12-year-old filmmaker to screen latest work at WILLiFEST film festival

Award-Winning ‘Will I Scatter Away?’ in Brooklyn premier

September 24, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Filmmaker Emma Penaz Eisner. Photo courtesy of the Eisner family
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She’s only 12, but Emma Penaz Eisner has already created three critically-acclaimed short films that have screened at more than 60 international film festivals and won 25 awards.

Emma, who hails from San Francisco, will be presenting her latest, the surrealistic short thriller “Will I Scatter Away?” at the WILLiFEST film festival in Williamsburg this weekend.

“Will I Scatter Away?” has earned five awards including Best Experimental Film Junior Division at CineYouth (presented by Chicago International Film Festival) and Audience Experimental Award at Columbia Gorge International Film Festival.  Saturday’s 1 p.m. screening at Williamsburg Cinemas will be the film’s Brooklyn premiere.

Though she’s still a child, her films frequently compete with adults’ for inclusion in film festivals, said Emma’s mom Jane Eisner, who spoke to the Brooklyn Eagle while her daughter was at school on Thursday.

For example, “Will I Scatter Away” was accepted at the Revelation Perth film festival, and it was not until the family traveled to Australia that festival organizers realized its creator was only 12, Eisner said.

The film had received an 18-plus certificate, “so she wasn’t technically allowed to see her own screening,” she added.

Eisner, who called her daughter “a very hard-working young lady,” said Emma’s film career started during an afterschool filmmaking class which she took while attending Kindergarten.

“She fell in love with the process,” Eisner said. “She got into animation when she was 6 years old, and it just took off for her.

Though that class wasn’t offered again, its teacher, Rowan Cutler, has been Emma’s mentor ever since.

“He’s taught her a lot. She’ll say, ‘I’d like to learn how to green screen,’ and he’ll say, ‘Great we’ll do that for the next half year,’” Eisner said. Emma makes her films independently, however. “She’s so motivated and comes up with different ideas.” Her fellow students are “remarkably supportive,” as is her middle school, the AltSchool, which provides personalized education, she said.

Emma’s first two films were stop-motion animation. “Will I Scatter Away?” is a live-action/animation combination.

“It’s a surrealistic thriller based on the doppelgänger myth,” Eisner said. In it, a man sees himself, and a pursuit ensues. According to the myth, only one can survive.

“Most people say, ‘Wow, that is so disturbing,’” Eisner said. She added, “There’s a fascinating soundtrack – ripping, glass breaking. She does all the sounds herself.” Among its other honors, the film won the award for best sound design at the Salisbury University Film Festival.

Emma’s mom and dad are not filmmakers but are artistic, Eisner said. Her father, physician Mark Eisner, is a VP at Genentech. “He’s really into photography.”

Jane, a young retiree from a psychiatric practice, is now a full-time poet and writer.

“We’re both big film buffs,” she added.

WILLiFEST, established to provide a platform for emerging artists, spotlights independent filmmakers from around the world and includes panels, networking events and after parties.

The seventh-annual event is open to the public Friday through Sunday at two venues, Williamsburg Cinemas and Videology.

Friday brings a full day and night of  screenings and the evening Filmmakers’ Networking event at 8:30 pm. Saturday includes family films, the student film competition (college level), the annual Industry Panels, Writers’ Lounge, a Filmmaker Panel and the annual Networking After-Party. Sunday includes a block of music-themed shorts, a live musical performance and the awards ceremony.

Tickets and passes for WILLiFEST 2015 are still available at willifest.com.

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