Dispatch from SFFILM Education: Partnering with Pixar to Assist Pandemic Parenting

The SFFILM Education team has wrapped a strange-but-still-quite-busy spring and summer of programming for Bay Area students and families, and we asked them to give us a quick recap of what’s been on their minds. They took the opportunity to share some appreciation for one of our most valued local collaborators in developing world-class educational content for kids. Learn more about what SFFILM Education is up to at sffilm.org/education.

Well, we are fully into the fall semester and Bay Area schools remain mostly shuttered. Somehow, through it all, superhero teachers continue to push ahead with remote learning to provide their students great educational opportunities. Families have also experienced a whole new set of challenges in their households, with parents suddenly entering a new level of involvement in assisting with their children’s schoolwork. Being trapped inside has also tested the patience of both parents and children alike. Families long for the days of going out and doing fun and enriching activities together.

SFFILM Education would normally be engaging with teachers, students, and families directly in classrooms and theaters around the Bay Area. Since March, we’ve pivoted to the world of virtual programming with SFFILM at Home. While we would definitely prefer to see everyone in person, we’re pleased to be able to continue programming interactive film experiences that allow our youth audiences to engage with talented storytellers, filmmakers, and industry professionals from around the world. Thus, we are able to continue providing valuable resources to help develop media literacy and critical thinking skills, illuminate diverse world cultures, and inspire a lifelong appreciation of cinema in our kids.

We’re also fortunate to have deep working relationships with some of the most renowned film studios and artists in the world who gladly give their time to assist us in our work. Recently we had two fantastic programs with our neighbors right across the Bay, Pixar Animation Studios. In September we spoke with Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter and Senior VP of Production (and SFFILM Board member) Jonas Rivera. The creative partnership of this award-winning team has produced the beloved films Up and Inside Out. Our discussion focused on the Pixar storytelling process and how personal aspects of the filmmaking team’s lives are often examined and utilized to discover the emotional core of their films. We also hoped the program would help kids process the complex feelings that they’ve been experiencing during the pandemic, and inspire them to think about creative outlets they can explore to express themselves.

Then on October 4, we gave families the opportunity to get out of the house and experience something only the parents might have done before during their own childhoods. While we didn’t make it back into the theater, we did the next best thing by screening Inside Out during our SFFILM at the Drive-In series at Fort Mason Flix. It was a particularly fitting film with its San Francisco setting, and it gave our team much joy to see families cozied up in blankets in the backs of their cars, munching on popcorn and delighting in the emotional storytelling displayed on the big screen.

We are truly lucky to have such a strong ongoing partnership with Pixar — for over ten years they have worked closely with us to provide our audiences once-in-a-lifetime educational events. We’ve been able to hold sneak-peek screenings of their newest feature film releases, sometimes even within the walls of the studio. Talented directors, writers, and animators have been brought directly into classrooms to discuss their creative process, giving students guidance and inspiration they need to help them on their way toward fulfilling their dreams of growing up to be artists. Teachers have been provided with valuable STEAM learning tools which have allowed them to think outside the box and engage their kids in new ways around math and science. We’ve also held hands-on workshops where kids have learned how to tell stories using visual imagery, sculpted original characters out of clay, made stop-motion animation with everyday objects, and drawn beloved Pixar characters.

We can’t think of a better partner in our mission to educate and entertain Bay Area teachers, students, and families. We look forward to at least ten more years of partnership — indeed, to infinity and beyond!

Learn more about SFFILM Education at sffilm.org/education.

Presenter of the SFFILM Festival, SFFILM is a year-round nonprofit organization delivering screenings & events to 100,000+ film lovers annually. www.sffilm.org