Dylan McDermott, Andrew Jenks Give Student Filmmakers a Chance

Andrew Jenks Dylan McDermott High School
Dan Doperalski for Variety

“If you have one person in your life to believe in you, you can do anything,” Dylan McDermott tells us in between takes on the set of his new CBS show, “Stalker.”

For Andrew Jenks, the founder of the Varsity Brands All American High School Film Festival, being held Oct. 24-26 in New York, that person was McDermott.

“Dylan was one of the first people (who) told me I wrote a good script,” says the 28-year-old Jenks, best known for his award-winning MTV documentary series “World of Jenks.” When searching for support for the festival, Jenks says McDermott was his first consideration. “I thought about who I knew that would be willing to give their time even when their time is precious,” he explains.

The two met a few years ago through a mutual friend, discussed a film written by Jenks for McDermott to star in, and bonded over a shared desire to help high-school-age kids step out creatively, particularly with arts programs being slashed in schools, and filmmaking an art form easily adapted by teens since the rise of mobile technology and DSLR cameras.

So the two — along with Ed Burns and Hollywood friends like Doug Ellin and Kristen Stewart — are paying it forward. The fest’s prizes include one week on a Relativity Studios movie, and a weeklong gig on a documentary project by Siskel/Jacobs Prods. Sponsors are Cantinas Entertainment, Moviefone, Sony and social media app Keek, among others.

“I’m watching films by 16-year-olds, and seeing how remarkable it is that they have this kind of vision,” McDermott says. “They have something to say. That’s what art is all about.”

After last year’s fest, Burns was equally impressed. “These filmmakers restore your faith in the future of cinema,” he noted.

For Jenks, who has films on HBO (“Andrew Jenks, Room 335”) and ESPN (“The Zen of Bobby V”), the competition presents the type of opportunity student athletes get, but not young creatives.

“There are all these kids making great films, and we want to make sure they have a place to showcase them,” he says.

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