The directors featured at the Maine Mayhem Film Festival are: top row, Elora Griswold, left, and Emma Jordan; middle from left, Kayla Harding, Kira Kennedy and Hannah Perry Shepherd; bottom, Michaella Tillo and Macie Beaudet. Contributed / Maine Mayhem Film Festival

For the first time in Maine Mayhem Film Festival’s 12-year history, all six featured films were directed by women, a change that reflects a trend in local video production courses and in the film industry overall, according to the festival’s co-founder.

“We did not have a single woman in the first class of Maine Mayhem,” said Professor Corey Norman, who teaches the two courses at Southern Maine Community College that give rise to the films for the festival. “Each year we’ve watched those demographics start to shift more and more, and it was really awesome this year to step into class and have the guys outnumbered 2-to-1.”

Michaella Tillo arrives on the set of her film, “The Vase.” Contributed / Maine Mayhem Film Festival

The first showing of the SMCC students’ six films at the Nickelodeon Theater in Portland at 6 p.m. Thursday sold out weeks ago, and tickets for a later showing at 8:45 p.m. are expected to go quickly. Screenings will also take place at the Magic Lantern in Bridgton at 6 p.m. Friday and at the Bangor Art Exchange at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The all-female list of directors in an industry historically dominated by men is “extremely important,” Norman said, “because when we focus on one specific demographic with our storytelling, there are just so many stories and so many voices that aren’t represented.”

Director Emma Jordan of Hope said the trend is noticeable – and welcome – in the classroom.

“Every single class I’ve been in (before), I’ve been the only girl, and every single opportunity I went for I’ve been the only girl applying,” Jordan said. “To come into this program, and have all these extremely talented women that I’ve worked with, was so refreshing.”


Doors are finally opening to women in filmmaking field, said another Maine Mayhem director, Michaella Tillo of Buxton.

“We’re kind of making a transition into an industry where it’s more accessible to women and where women are able to have larger voices, more prominent voices,” she said.

Co-directors this year, Kira Kennedy of Ellsworth and Kayla Harding of Lewiston worked on last year’s festival and said it was overly competitive and some of the men were disrespectful to them and other women on the sets.

In “Go to Hell!,” directed by Emma Jordan, actor Sophie Ryan sits with Brad, a character animated by Isaiah Chase. Contributed / Maine Mayhem Film Festival

“There were times where we were called out singularly for something that wasn’t even our fault,” Kennedy said.

Their ideas weren’t always welcome by the male students, either.

“I know something and you don’t know it, but it’s not any sort of competition,” she said. “It’s a project that you want to work creatively together on. To feel like you have to feel superior to somebody else just ruins it.”


Kennedy, Harding and their classmates made an effort to keep the competition healthy this year.

“Though we have that slight competitiveness here in our year, we’re also all trying to help one another,” Harding said. “Trying to make sure that we’re keeping our mental health alive and just making sure we get through to the end.”

Producer and director Elora Griswold on location at Bull Feeneys for “The City of Servers.” Contributed / travis Harden

Hannah Perry Shepherd of Augusta said it is particularly “nice to see” that shift because she is pursuing a career in the industry.

“Also, seeing all these women in class with me just kick total butt,” Shepherd said. “They are some of the most hardworking, passionate people I’ve ever met.”

The director of the sole documentary in the festival, Elora Griswold of Portland, said the experience has inspired a possible future project.

“I’m really interested in exploring the gender dynamics in the film industry, in general, maybe through a future documentary or journalism work,” she said.


Macie Beaudet of Oxford Hills is motivated by how far she and her fellow directors have come.

“It’s insane to watch these people grow as I’m growing myself, and to see all women is awesome,” she said.

The students developed 15- to 20-page screenplays in Norman’s fall video production course while  learning about casting, location scouting, building a crew and production schedules and budgets. They and the other students in the class pitched their films to a panel of industry professionals, from creative directors to production managers. As the six selected for Maine Mayhem, the women worked during Norman’s advanced production course this spring to direct their films with classmates working in other roles, such as co-producers and directors of photography.

The films in the festival are:  “Go To Hell!,” directed by Jordan; “The Antique, Perry Shepherd; “The City of Servers,” Griswold; “The Vase,” Tillo; “Shadow Nightmare,” Beaudet: and “Pitch Fest,” Kennedy and Harding. Synopses of the films and tickets for the festival are available at

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