First Ever Mercersburg Film Festival Held February 16

Mercersburg seniors Maddie Kennedy ’19 and Casey Nguyen ’19 organized the first-ever Mercersburg Film Festival, which took place February 16 at the Star Theatre, located at 23 West Seminary Street in Mercersburg.
In addition to entries from the U.S., the group received entries from around the world including Switzerland, Honduras, Vietnam, and the Bahamas.. Kennedy and Nguyen used FilmFreeway, an online portal, to market the festival and receive international entries.

The idea for the festival began early this school year, and part of the goal of creating the film festival, Kennedy and Nguyen said, is to help cultivate a culture among the local Mercersburg community where people can tell their stories freely, as well as be creatively inspired by one another.  

“We’re hoping to burst the Mercersburg bubble and help connect the Academy with our local community while sharing our creativity with one another,” Kennedy says.

Initially, the idea started small. The group was going to host the festival at the Academy and use the Hale Studio Theatre to show the films.

“It just kept growing and we ran with it,” Nguyen says. “We wanted to explore how far we can push and grow the event. Fortunately, the interest in the community so far has been really encouraging, and we’re so grateful for that.”

Kennedy says that they wanted potential entrants to know that they don’t need to focus on the type of equipment or the talent of the actors.

“People will tell me that they don’t want to make something because they don’t have the equipment; it’s kind of sad that people feel that they’re limited when they’re not,” she says. “You can make a great film with an iPhone.”

Nguyen says that organizers encouraged entrants to use the equipment they have.

“You don’t have to have an expensive setup to effectively tell a story,” Nguyen says. “That’s how I got started at first—using my mom’s old, scratched up Samsung phone. It’s not about the gear, it’s about the story and how you manipulate your tools in order to tell it. How well you accomplish this defines you as an artist.”

Nguyen says the festival has received some great submissions that were made on a phone and is excited to show members of the community how far they can push their gear.

Kristen Pixler, arts faculty member at Mercersburg and Commarts Springboard class instructor, says that she thinks it’s an excellent project. “They had a specific area of interest and couldn’t have been a better fit,” Pixler says.

The project, which started outside of the class, is being used as a project for Commarts to help the students set benchmark goals throughout the planning process because it fits so well with the scope of the course.

Pixler has been impressed with the students’ professionalism and resourcefulness to get the festival started. “They’ve really generated a buzz around this event and have reached out to the local community and created a project that’s global,” she adds.
Entries were open in one of five categories: drama, comedy, horror/thriller, documentaries/vlogs, or the “everything” category.

There are two awards categories: the public voting, (done online during the afterparty), and the judges’ choice, which will focus on filmmaking and entertainment aspect. The award for each category is $50.

The Mercersburg Film Club hosted an afterparty at One North Coffee and Bake Shop featuring a panel of filmmakers and plenty of space, time, and food for people to creatively discuss. For more information, visit
Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 435 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
We offer 170 courses, including AP and Honors, more than $7 million in financial aid, 26 varsity sports, and a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts center.
Located 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and within easy driving distance of New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
300 East Seminary Street, Mercersburg, PA 17236
GPS Address: 10951 Buchanan Trail West, Mercersburg, PA 17236