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Dublin High School Film Festival Returns Online Defying COVID-19 Pandemic

May 13, 2020

DUBLIN, CA–The momentous date was May 27, 2015. In perhaps, a simpler time, the event was the inaugural Dublin High School Film Festival. It was driven by Video Production Instructor, Michael D’Ambrosio and his first year students populating the newly hatched program. The demand from the class was to deliver 15 video pieces from his 40 students. The final works were to be completed, peer-reviewed and then for some – rewarded with a screening at the Center for Performing Arts on a Wednesday night. Last year, online tickets to attend the 500-seat theater sold out in one minute and 28 seconds. The concept evolved into a phenomenon that has become part of the landscape at Dublin High for the past five years.

With the commencement of a new academic calendar in 2019, Mr. D’Ambrosio spoke openly to his students and colleagues that perhaps the festival concept had run its course. In essence, lacking any new innovation, what would the event serve – other than a simple continuation? As we have all experienced, the COVID-19 outbreak has touched each and every corner of our local and global lives. From a narrow, but important focus, the daily functioning of K-12 student’s lives has been literally turned upside down.
With the Shelter in Place order for Alameda County, leadership at the Dublin Unified School District has worked with the Dublin Teachers Association to formulate and to negotiate a system to maintain the learning continuum for over 13,000 students – doing so while not knowing with complete certainty when the order might be lifted. This unprecedented circumstance even raised the concept of whether to issue letter grades or a credit/no-credit system for final recognition that was eventually resolved by the School Board.

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Naturally, the consequence of mandating distance learning meant the abrogation of many school calendar activities. Gone were in-person Teacher Appreciation Week celebrations, band concerts, certain athletic seasons and senior prom events. While all rational decisions, it left an empty feeling for all that anticipated these moments. So, we turn to an event that has the potential to retain a level of consistency and revelry for a large segment of our community. While the original plan was not for it not to occur, the Dublin High School Film Festival will return for a streaming event on Thursday, May 14, 2020 @ 6:30 PM.

We reached out to DHS Video Production Instructor, Michael D’Ambrosio to gather his impressions on why the event was resurrected and more importantly, how this event may serve as a figurative phoenix to help lift the Dublin community as we all navigate this unusual time.

OneDublin.org: At the start of the current academic year, you had made a decision to curtain the film festival – citing that after five years it had run its course. However, you received direct feedback from your students to reinstate it. What happened?

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Michael D’Ambrosio: “The students started asking questions about why the Film Festival wasn’t happening this year, so I put it to my class, and they reached out to the students. We found out that the students enjoy the event, so we felt we had to listen to our viewers.”

OneDublin.org: The Alameda County Shelter in Place order impacted over 13,000 students and staff in DUSD. The instructions were clear, but the longevity of the order was far from certain. What initial and subsequent guidance did you provide to your students specific to their anticipated pieces to be submitted?

D’Ambrosio: “Once the Shelter In place went in order we didn’t miss a beat. We still met every week, and we put out Video Bulletins every week. The students in the program felt that the students wanted that normalcy during these crazy times. It allowed us to really get to work on the Film Festival and what our plan would be.”

OneDublin.org: Since student work could not be conducted at DHS for the foreseeable future, please describe their time urgency and how did some of them employ creativity to use only the tools at their fingertips.

D’Ambrosio: “The students in the program are unbelievable. They used any resource they could to create their films. Most of the students had to start their films all over and come up with new ideas since they couldn’t leave their house. In just a few short weeks, not only did they use their creative minds, but their pieces are informative, thoughtful, and send a message. They didn’t want to let the shelter in place get in the way of their passion and vision, even if it had to be recreated. I truly can tell you I’ve never been more proud of my students in my program. They are amazing, and their willingness to never give up is a sight to see.”

OneDublin.org: This academic year at Dublin High School will be remembered forever. Some of it is based upon tragic loss. Hopefully, there will be creative solutions to celebrate grade level promotions and a celebration of the Class of 2020. In your mind, how do you hope that the execution/continuation of the film festival can lift the spirits of our students and their families?

D’Ambrosio: “This year is definitely a year that not only will Dublin High never forget, but our community as well. The Video Production students really feel that the Film Festival is always one of the events that wrap up our school year. So the fact that we can still do it makes me so happy that we can bring some normalcy to our school year. We feel that we are just doing our part as a program, while still creating, showing our passion, and showcasing the arts.”

OneDublin.org: The completion of this academic calendar year will occur. Please help us to understand what the VP program may look like in 2020-21 in terms of enrollment and staff.

D’Ambrosio: “The program has grown so much over the last few years. So much so that next year we will be bringing on an additional teacher to the program. To be honest, it just allows for room for creativity, excitement, and I can only imagine what’s next for this exciting program.”

OneDublin.org: To conclude, we provide you with an open platform for you to communicate to the students and staff that you interacted with daily until March 16th.

D’Ambrosio: “I would be lying if I told you it was easy. It’s difficult to not see the faces of the students, or my colleagues. They are what drive me when I am at work every day. It’s the little things you miss about your daily interactions while on campus. I will say though, Dublin Unified teachers and administration though are remarkable. To be able to switch their way of work in a matter of hours, and still continue to be there for their students, and dealing with their own things at home is something that is unthinkable. It’s why I love Dublin. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We will see you Thursday night at the Film Festival. Thanks for your support. Go Gaels!”

OneDublin.org would like to thank Michael D’Ambrosio for sharing his thoughts and for preserving an event that has brought joy to thousands of community members over the years. We would also like to acknowledge the hundreds of educators and the leadership of DUSD for their creativity and perseverance in guiding the school community through this highly unusual time.

We kindly invite you to experience this unique event and to encourage your circles to witness a Dublin-centric moment. Link to the event trailer: https://vimeo.com/417751783
Links to experience the Film Festival on 05/14/20 starting at 6:30 PM simulcast on YouTube:

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