris Film Festival uncovers talented student filmmakers


NT News File Photo

The Greg Harris Film Festival took place at the Wilmette Theater on May 15th and awarded students with a Harris award

The Greg Harris Film Festival is not like any ordinary festival where filmmakers submit films for a year or more. One of the main categories of this festival is a film race where participating students have 72 hours before the festival to make their film.

 That film must include one specific line, and one specific action/prop unique to that year, that is revealed 72 hours before the due date. This year, the action was peeling a banana, and the line was, “It’s time to go”. 

Junior Jakob Werling was up for the challenge and entered the Film Race for the second year in the row. This year, Werling was awarded first place for his film. According to him, he has had an interest in filmmaking since he was a kid and plans to pursue it further in college.

“I had been sitting on it for a little while, and just decided to film it

— Blake Beeler

This festival is a tribute to English teacher Greg Harris who died suddenly in 2009. Harris, who loved film, created the first film study class at New Trier. The first festival took place in 2009. This year was the 14th anniversary of the festival which took place on May 15 at the Wilmette Theatre.  It showcased movies from both the regular “Film” category and the New Trier specific “Film Race” category.

This was senior Blake Beeler’s second year entering the film festival as well, and he won first place in the Comedy category. His approach to the festival was different from Werling’s- instead of writing and filming in a total of 72 hours, he filmed a short movie he had already written.

Beeler said, “I had been sitting on it for a little while, and just decided to film it” 

Beeler’s Cooking Time was a comedy based on a fake cooking show that demonstrated how to make grilled cheese. He too has a future in film making, and will be studying film in the class of 2027 at Ithaca College.

Film and media teacher James Syrek, who co-produces the festival with English teacher Carlo Trovato, has been working on it for three years now. He got involved because after joining the English department in 2019, he joined the Film Fest Committee. Syrek is passionate about film, and teaches all of the television and film class electives at New Trier.

According to Syrek, his role is to, “conceptualize the event, find the location, book the location, and host all of the contest info for students to submit in the film race.”

The Greg Harris film festival has hosted a multitude of different talented student filmmakers and gives students the opportunity to win the Harris award in many different categories. 

Other winners are listed here:

Best Documentary: Beautiful Spirit, Stephanie Koch and Adam Puljic

Rookie of the Fest, Stephanie Koch

Best cinematography: Busted Ankles, Henry Ervin

Best Editing: The Meal, Mayumi Suzue-Pan

Best Animation: Advice from a Caterpillar,  Channing Christ

Audience Choice Award: Being Asian is Fun, Mayumi Suzue-Pan

Best Film: Cooking Time, Blake Beeler