Shelterwood students have many opportunities throughout the year to practice performing arts, but the most exciting occasion is the annual Shelterwood Film Festival. Nicknamed “The Shelties,” it is a festive evening of celebration and creativity.

Staff and students alike look forward to this special event, which features both student-created videos and live performances. Everyone dresses up, enjoys a special dinner and takes pictures. This year’s Sheltie Awards were the first to take place in Shelterwood’s new chapel.

“The thing I love most about the Shelties is the way it brings people together to showcase and celebrate the work our students have been doing,” says Kyle Anderson, Performing Arts Coordinator. “The energy of the night is high, and there is plenty of cheering and support.”

Shelties at Shelterwood

Every performance receives an award. This year’s categories, inspired by those at the Oscar Awards, included Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Musical, Best Editing and Best Overall Picture.

“This is a chance for students to release their creative juices a bit,” says Kyle. “It is a showcase of what we’ve been working on the past few months.”

No two films are the same. Some students take a light-hearted approach, with compilation-style videos. “We had lots of laughs this year!” Kyle says. Another group of students created a film inspired by the 48-Hour Film Project, with a required character, a required line of dialogue and a required prompt, but total freedom otherwise. Some videos were more dramatic, ranging from adventure to poetry.

“Students gain a new sense of confidence from showcasing their work,” Kyle explains. A small choir from his performing arts class sang the song Glory, from the film Selma. “Many of them were nervous to perform live, but there is a different confidence in their faces, their bodies and their posture. Great confidence comes from people being proud of their work.”

Students sometimes use creative arts as a way to process their past or work through issues they’re struggling with now. One student wrote a song about an especially difficult experience and performed it live at this year’s Shelties. “It was a beautiful and well-written song, and it talked about both real hurt and real hope,” Kyle explains. “It was such a moving performance and she found real closure in this.”

One student wanted to share his Indian heritage by creating a Bollywood-style video, complete with a choreographed group number. “He had a big vision and wanted to get many people involved,” says Daniel Schlenker, Activities and Volunteer Coordinator. When the student arrived at Shelterwood, he struggled to relate to his peers and work with other students.

On the day he filmed the video, however, 15 students arrived, enthusiastic to participate. It was an inclusive experience for this student, and he practiced overcoming social challenges in the process. “I could tell on the day it was shown that he had a lot of pride in the outcome of the video,” Daniel says.

Beyond the creative experience, the filmmaking process is an opportunity for students to build their relational and leadership skills. In filmmaking, students initiate a project and see it to fruition. As they share and receive feedback, they read social cues and learn to compromise. Collaboration with a team helps students relate to their peers. They practice taking responsibility for their actions. When the project is complete, students learn to take pride in their work.

“Students develop responsibility and gain the ability to dream, cast vision and imagine grander things,” Kyle says. “It’s all preparation for the real world.”