Inspiring the next generation of filmmakers with the 8th Annual Flint Youth Film Festival

FLINT, Michigan — “Shoot your shot, you might get a star,” explains Emmy award-winning documentarist and Flint Youth Film Festival’s (FYFF) assistant director Alexandria Douglas, a Flint native and New York University Tisch School of the Arts graduate. It’s a phrase she wants to leave young filmmakers – from Flint and across the county – who submit thousands of films to be reviewed and hand-selected to participate in the festival.
But there’s a follow-up message from seven-time Emmy award-winning producer, writer, director, and actor Justin R. Brown, co-director of the FYFF, founder of his production company MopHead Artistics, and another Flint native, “keep your eyes on the prize.”
The duo is leading this year’s 8th Annual Flint Youth Film Festival, hosted by iMichigan Productions. Created in 2016, the FYFY focuses on highlighting and benefitting “the next generation of filmmakers and their efforts to work behind the camera” through workshops, online tutorials, classroom visits, and networking events. The festival offers participants opportunities to express their creativity and work with each other, the general public, and professional filmmakers.
Since its inception, the festival has received tens of thousands of entrants from Flint and Genesee County filmmakers ages 13 to 25. The FYFF has expanded from local entrants to filmmakers across Michigan and nationwide in recent years. The festival will host events across Flint throughout July to celebrate its milestone year. 
The Flint Youth Film Festival dates are:
  • Opening Night featuring Flint Youth Filmmakers: July 17 from 6-8 pm at the Flint Institute of Arts with guest Flint Mayor Sheldon Neely, WNEM TV5 Anchor Colette Boyd, and 2022 Flint’s Got Talent Winner Ava Safley.
  • Movie Screenings: July 19 at the Flint Public Library; July 20 at the University of Michigan – Flint’s KIVA; July 25 at Mott Community College’s Mott Memorial Building.  
  • Award Ceremony: July 22, online only viewing at
  • Closing Night Reception: July 28 at the Ferris Wheel from 5-8 pm.

Flintside caught up with Justin and Alexandria inside the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library to discuss Flint’s film festival and how the festival intends to inspire the youth.

The Flint Youth Film Festival's co-producer and assistant director discuss the festival's goals for the future inside the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library on July 11, 2023. (Anthony Summers | What exactly is the Flint Youth Film Festival?

A. Douglas: “We are a film festival, and when we started, we wanted to focus on Flint filmmakers. Originally, we were very word of mouth, going around with paper sheets and having people fill those out. Eventually, we updated it more, but we [regularly attended] drama, media, and English classes. Then, we evolved to open it up nationwide. It’s a great opportunity to see what different [ages] are thinking.”

Flintside: The festival started in person but moved online during the pandemic. How did you all make that shift?

J. Brown: “When the pandemic happened, we were like, why don’t we have everything online? Why don’t we open it up to have entries from around the country? The first year that happened, we got flooded with entries. We keep getting great work from everywhere. This year, our top three entries [were] New York, Los Angeles, and Michigan. That’s a good sign there’s interest within [Michigan].” 

Flintside: What is the FYFF doing to bring filmmaking as a career to the forefront?

A. Douglas: “In our past workshops, we’d have parents come in and say, hey, I had no idea this was an option to do as a career path. We’re trying to be the first step in these kids’ professional development — the training wheels. When they [enter] our festival, they get a laurel to put on their work — something to put on their resume. We try to make it as easy as possible so that the next festival they do, they’re not surprised by how much or little effort it takes.”

J. Brown: “Along with the certificates of recognition, all the winners [films] get to play in the Flint Institute of Arts for the whole month — the second-largest museum in the state.” 

Flintside: What are your hopes for the FYFF in the future?

J. Brown: “I want to get more public interest, focus more on young people, and feature local programming. One of our goals [is to] take some time to think about what we wanna do. How are we gonna do it? And making sure we take the steps to make it a reality. We want to do an event that people would be happy to spend a week or weekend [attending].”

A. Douglas: “We want to bring back the workshops. We want to reach out to the community more and say hey, we can teach you to work a camera or edit something in person. Focusing more on our workshops is where we’re going in the future. This year, we’re focusing on showcasing what the youth is doing around the country.”

Flintside: What do you want to leave the youth who have dreams of becoming filmmakers, writers, directors, and everything that goes into the field?

A. Douglas: “One of the main things we want the youth who enter into our festival to know is there is something to be done with your films after you finish creating them. There is a place where you can showcase your films and have people who want to watch them. We’re hoping we’re able to help those young filmmakers have their first step and get critiques from professionals in this field and become tastemakers.”

J. Brown: “I want to leave them with a feeling of inspiration not to stop doing things. I want them to have that inspiration. You made something, you’re seeing something somebody made, and you’re getting inspired. Now what can I do next to further my evolution as a creator? Keep your eyes on the prize.” 

To learn more about the Flint Youth Film Festival and its events, visit: All festival events are free for the public. Reserve your tickets here.
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Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.