All about filmmaking for kids at M.V. Film Festival

Eli Dagostino

Updated Wednesday March 18 at 10:15 pm 

Island children will have the chance to learn about many aspects of filmmaking during the annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival on Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22, as well as see films, and make their own short film.

With the festival entering its 15th year, Children’s Programming Director Alexandra London-Thompson is excited for the children’s programming, and the festival as a whole. “This is the best thing that we do,” says Ms. London-Thompson and added, “Hands down, this year’s is the best [overall] programming I’ve ever seen.” A summer Chilmark visitor, she has been attending the festival since its inception.

Children’s events begin Saturday morning at 9 am in the Chilmark School, with a program of shorts from Germany, Britain, Canada, France, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Japan, Norway, Spain, and the U.S. Ms. London-Thompson selected the shorts from the Chicago Children’s Film Festival, which she attended in October. “It’s the Sundance of children’s films,” she says, “and these are my top picks.” Alternatively, children are invited to attend The Future of Farming: Five Short Films, at 9 am in the Chilmark Community Center.

A program of stories and songs, led by Chilmark children’s librarian Kristin Maloney, will follow at 10:30 am. This interactive mix of storytelling and music is unique, according to Ms. London-Thompson, who works as drama director at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn., in the off-season.

From 12:30 to 4:30 pm, children can participate in a filmmaking workshop that will produce a live-action short under the supervision of playwright Scott Barrow and screenwriter Peter Stray. A frequent Island summer theatre performer, Mr. Barrow belongs to New York’s Tectonic Theater Project, probably best known for the Laramie Project, and he teaches acting in the New York parochial school system. Mr. Stray, also a summer Vineyard presence, is a classically trained British actor who has just completed principal photography for his first feature film. Also helping with children’s programming are Hanna MacDougall, who teaches at the Oak Bluffs School, and Ms. Maloney. In addition, Ms. London-Thompson will bring several of her students from Miss Porter’s to help oversee the filmmaking project, which will take place in the Chilmark Community Center Art Shack.

“It’s scary and exciting — organized mayhem,” she says. “We have no idea what will happen.” At last year’s festival, participating children created a documentary film short. A screening of a 2015 Oscar-nominated animated Irish folk tale, Song of the Sea, will follow the filmmaking workshop at 5 pm in the Chilmark School.

A series of four free workshops on filmmaking will happen on Sunday, March 22, at the Chilmark library. Participants will learn how sound and music help make movies come to life in Hearing the Movies from 9 to 9:45 am. Acting in the Movies takes place from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, and Sound and the Movies, a workshop on creating sound in movies, occurs from 1:45 pm to 2:45 pm. Finally, Directing and the Movies is scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.

Sunday’s events will culminate with a 6:30 pm free screening of the film short written, directed, acted, and filmed by participating children. Added to that program will be several more shorts from the Chicago Children’s Film Festival. An anonymous donor has made funding for the workshops possible. Participants can register for these activities on the children’s page of the web site.