From October 15-18, independent filmmakers gathered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the 15th Annual New Hampshire Film Festival. Screening features such as Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” and Charlie Kaufman’s “Anomalisa,” as well as the work of several local filmmakers, the festival brought together both seasoned independent filmmakers and beginners alike.
Spanning the entire weekend, the festival’s Young Filmmakers Workshop offered filmmakers under 18 the opportunity to craft their own short films. With help from professional filmmakers with works featured at the festival, the young filmmakers write, shoot and edit their films over three days, screening their work at the festival’s closing ceremonies on Sunday.
Such opportunities are rarely afforded to youth with filmmaking ambitions. They would normally only have a chance to produce work in the rare school media class or in their own spare time, which, in today’s climate of over-scheduling, is rapidly shrinking. Furthermore, the artistic vision of young filmmakers who do produce work is often discredited, seen as merely a hobby, never a mature work of art. NHFF’s treatment of these filmmakers as learning professionals, not curious kids, is an anomaly.
Indiewire sat down with Festival Director Nicole Gregg and Workshop Director John Herman at the NHFF to discuss what their program, and the festival as a whole, provides for aspiring young filmmakers.
“The guests and the people we bring in for this aren’t treating them like students, they’re treating them like filmmakers,” said Herman, “That’s a big leap for these guys, because these filmmakers don’t know how to talk to kids, so they just treat them like fellow filmmakers. They have really thoughtful conversations and these questions are coming from eager, aspiring filmmakers who sometimes ask questions that are more thoughtful and interesting than questions these filmmakers would get if they were doing a Q&A at the festival.”
While the workshop provides one of the precious few opportunities for a potential teenage director to share their work, it serves a secondary purpose as well. “A lot of our kids have gone to film school and then, years later, they come back and screen their films here in New Hampshire,” said Herman. A program that encourages young filmmakers, beyond expanding the scope of a festival’s content, helps inspire the next generation of directors and creates a loyal base of filmmakers to feed the festival’s future.
“It’s amazing to say that we were possibly able to inspire the next generation of future filmmakers,” said Gregg. “It might only be a few dozen each year, but over the course of the 15 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve definitely seen many of them go on to major film schools and to make major features that win at Sundance or other festivals. It’s rewarding for us to see that process come full circle.” Workshops for young filmmakers aren’t just giving audiences a glimpse at the work of an oft-ignored subset of filmmakers, they also help feed the independent film scene, getting potential auteurs started from a young age.
The Young Filmmaker’s Program isn’t the only aspect of NHFF that provides a stage for youth to screen their art. Their interest in fledgling talent extends into the festival’s main program as well. The festival’s shorts program features films from filmmakers of wildly varying ages. Of course established, adult filmmakers are represented, but directors who are currently in college, and even as young as 13, are also included in the lineup.
Gregg explained, “The whole festival is built from so many angles, but at the end of the day, it’s all based on the filmmaker contribution and the story they’re bringing to us.” If a festival is to work to the benefit of young filmmakers, it must not only encourage them to create work, but also show that work to the audience as well and New Hampshire Film Festival does just this.