WATERVILLE — With access to more affordable, high-quality cameras, websites where they can post their films online and annual festivals acknowledging their work, students across Maine seem to be making better movies in recent years.

This is what Tim Ouillette has discovered in his three years as director of the annual Maine Student Film and Video Festival, which is in its 34th year showcasing student filmmakers.

“I’ve noticed a shift already in the quality of filmmaking,” he said.

More than 40 movies were submitted for this year’s competition, with more than 100 students from ages 10 to 18 involved in making the short films, according to Ouillette, 35, a filmmaker and educator from Portland.

Some of the winning students’ movies are debuting Saturday during the Maine International Film Festival, where they will be presented free of charge to the public on the big screen at 12:30 p.m. at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

Although the emerging moviemaking technology improves access for more students, Ouillette believes having the annual film festival willing to promote aspiring filmmakers’ work keeps them interested.

“It validates what they’re doing, first and foremost that it’s important, and that the people in Maine are very interested in what they have to say as filmmakers,” he said, referring to the summer film festival.

Wes Sterrs, 17, and his friend John Loxterkamp, 16, made this year’s winning student film “The Fly,” based on the classic horror movie where a man turns into a fly.

At first, the Belfast Area High School classmates made the four-and-a-half-minute movie for their English class, according to Sterrs.

“We made it in one day, spent the evening shooting it and stayed up until 4 a.m. editing it,” he said.

The friends decided to submit it to the festival and they couldn’t believe it won first prize, which comes with a $2,500 scholarship to the Young Filmmakers Program, donated by The Maine Media Workshops in Rockport.

“We didn’t really expect to win, we felt pretty proud about the film, but we didn’t go into it thinking it would take the grand prize,” he said.

They both have been making short movies pretty much their whole lives, and have plans to study filmmaking in college, Sterrs said.

Loxterkamp can’t attend Saturday’s premiere because he is on a college visit in Savannah, Ga., according to Sterrs. He said his partner already has a big following for his short films on YouTube, the public video-posting website.

Sterrs has mixed emotions about the showing Saturday, which will be the first time he experiences his work being shown to a live audience, he said.

Sterrs plans to attend the premiere with family and friends. Some in the group helped make the movie, he said.

He knows once the lights dim and the film starts rolling, however, everything will be OK.

“The biggest prize for us is that we get to see our film on the big screen with a crowd and see their reactions,” Sterrs said. “For most of the young filmmakers just having people be able to see your work is what it’s all about,”

One of the finalists among the student filmmakers this year, Drew Davis, had to ask for his parents’ permission to make his movie, he said.

The finalists get a certificate for finishing among the top filmmakers, according to Ouillette.

It was the first attempt at making a movie for the 12-year-old student at Maranacook Middle School in Readfield.

“One night I just had this cool idea of making a video and asked my parents if I could use the camera,” he said. His parents are Chris Davis and Paige Ricciardo.

Davis wrote, filmed and played the two roles in the movie he named “Drew vs. Drew,” after the battle between two characters trying to kill each other, he said.

“I was both people in the video, so it’s basically me versus myself,” Davis said.

Despite getting an award for his first film, Davis, who lives in Belgrade, hasn’t decided yet if he wants to keep making movies.

When asked about becoming a filmmaker when he grows up, he paused for a moment and then gave his answer.

“I think it would be a fun job to make movies for a living,” Davis said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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