Keene-based film festival awards teen for screenwriting

Union Leader Correspondent
April 16. 2014 9:29PM
Monadnock region teens Jill Pierson, 15, of Francestown, Brittany Mena, 16, of Keene, Elyssa Harrington, 17, of Peterborough and Liam Healey, 17, of Antrim share their experiences in a high school screenwriting class during a pre-Monadnock International Film Festival screenwriting panel at Harlow’s Pub April 5. (MEGHAN PIERCE /Union Leader Correspondent)

KEENE — On the last night of the second annual Monadnock International Film Festival at the Colonial Theatre, ConVal High School junior Elyssa Harrington was awarded $1,000 in a high school screenwriting competition.

Harrington, 17, of Peterborough was one of five student finalists at the competition including fellow ConVal students Michael Zrzavy, Jill Pierson, Andrew French and Keene High School student Brittany Mena.

The finalists were determined by an independent panel of industry professionals. At the film festival’s closing night award ceremony on Saturday at the Colonial Theatre, Harrington was presented with the scholarship money and a copy of Final Draft screenwriting software for her screenplay titled, “A Can of Sardines and A Can of Beer.”

Award-winning filmmaker Aaron Wiederspahn of Nelson taught the class as part of a new educational component of the film festival. Wiederspahn is program director of MonIFF, 2013 N.H Filmmaker of the Year, and is also the owner of either/or films.

Wiederspahn met with the ConVal students over 18 weeks and the Keene students for nine weeks, guiding them through the process of taking an idea and crafting a short screenplay. The students elected to take the course, which was held during open study periods and was not for school credit. Plans are underway to continue the class at ConVal and Keene High in 2015 as part of the film festival’s programming.

Saturday night the festival also presented its second annual Jonathan Daniels award to the makers of the 2014 award-winning film “Watchers of the Sky.” Academy Award nominated filmmaker and director Edet Belzberg’s Sundance award-winning film is about the legacy of lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who became a tireless human rights advocate and introduced the word genocide to describe mass slaughter as a crime against humanity in 1944.

Belzberg and the film’s producer Amelia Green-Dove were presented with the Jonathan Daniels award after a screening of the film Saturday night. The award is recognition of a socially conscious filmmaker of great artistic merit that echoes Daniels’ courage, purpose and spirit by using film in a powerful, transformative way. The Monadnock International Film Festival is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring world-class film and filmmakers to New England’s Monadnock region.

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