By Mia DiLorenzo
Maribeth Romslo is a Minneapolis filmmaker who just debuted Amelia, the first film in Spark (the series) — a collection of stories about women encountering greatness in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). Amelia is a 10 minute short story about a girl with polio who hears Amelia Earhart on her shortwave radio and builds her own radio transceiver to communicate the famed aviator’s message. Maribeth also recently launched her new film production company, Airplanes for Breakfast, which focuses on stories of human strength and perseverance. I recently met her at the premiere of Amelia. It was a really great event! The movie was shown and then a panel that featured women in STEAM fields spoke about their experiences. It was inspiring to see all of these successful women share their stories and pieces of advice. I talked to Maribeth about her work in film, her thoughts on Amelia, and her plan on moving forward with Spark.
How were you able to film Amelia in just one day?
It was actually two shoot days. But they were long days – 12 hours on the first day and 14 hours on the second day because we had a camera malfunction to sort out. But the real answer here is that the only way to get done the massive task of shooting a short film in two days is through careful and thorough planning. We spent three months in pre-production, research, planning, sourcing props and wardrobe, casting, refining the script, assembling a crew. So yes, it was just two days on set shooting, but the preparation is everything to setting up a shoot for success.
What do you hope your audience will take away from Amelia? What was their reaction to the film?
I hope that the audience feels inspired and empowered to take action and use the power of their voice. It’s been so wonderful to hear that this message and the mission of Spark really resonate with girls and young women.
Has the film changed you in any way?
Taking on the role of cinematographer (the person that is in charge of the camera, creatively and logistically) has helped me gain confidence. Only 3 percent of top Hollywood movies have female cinematographers, and because it’s rare to see someone like me trail blaze ahead of me in this field, it’s sometimes hard to feel like I belong. But for Amelia, I embraced my insecurities. I shot it on a fancier camera than I’ve ever shot with (the Red Raven). And I shot it with an entirely female camera department, which is a very rare thing.
What has your experience been being a woman in film making? Has it changed at all since you have been in the industry?
I’ve only been in the film industry about 5 years, but I can say that I am so encouraged by the current conversations happening about equity in film. And not just for women, but also for other underrepresented groups. There’s still a long way to go to achieve equal representation on screen and behind the camera, but progress is happening and I’m so glad I’m part of that progress.
What has been your inspiration as you start a series about women in STEM?
All of the women throughout the world and history that have pioneered and dared greatly in their fields inspire me. As we continue our research for this series, I am constantly impacted by the amazing drive, determination, and courage women have shown throughout history.
What inspired you to focus on females in STEM?
When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut and I even went to Space Camp! I also pursued the arts, photography, and filmmaking. But science has always been so interesting to me and I’m excited to be using my filmmaking to creatively tell science stories to inspire young women. There’s a saying “If you can see it, you can be it” so I’m trying to help show girls that there are female role models in STEM and that they can follow their own passion and curiosity in the STEM fields.
Having finished your first film of the series, what are some thoughts going forward?
My creative partner Cristina Pippa and I are so excited about the limitless possibilities with this series. We are working on early development for the next story in the series and busy pitching the concept to a foundation or company that would be interested in supporting the project so we have funding to keep making more films and content.
What is your advice for other kids who want to pursue filmmaking?
MAKE STUFF!!! All the time. Keep making stuff. And when you’re worn out and think you’ve had enough, make more stuff. It’s the only way to learn the craft. Creativity actually thrives on constraint, so don’t feel like you have to have fancy equipment. You can shoot and edit a pretty amazing movie on an iPhone (the newest version has a 4K camera!). And don’t worry if it’s perfect or wait to do something until you think you’re totally ready. Make something, show it to people, learn from it, and then make something else. Keep repeating that cycle, and that’s how you pursue filmmaking.
What do you think is great?
Do I have to pick just one thing? I think so many things are great! I love creative collaboration, when a group of people are working together to make something – it’s pretty magical. I also think all of the following things are great: books, giggling with my kids, my favorite pen called the Frixion pen (it erases with friction/heat, so if you put a page that you wrote with it in the microwave, the ink disappears!), that “golden hour” time right before sunset when the light is so pretty, and movie theater popcorn. But the thing that is my absolute favorite and I think is truly great is curiosity – the world is never a boring place if you have a curious mind.
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Maribeth! Go check her out at sparktheseries.com and on social media @sparktheseries. And keep an eye out for more chances to see Amelia, and other upcoming Spark films!