On Their Way is an occasional series in which The Times introduces people who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have moved on to establish themselves in careers on or off Island. We are looking for young people who have distinguished themselves by their accomplishments in the arts, in business, in social services, in the military, in academics — in fact in any meaningful way. We welcome your suggestions.
Edgartown native Miriam Ditchfield, known to most as Mara, spent the first part of February in Berlin, a fair distance from Singapore, where she is currently enrolled in the New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia, working on her Masters in film direction. The 13-minute movie she wrote and directed, “Black Horn, Night Heron,” was accepted into the Berlin International Film Festival (or the “Berlinale”) where it had its world premire. The Berlinale is one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals.
Her film was one of 18 films representing 15 different countries selected to compete in a category called “The Culture of Individualism and the Longing for Community, short films, Generation Kplus.” A category for films geared toward young people aged from four to thirteen and up. Her movie did not win one of the awards, which were chosen by a jury of children and teenagers, but to have been chosen for inclusion in the festival is similar to having been nominated for an Oscar in the movie world.
The film is about two boys who spot a bird flying in the sky and follow it. One boy’s mother is missing and yet seems to be constantly by his side. He even thinks he sees her in an old television set. The film is about the healing power of a magical imagination. It portrays one day in the lives of two inseparable friends living near the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.
Born in Washington, D.C., Ms. Ditchfield moved to Martha’s Vineyard with her parents when she was two. She went to the Edgartown School and graduated from the Martha’s Vineyard High School in 1998. Her family still lives on the Vineyard. Her dad, Michael, was a psychologist and currently writes novels, and her mom, Lynn, who taught Spanish at the high school, now runs the Adult and Community Education Program (ACE) on the Island. Her brother, Brian, is the managing director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.
After high school she went on to major in theatre studies with a concentration in playwriting at Boston University College of Fine Arts, in their conservatory program, graduating in 2002.
She spent the years between college and graduate school switching between non-profit financial management jobs in the arts world in New York City and traveling the world. From 2004-2006 she was CFO of High Five Tickets to the Arts, a small New York City non-profit that provides $5 arts tickets to inner-city youth.
From 2008 to 2010 Ms. Ditchfield was business manager of The Atlantic Theater Company, a well-respected off-Broadway theater company founded by David Mamet. She has also worked as an educator in New York City and on Martha’s Vineyard. She has visited every continent except Africa and Antarctica, but said she hopes to close that gap. She has lived and worked in Boston, New York City, Buenos Aires, and Singapore.
Ms. Ditchfield has worked in many capacities on film sets, including assistant director, gaffer, and sound mixer. She has directed two documentaries and three narrative short films and was assistant director on three commercials, a music video, and ten short films in Singapore, China, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and India. She is currently prepping for her thesis film and is due to graduate in May.
She hopes her work will continue to allow her to travel. On her website she says that she hopes her film work will “help bolster a new sentiment of being, one that considers the trajectory of the world and its infinite smallness, a place where the stories can be both utterly unique and solely universal.” Her plan is to shoot a film on the Vineyard next winter.