Film Festival Showcases Blockbuster Impact

The lobby of O’neil Cinemas in Epping was packed on Monday afternoon with eager young filmmakers, anxious to see their work projected on a 50-foot screen. It was the second annual Granite Youth Film Festival, presented by United Way of the Greater Seacoast and the regional youth leadership council Granite Youth Alliance.

Six youth-made short films from middle and high schoolers out of Newmarket, Epping, Raymond, Dover and Portsmouth had their world premiere in a theater packed with friends, family members and community volunteers. And despite the differing geographies and creative approaches, the films shared one purpose: to take a stand against drug and alcohol abuse.

“United Way’s work with youth is centered on peer leadership and substance abuse prevention,” said Cindy Boyd, Managing Director of United Way of the Greater Seacoast. “Seeing these young people express their convictions in such imaginative ways was nothing short of magical.”

For the second year in a row, O’neil Cinemas was able to make this movie magic happen through their donation of theater space and equipment as well concessions for the evening. Over 150 people attended the show, with student interviews occurring between showings.

“This is an issue we as students feel strongly about,” said Alex McNair, director of “The Gateway,” the short from the Project Safety Youth Coalition out of Portsmouth. “It was exciting to do something like this in a creative way that could impact people.”

The Film Festival represented the grand finale to months of brainstorming, writing, filming and editing. In March, each team pitched their visions for the films to a panel of volunteers, some of whom were professionals in the film industry themselves. Seed money was then awarded, which gave the teams funds to carry out their projects. Panelists were at the Film Festival on Monday to see the finished results. United Way’s Emerging Leaders served as volunteers at the event and on the panel; the Film Festival is the Emerging Leaders’ signature volunteer opportunity.

“What a great example of delivering on a vision,” said panelist Mike Teixeira of Calypso Communications in Portsmouth. “When you get the chance to work with friends, anything is possible.”

On Sunday, June 8, at 5:30, a second showing complete with giveaways and student interviews is scheduled and open to the public. Tickets are $5 per person, with proceeds going to benefit United Way’s youth work. Admission can be purchased at O’neil’s website and box office or at

Exeter Hospital, Northeast Credit Union, Portsmouth Rotary, Kennebunk Savings, Allegra Portsmouth and Seacoast Power Yoga were the major sponsors for the event. The films will be posted at next week.