For the past 16 years, the After Hours Film Society has been hosting an annual film festival that has grown in scope to attract attention from around the world. Last year, hopefuls from 16 countries competed for one of 20 cash prizes, with award recipients living as near as Glen Ellyn and as far as Iran. This year, organizers decided to stir things up. After some deliberation, a newly restructured student film competition emerges with a narrowed scope of acceptable entries. Although the eight-minute limit remains intact, the live action category has been eliminated making way for “Anim8,” a festival that features only animated or experimental creations.

When asked what was the impetus behind the change, many reasons were cited, the most important being a pragmatic one. From the minute Felix the Cat won over the hearts of theater goers in the silent film era, the genre generated an upswing in box office profits. Trending continued as the feline’s popularity was overshadowed by the mouse that roared when, in 1928, “Steamboat Willie” was released. The film marked the debut of Mickey Mouse and was the first-ever cartoon with sound, an innovative success for Walt Disney Studios that changed the trajectory of animation forever.

Jumping ahead, the art form continues its meteoric rise in big business – “Frozen,” “Minions,” and “Toy Story 3” alone have grossed close to $4 billion. And, with the advances in technology, animation is everywhere you have a screen. Games, advertisements, and instructional videos all use the medium to convey their message. As a hot property, animation will offer this new generation of filmmakers viable careers in the industry.

Local students are encouraged to participate in the festival even though it has a global reach. In 2016, Nihal Dantluri, a Neuqua Valley High School student, won an award of excellence for his documentary, “Day By Day.” The competition may be stiff, but talent runs deep in our region.

Applications for the After Hours Anim8 Student Film Festival are now being accepted electronically by visiting www.filmfreeway.com or www.withoutabox.com. Students of all levels (grammar, high school, undergraduate and graduate) are eligible and may submit their entries for consideration.

Films receiving the highest ratings will be included in the After Hours Film Society’s “Anim8” Student Film Festival at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland, Downers Grove, IL, tentatively scheduled for October 16, 2018.

For more info on the student film fest or the After Hours Film Society, check out www.afterhoursfilmsociety.com or call (630) 534-4528.