FFA producing future filmmakers

Students at the Florida Film Academy, some of them barely teens, are racking up the awards at state film festivals.

  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • Neighborhood
  • Share

Students at the Florida Film Academy are learning all the intricacies of filmmaking, such as directing, editing and producing, as well as how to determine the best way of telling a story.

They are also learning that the work they produce is good enough to win awards.

“These students are the future faces of film,” said Kay Hill, executive vice president of programming at FFA. “They work hard to achieve the very best, and they deserve the recognition. I’m so proud of them.”



Twelve-year-old Lily Barfield directed and Maddie LaCoss, 14, edited their latest project, titled “Labels,” and their short film received an Award of Recognition in the 17-and-under category at the IndieFEST Film Awards.

IndieFEST is an avant-garde worldwide competition that gives directors, producers, actors, creative teams and new media creators positive exposure. It gives budding filmmakers a worldwide audience with which to share their cinematic voice.

“Making this film was just so much fun,” Maddie, of Windermere, said. “We had our bumps in the road — minor flaws, missing clips, a copyright issue that I spent two hours editing to fix — but we made it! I'm proud of the girls and thankful to the academy, and this was just an overall great experience.”

“‘Labels’ is a representation of stereotypes and how they never define a person,” said Lily, a Winter Garden resident. “Throughout the film, ideas of ‘labeling’ are used literally, and these labels are all thrown out, symbolizing that they have no impact on an individual.”

“If you don't know a person on the inside, you can't help but judge them by their outside,” Maddie said. “We wanted to change that and bring awareness about this quick judgment. We wanted to send a strong message, that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.”

The movie was filmed at FFA in downtown Winter Garden, and the girls said the city’s small-town atmosphere was perfect for their project.

When Lily was planning the film, she came up with multiple ideas that couldn’t be incorporated because of time restraints, but she said she has been talking with Hill about reproducing “Labels” to what Lily calls its full potential.

“I think that, simply, the idea of ‘Labels’ is a winner,” she said.

She and Maddie are now working on a new short film that they hope will reach the festival level.

Both girls have studied with FFA for about a year and are intent on making a career out of filmmaking.

Maddie also has taken a few years of television production at the middle school level. She said the filmmaking classes have solidified her career choice.

“I hope I can continue to make films, maybe even movies one day, as a career,” she said. “There's just so much I want to do! I hope to be a director, but since it's difficult to build a reputation, I'd be more than happy as an editor. I love editing; unlike most people I can sit at a computer for hours without getting bored, just editing away because I'm a hardcore perfectionist.”

Lily has wanted to be an author since she was a preschooler.

“I want a career in the creative arts, like writing or director,” she said. “I want to become known for my work at a young age, because I want to be someone's inspiration someday.”



Another up-and-coming filmmaker is Molly Smith, 15, of Clermont, whose film “Pickles” has been accepted into two competitions so far: Miami Independent Film Festival and Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. She is waiting to hear about acceptance into four others.

Molly explained her film: “Pickles is about a troubled teen who leads her best friend on an adventure to mask her self-doubt. Her friend helps her to find a solution in the end. I would say it’s like ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ meets ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’ ”

It was shot in St. Augustine around the Flagler College campus. 

She wrote the story in one night, but once it was filmed, the story had changed.

“The director of photography, Avery Watson, really collaborated with me on every aspect of the film,” Molly said. “ Pickles’ is really just as much hers as it is mine. She made the visual aspects even better than I imagined, and our collaboration is what made the whole thing work.”

Everything Molly knew about filmmaking when she worked on this project was learned at a sleep-away film camp and from working on sets as an actress. She’s now taking a weekly high school filmmaking class at FFA.

“I’m one of those kids that hates watching a PowerPoint and sitting in a chair to learn things,” Molly said. “FFA lets us learn by doing. We get a lot of mentoring from the amazing teachers, Mrs. Kay and Mr. David (Haynes). We’ve learned how to work the equipment, write a good story and run an efficient film set, which is so important for us to learn.”

Molly said she loves screenwriting but wants to explore every job on a film set to be sure. She is currently writing a soundtrack for an independent movie.



Florida Film Academy instructors have more than 40 years combined experience in the broadcast and media industries and still actively work as writers, producers, directors, cinematographers and photographers for top networks.

Students are encouraged to share their work with a wider audience through festival submission and theater screenings.

For information on classes, go to flfilmacademy.com or call (407) 654-8400.


Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].



Latest News