Jonesborough’s Student Film Festival

Each November, McKinney Center rolls out the red carpet to welcome the young film students who have taken part during the year’s film making classes for the Annual Student Film Festival. On this night, students will debut their films for the public for the first time. It is a night to celebrate the achievements of their efforts.

All of these films are student written and directed. As a StoryTown project, which is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and presenting the stories of the people from this region, the students often focus their attention on Jonesborough’s historic people and places. A series of “History Minute” films, news programs, and documentaries take a look at such subjects as Ella Russell, an African American hospital-trained nurse who served in East Tennessee. Other subjects have included the Chuckey Depot; Elihu Embree and his newspaper, The Emancipator, the first publication solely dedicated to the abolitionist movement; Captain Christopher Taylor and the Christopher Taylor Cabin; the Historic Chester Inn; train wrecks in Jonesborough during the 19th Century; Andrew Jackson; Parson Brownlow, and Jonesborough’s own Buffalo Soldier, Alfred Martin Rhea. Many of these “History Minute” films will be presented on the website of the Heritage Alliance, an organization that partners with the McKinney Center film classes by providing documents, artifacts, and resources to students for their films.

Students have also created fictional films, animations, and action films, bringing to the screen what they hold in their imaginations.

Students in the film class learn how to create a storyboard, develop a film concept, and write a simple script. They learn how to operate a high-definition video camera, how to operate studio lightning, how to use sound and music, and basic film direction. They also learn how to act for film. They gain a new awareness of the vital role Jonesborough has played in the history of Tennessee and of the United States, as they do “location shots” throughout town. They also learn the importance of making their own voices heard as they create original creative pieces.

In addition to the technical training they receive, they are also encouraged to think creatively and find new ways to present material. Students are empowered with the opportunity to create a film using their own unique perspective. Students control the point of view and are in charge of the process. Each is given the experience of leadership as they step into the role of the director, bringing their visions to life. The Student Film Festival highlights all of their creativity and technical expertise.

Past festivals have been held in-person, with students picked up in a Limo Van, and driven through town, arriving at the McKinney Center to their own red-carpet walk before the films are premiered to an audience of friends, family, and supporters.

In recent years, this festival has been held online due to Covid-19. In these instances, social media posts and news releases alert the public to the event so they may tune in to the student film premiers. Each of the students films range from 2-6 minutes in length, a great accomplishment to achieve in the 6-week class.

To view past student films, click on these links or check out the McKinney Center’s YouTube Channel under playlists.

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The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is a multi-use facility providing arts education through Jonesborough's Mary B. Martin Program.


Phone: 423.753.0562

103 Franklin Ave.
Jonesborough, TN 37659