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Sophie Jordan and Emily Donovan, students at Epping Middle School, joined other students for a film festival featuring short films produced by local youth at O’neil Cinemas in Epping Tuesday. (Courtesy)

Students hit the big screen at Brickyard Film Festival

EPPING — A student film festival was held Tuesday to show off the work of young filmmakers with important messages about substance abuse prevention and other issues affecting today’s youth.

O’neil Cinemas opened up the theater to more than 200 people who attended the first-ever Brickyard Film Festival, which featured five short films produced by local students.

The films were the culmination of a joint two-month project by United Way of the Greater Seacoast and Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention.

The teams of students pitched their projects to a panel of six community volunteers in early May. They were then awarded money to create the films and perform other related work.

O’neil Cinemas donated the use of its theater for Tuesday’s premiere, where the students who worked on the project talked about their films and why they chose certain topics.

“We wanted to get the message out that the older kids have to be good role models. Younger kids will be more likely to listen to us, so we have to show them that we’re willing to do something about the problem,” said 13-year-old Sophie Jordan, 13, who was featured in a film by Epping middle and high school students called “A Fork in the Road.”

In their film, the students featured a deadly car accident that resulted from a driver using marijuana. The students chose the topic because they felt it was a problem that needed to be addressed.

Other films focused on issues like prescription drug abuse, underage drinking, and positive peer-to-peer mentoring. They were produced by youth from Timberlane Regional High School’s Peer Outreach; the Project Safety Association, a nonprofit involving Portsmouth middle and high school students; the Phoenix Family Focus youth group of Stratham; and the Raymond Coalition for Youth.

Cindy Boyd, managing director of United Way of the Greater Seacoast, called the process a “remarkable experience.”

“Watching these films on the big screen and seeing the culmination of all that ingenuity from our young people was a testament to United Way’s vision for a strong community,” she said.

The film festival was also an opportunity for students to see themselves on the big screen.

“I think it’s every kid’s dream at some point to be a movie star. To see yourself on the big screen was such a great experience,” said Emily Donovan, 13, of Epping, who also starred in the Epping film.

O’neil Cinemas, Exeter Hospital and Allegra Portsmouth sponsored the event.

The films can be viewed at


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