Student journalists won’t be allowed to cover the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s red carpet events this year, organizers told schools.
Students from Dos Pueblos High School were denied access last year, so teacher and adviser John Dent turned applications in extra early this year.
Even so, festival organizers told him that no student journalism groups would be granted coverage this year.
“They said, don’t worry, you can buy a package for $200 to attend some of the events and movies, not as press but to attend the events,” said Dent, teacher for the DPNews and yearbook programs at Dos Pueblos High School. “I was pretty livid at that moment, and my students were really disappointed. The journalism staff was most disappointed. They were looking forward to it.”
The SBIFF’s red carpet is “a professional event and it’s for professional journalists,” festival Executive Director Roger Durling said Thursday. “Now, that said, we have access at other events for students, and they’re very welcome to attend and cover events.”
Many schools — from middle schools to universities — request access, and the organization can’t agree to give access to one group of students and not include everyone, Durling said.
“It’s not like we’re shutting our doors to educational programs, but we have to be a little more … especially the big events with red carpet, there are a lot of professional journalists that need space in there,” he said.
Durling is scheduled to meet with some school journalism program advisers and students on Monday to discuss a compromise and press access for the festival.
“We’ll offer certain events they can cover that are more age-appropriate,” he said, adding that as the festival grows, the organization gets more and more press pass applications. “The last thing I’d like to hear is students are getting gypped by the film festival. I’ve been teaching at Santa Barbara City College for 12 years and see the film festival as a tool for education, not just for students but the festival-goers.”
With the news that there would be no student access to the red carpet this year, a group of local media advisers got together and wrote a letter to festival organizers and its board of directors.
In response, the Monday meeting was set up, and organizers said students may be able to get free passes to some events, Dent said.
“Up until last year, we were always given access to the red carpet and other festival events, and it became a highlight of the year for students to engage in journalism at an adult level and meet with other student journalists and professional journalists,” said Luke Ohrn, journalism adviser for The King’s Page at San Marcos High School. “It just seems to me an issue of a local festival that maybe has gotten too big for Santa Barbara, so it’s not really about Santa Barbara anymore.”
Ohrn, who has managed the journalism program for six years, said The King’s Page staff probably published 40 or 50 articles on the film festival over a four-year period.
“At the beginning, we were pretty much given total access, as many press passes as we wanted, and then it was two per school, and then they kind of cut us off last year,” he said.
In previous years, San Marcos has sent a reporter, photographer, video production and teacher/adviser to these events, but access was denied last year.
“Because of last year, we already knew that we might not be able to go, so we haven’t really been planning on it,” said San Marcos senior Drew Avolese, editor-in-chief at The King’s Page.
He and other students plan to attend the Monday meeting and tell festival organizers why it’s important to have student journalists cover the events.
“We cover the news, and this is something happening in our town,” Avolese said. “If we’re not allowed to go, it’s unfair.
“I don’t know why they wouldn’t let us in. I feel like they’re not letting us in because they worry we’d be immature or on bad behavior. A lot of people I work with are very mature and would conduct themselves in a professional manner.
“We just want to cover what’s happening there, not go up to celebrities and harass them.”
The festival has several student-centered events and competitions, including the 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Competition; a symposium for undergraduate students pursuing a film degree; and Mike’s Trip to the Movies, an event for fifth- and sixth-graders that was started by late nature cinematographer Mike DeGruy.
Degruy was an involved parent at Santa Barbara Middle School, doing keynote addresses and even helping find a new campus for the school. He died in a helicopter crash Feb. 4, 2012, while working on a film project in Australia.
The Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press has covered the film festival for years, and has had exclusive interviews with stars including Daniel-Day Lewis.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from Jan. 27 through Feb. 7, and is hosting dozens of films, panels and celebrity events for its 30th year. Organizers revealed the 2015 lineup this week.