Film school adolescents

Eight- to 18-year-old women get their films played in the Girls in the Director’s Chair series

Steven Snyder

The Women with Vision film festival is not only a time to celebrate today’s prominent female filmmakers.

Thanks to the efforts of Megan Leafblad and Sara Nichol, it is also a workshop to develop the next generation of women with vision.

Every year, the Girls in the Director’s Chair series encourages young women from across the state to submit their filmed works. The requirements are rather flexible, beyond the rule that entrants must be 8-18 years of age.

“It’s a time to inspire them to continue what they’re doing and also to connect with these women filmmakers and understand that it’s something they can do,” said Leafblad, the Walker Art Center’s community programs coordinator.

In fact, the series has been scheduled in such a way that Sunday serves as a public screening and a daylong workshop for the aspiring filmmakers.

In addition to the day’s three programs of films, the Walker has invited Andrea Richards, author of “Girl Director: How-to Guide for the First-Time, Flat-Broke Film and Video Maker,” to lead a workshop for the girls included in the series.

Leafblad said it is also an invaluable opportunity for young women to connect with their professional counterparts. “We really want to create a cycle or a network,” she said.

The numbers touted by the organizers are nothing short of amazing. Out of some 215 filmmakers and 150 submitted works, the final series reflects 111 filmmakers and 53 films.

More surprising, however, is the scope and tone of the entries. From animated works to experimental films, the girls in the series are hardly picking safe subjects or formats.

“I was in the festival when I was a little bit younger,” said Nichol, an intern with the Walker. “But when I watched all of the submissions, it was a shock to see how many dealt with these serious issues.”

Leafblad said she agreed.

“Some entries are from programs that work with kids from underprivileged schools,” Leafblad said. “So many of them told really sad stories. Being able to get involved with video is an escape from the hardships they have to face.”

To understand the importance of this series, one only needs to look at this year’s adult-oriented Women with Vision festival. Maeri Hedstrom, whose short film, “Drenched Evolution,” will screen as part of the main festival, started in the Girls in the Director’s Chair series before she began pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

In her case, it appears this series did change a life.