HELENA — An opportunity exists for all Montana teens, that many may have never heard of it’s called MAPS Media Institute. It’s a non-profit organization located in Hamilton, Montana, but its services extend statewide.
The goal of MAPS is to empower Montana’s next generation through professional media arts instruction. This is done through mentors in education who provide professional courses in design, film, music and technology. The courses are held online and in-person and are free for any student in 8th through 12th grade.
Janna Williams, Communications and Marketing Director for MAPS Media Institute says, “At MAPS our professional media artists, instructors, and mentors work with high school students across the state in a variety of free of charge classes to help them create from concept to completion in media areas such as film. Once completed we work very hard to help these young important voices be heard on the state and national level.”
One of those films was directed by a teen from East Helena. The film titled “East” won the 2019 Student Production Award for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Northwest Chapter.
Austin Giarde directed the film and says, “The biggest part of the inspiration for the film was all of us being artists in a small town, we felt like we didn’t have as much of a voice as people would in a big city or anything, but I think that’s just how it goes.”
Those voices carried far as the 2019 film titled “East” not only won a national award, but it will also appear on Montana PBS.
Austin says, East Helena “I think compared to Helena doesn’t get as much shine so that was kind of one of the biggest inspirations.”
As every director can attest to the film came with challenges, but maybe not so surprising in Montana.
Austin added, “At the time it was quite a stressful production just because of the snow. There is a scene where there is no snow on the ground and then the next scene there is a lot of snow on the ground.”
It took about four months, but once the crew of teens finished filming, they were able to start editing.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not interfere with the filming of East, but it did impact the award ceremony.
Giarde says, “We were invited to a film festival in Portland, so the film crew, we saved up a bunch of money to go, and then the day we got there was March 13th, which everyone knows is the day the pandemic really hit and stuff started to close, so it was unfortunately canceled.”
Austin plans on going to Bozeman to study some form art, whether that is music, or film he says, he just wants to be creative.