By Leslie Dolsak
Six Finalists will duke it out in front of a live panel of industry judges and a voting audience at the Annapolis Film Festival’s First Shorts Challenge: Pitch Contest. The winner receives a $30,000 in-kind production package to produce their short film which will premiere at the 2019 Annapolis Film Festival.
Watch the Shorts Challenge Live, Saturday, March 24 at Maryland Hall Theater. Get your tickets and vote for who you think should be the winner! http://bit.ly/2G3X02K
Here’s an interview with Shorts Finalist Ashleigh Coffelt with “First”
Annapolis Film Festival (AFF): How did you come up w. your synopsis?
Ashleigh Coffelt: Part of my responsibility as a filmmaker and storyteller is to shine a light in a dark place. I started examining topics that I felt passionate about, using my medium of film to start the dialogue to bring forth change. At the same time, the #Metoo and Time’s Up movements started to take off, showing the world just how prevalent sexual harassment and assault were with women of all ages. I remembered one particular moment from my past as a college athlete in the locker room, realizing how many of us had been raped and assaulted. The worst part was that many of us had been told by preachers, counselors, and friends that somewhere along the line, we were to blame for what happened to us. We found comfort in the trauma we had all similarly faced, as 18-19-year-old girls. We need to encourage women to speak up. My hope with “First” is to show these all too familiar stories for women to resonate with and invoke change as well as prevention.
AFF: Your background in film?
Ashleigh Coffelt: I was in college at Towson University (I’m originally from Baltimore) as a Psychology and Business major. In my business writing class, I realized I deeply desired to pick music for movies and picked up an EMF major from Towson as well. After graduation, I quickly realized in the independent world, I would have to sustain a career by doing set audio – which was pretty impossible to get on sets in Maryland. As I had been writing my entire life, I realized I had hundreds of stories to tell. In 2013, I started my production company, Miss Ash Productions, and started created short after short. I fell deeply in love with directing and cinematography. I’ve proudly written, directed, filmed and edited over 90 short films, 15 of which have screened at film festivals both internationally and nationally.
In addition to being a Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab Semi-Finalist, I’ve been awarded numerous awards including “I For I” (director, cinematographer), winner of Best Director at Festival de Cannes with the Creative Mind Group, “5ive” (writer, director, cinematographer, editor), winner of the Grand Jury Award at the Adrenaline Film Festival and RAW: Baltimore Filmmaker of the Year.
AFF: How are you preparing to defend your synopsis?
Ashleigh Coffelt: I’ve spent a lot of time researching the topic of sexual assault and harassment, preparing a feature film based on this topic as well as talking with women of all ages for their stories. I keep reading over the script and going through the look book I prepared to be able to defend my synopsis and story.
Such an important part of the pitch, especially the three minutes we have to bring it to life is making sure the judges can see the story as I envision telling it, which is why I shot a scene from the script and will be showing a 30 second clip. The most important part is to let my passion for telling this highly personal and necessary story shine.
AFF: How will this change your life if you win the competition?
Ashleigh Coffelt: It’s already been such an honor to be a finalist but winning the Annapolis Film Festival Shorts Challenge will change my life because it’ll be the first time any of my films have been supported by any grants.
To have the right resources to make a film without scrambling to use just any equipment we can get our hands on, having the resources in post-production to have a great sounding film, and knowing the film will premiere in a year from the place it all started in my home state, there is no way to articulate how significant that opportunity would be for me. To truly have the means to tell such a powerful story would be momentous next step in my career.