HOLMDEL, NJ: 4th grade Indian Hill student and filmmaker, Anna-Sofia DeStefano is the youngest filmmaker to be accepted into the sought after Garden State Film Festival student competition. During the early part of the pandemic, Holmdel students had half day school sessions.  Then 9-year-old Anna-Sofia was given a choice by her parents to fill her days: Home Economics or Filmmaking. She chose the latter. We caught up with Anna-Sofia, her mom, Casey DeStefano to talk about the filmmaking experience, Garden State Film Festival and the importance of young girls in film.

TAPinto: How old are you?

ANNA: Ten years old, but I was 9 years old when I made my film.

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TAPinto:  What’s the name and genre of your film?

ANNA: It’s called, “The Book.” It’s a short horror film starring a family friend.

TAPinto: What’s it about?

ANNA: It is about a book and a girl named Lily Bradley. Lily opens a special book that she is not allowed to and summons a demon into her house. 

TAPinto What’s the moral of your film?

ANNA:  Listen to your parents.

TAPinto How did you come up with the idea for the story?

ANNA: I like scary stuff and cool stuff and I put them together. I get ideas from other movies. I combined ideas I have seen in other movies like “The Ring” and combined her with the story I was thinking of.

CASEY (MOM): She isn’t allowed to watch any horror films, but she saw the trailer to “ The Ring” and those images stayed with her, so she incorporated it into her film. Which is exactly why she isn't allowed to watch horror yet, it sticks in their minds.

ANNA: I have seen a horror TV show. “Stranger Things.” It is scary when the demogorgon eats the cat guts, I would consider that cool. “Stranger Things” is one of my inspirations.

CASEY: Ok, this is true, but she was allowed to watch it because the story had a very strong young female character lead.

TAPinto: What are your favorite films and TV shows?

ANNA: Stranger Things, The Office, Marvel movies, Enola Holmes.

TAPinto: What do you want your next film to be?

ANNA: Another scary one. An action thriller.

TAPinto: Have you ever done any of your own stunts?

ANNA: Yes, in the action film we did in the pool this summer.

TAPinto: How long did it take to make, “The Book?”

ANNA: About three or four weeks.  .

TAPinto: How long did it take to actually shoot your film?

ANNA: We shot it in one day and one night.

TAPinto: What were all the roles you played in making this film?

ANNA: I came up with the idea, I directed it, shot it, did some editing and was the demon.

TAPinto:  What do you like about directing?

ANNA: You can create and make it anyway you want to. You think of an idea and boom you make it.

I like being the boss on the film set, even though kids might not listen that much.

TAPinto: What was the hardest thing about making the film?

ANNA: The editing. My iPad doesn’t allow me to do all the things I want to do technically. So that’s why I handed off the editing fixes to my Mom.

TAPinto: What did you like most about shooting this film?

ANNA: Playing with my friend before we started. Also, I think it’s fun to shoot a film because you can see behind the scenes, because you can see how it is done. That is cool.

TAPinto: You mean you can see how the big boys do it?

ANNA: I can see how the WOMEN do it.

CASEY(mom): I’ve taught you well.

TAPinto: What was your mom’s roll in all this?

ANNA: She was an actor and helped with editing and shooting when I was the demon. She inspired me to make a film because that is what she does. 90% of the ideas were mine. I made up the story, mom twisted it about 10% of it. My mom taught me a lot. Dad was an actor. And my brother Martin was a cameraman and did special effects.

TAPinto: What else do you like to do?

ANNA: Playing with Lego and making Lego stop motion films for school projects I like. art, soccer. flag football, ice skating, sledding, dragons, watching TV shows & films. I love my dog, Meatball. I co-directed a “Dog-u-mentary” about Meatball with my brother Martin.

TAPinto: How proud are you of Anna-Sofia?

CASEY: (mom): Her father and I are beside ourselves. We’re really happy she made it in, but we are more proud of how hard she worked on this film and all her other films. She gets these ideas and just runs with them.

TAPinto: When did she start getting interested in making films?

CASEY(mom): I have been showing my kids TV shows that I directed and did cameos in since they could understand. When we watch TV, I’m always telling them how things are done. We have had many spirited conversations on film. But, I think what made her try it herself was watching her older brother make some great films. She’s very competitive. 

TAPinto: Do you think people will think you did a lot of the work for her?

CASEY (mom):  I’ve taught my daughter to always ask for what she wants and to speak up for herself and others even if it is at my own detriment. So as soon as I voice my opinion louder than hers, she puts me in my place. It’s her vision, her conviction. She is a true director. Already.

TAPinto: Why did you submit her film to a festival?

CASEY (mom): Mainly, two reasons. 1) I love the Garden State FIlm Festival and all they do for our arts community. I’m really impressed by their team. Producing a film festival of this magnitude is near impossible. This crew pulls it together every year. And are still doing it in the middle of a pandemic. I want to support their efforts. 2) There is nothing more important to me than encouraging young girls to use their voice. Filmmaking is an effective platform where girls can express themselves, get their feet wet and learn about the power that they have. Again, why I’m so impressed with the Garden State Film Festival. They give all these future filmmakers the platform to shine. It’s inspiring.

The Garden State Film Festival is March 23-28th  in Asbury Park, New Jersey which debuts more than 200 independent films annually over four days each spring. The festival was founded in 2002 in a Sea Girt, New Jersey.

For more Information:  https://www.gsff.org/