Eighteen-year-old Julia Kupiec picked up a video camera for the first time about a year ago, intrigued by the tool that until then she had only been in front of as an actor.

For two years in a row, she played parts in films her friends created for the 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Competition at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Now, the Santa Barbara High School senior has become one of those filmmakers for the 2015 iteration — making a 10-minute movie in 10 days, hoping to win scholarships to Relativity Education’s film workshops and a $500 gift card to Samy’s Camera.

The youth film contest, established at the festival in 2004, aims to bring student screenwriters and filmmakers together with mentors from the industry to cultivate the next generation of cinematographers.

Each high school or college student finalist falls into the screenwriting or filmmaking categories, and one from each profession teams up to work on the same script.

All 10 films will be screened on the last day of the festival at the Arlington Theatre at 2 p.m. Saturday, where judges will select winners from each age-level category.

“Honestly, no,” Kupiec said Wednesday afternoon, falling short of visualizing exactly what her finished film would look like.

Her deadline is 10 a.m. Thursday — a fact not far from her mind, partly because of nerves and partially because she could almost feel the sweet relief of being done.

What has she learned so far?

“That pre-production is so, so important,” she said. “That filming a film in 10 days is really difficult. If you’re going to direct, hire a cinematographer. It’s a big, long learning experience.”

Like most of the 10-10-10 films this year, Kupiec was assigned a comedy genre, although she considered herself “the average amount of funny.”

She’s working off a script from Santa Barbara High senior Graham Collector, who pitched three ideas before three mentors picked the one he would write.

Both he and Kupiec collaborated on the project as finalists from 48 screenplay and 36 film submissions.

“It’s just always been kind of fun, telling a story,” said Collector, who noted that his parents have both written screenplays. “There’s always going to be changes to your script.”

The 17-year-old spent a month writing his screenplay, which follows the life of a bright-yet-invisible teen who writes an anonymous blog about things happening at his high school.

Collector said his first film fest experience has taught him that filmmaking is a possible career choice, which was the same conclusion Kupiec came to.

She’s learned to like being behind the camera.

“I love it,” Kupiec said. “It’s been really fun.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at gpotthoff@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.