Sure, there are plenty of film festivals and filmmaking competitions taking place all over the country in any given week. But, how many of those festivals willingly give directorial reign to 10 random students ranging from their mid-teens to twenties and ask them to shoot 10 minutes of film in 10 days? Apparently, those behind this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival, running January 30 through February 8, are just crazy enough to let local students compete with one another for the honor of having their hastily shot film screened during the closing night ceremonies.

The “10-10-10” project, last year known as the “Rosebud Competition,” sounds like some subversive KGB code word, but is, in fact, the ever-expanding brainchild of those behind the blossoming Santa Barbara film fest. Only in its second run, the digital film competition has become a glowing opportunity for burgeoning student filmmakers to have their material showcased for locals, peers and Hollywood heavyweights alike. Most notably, it seems this year’s Artistic Director, Roger Durling, wants students to know exactly how prominently they factor into wholly rounding out this year’s film festival.

“I was born and raised in Panama and come from a very poor background,” said Durling, who is also a playwright and local writer. “I’ve achieved all I have because of scholarships, and you just have to give back. I think that this city, especially, has so many students in it. And not just UCSB or City College. There’s Westmont, Brooks and more. I think that the film festival has to reach out and help the schools.”

More than ever before, this 19-year-old festival seems bent on opening its arms to students throughout the county, even going so far as planning events with Arts & Lectures, and the UCSB Film Studies Dept., as well as selling event tickets on campus.

“I really wanted the educational program to be expanded, and I see the [“10-10-10”] competition as a fun way to include the students during the film festival,”Durling said. “We’re going to have screenings at UCSB and at City College, a documentary panel, as well as several documentaries screened at UCSB. [UCSB film studies guidance counselor] Joe Palladino will also be taking filmmakers directly into the classes.”

As far as the digital filmmaking competition, the guidelines have changed slightly from last year and a concerted effort has been made to make Santa Barbara, as well as the film festival itself, important focal points of each film. In fact, to be chosen to be one of the 10 filmmakers during the week of January 30, your film must include: shots from the opening night of the festival, a festival passholder who becomes a character in the film and a Santa Barbara landmark.

“I met with [film studies advisor] Mike Stinson from [Santa Barbara] City College and Joe Palladino at UCSB and we came up with these guidelines for the films,’ said Durling. “We just wanted it to be this kind of Fellini-like atmosphere during the festival. That’s why I wanted the passholder and the opening night of the festival to be included in the films. I just want it to be fun, with filmmakers making this whole festival.”

Before dusting off the digi and climbing atop the Courthouse, remember that you’ve got to make the cut. All prospective filmmakers interested in competing must be enrolled in a Santa Barbara school, ranging from junior high all the way up to college. Student filmmakers need to submit a five-minute sample of their work by Friday, December 12, which will be judged by a committee with representatives from each school. From there, SBIFF will chose the 10 filmmakers and notify them by late January, just in time to hastily create a 10-minute film in only 10 days. The winning film will be screened at the festival’s closing night gala, being held in the Granada Theater on February 8.

Beyond the “10-10-10” competition, this year’s festival already drips with excitement. A section called “Cult Classics” will screen films by camp/trash god John Waters, as well as classics like Russ Meyer’s “Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill!” The second of the three sidebars will be a tribute to choreographer Hermes Pan, known for putting the step into movie musicals like “My Fair Lady,” and numerous Ginger Roger/Fred Astaire vehicles. Finally, actress Mary Kay Place (“The Big Chill,” “Being John Malkovich”) will step up as guest curator to assemble the “Women in Film” sidebar, showcasing female directors.

“I’m also doing an emphasis on Spanish and Latin American films,” Durling said. “You’re still going to have the American independents and documentaries, but we’re going to feature 11 to 15 films from Argentina, Central America and Spain.”

In fact, this year proves a benchmark, as the opening night film is the Argentinean submission to the Academy Awards, titled “Valentin,” which isn’t even slated for release until May. This will be the first time a foreign film has opened the festival.

“Really, I think [the Latin emphasis] is fitting because of the Spainish and Latin American heritage of this city,” said Durling.

Between those eager to soak up the Latin American film revolution currently taking place or stake their claim on the “10-10-10” competition, this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival again looks like a hearty offering for local salivating film lovers.

For more information on the “10-10-10” Competition or the Santa Barbara International Film Festival visit or stop by the UCSB film studies office located at 1720 Ellison Hall.