“Every big festival wants to have a youth section to seem like they’re supporting young filmmakers, but they separate it out so much from the rest of the festival,” says 23-year-old Jesse Harris, who persuaded his parents to let him skip college and spend the money it would have cost making his feature debut, “Living Life.”

In 2007, he co-founded the Natl. Film Festival for Talented Youth for work created by helmers 22 and under. This year, the event screened 113 films for more than 4,000 people over the course of three days, dividing entries (nearly all shorts) by category, rather than by age.

According to Harris, the best youth-produced work tends to be in shorts, but every now and then, a strong feature comes along. This year, his fest screened “Perfect Sport,” written, directed and starring Anthony O’Brien, who was 22 at the time.

“When you see a lot of the films that get into these other (mainstream) festivals, the quality is all over the place,” says O’Brien, who was impressed by the quality of the other films he saw at the fest. “I found that the most talent was coming from a very young group of kids between the ages of 10 and 13. There were times watching their short films when I thought, ‘These kids are really far ahead. I mean, this is better than a lot of the stuff I saw in film school.’”


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