Maddie Stambler has her eyes set on the big screen, and her inspiration is a familiar one to those who take part in the city's annual spring rite of spending hours in the dark at Tower City Cinemas.
"I've always loved the Cleveland International Film Festival," she says. "So I wanted to do something like that, but for my high school."
During her sophomore year at Hathaway Brown School, Stambler got the idea to create her own film festival with the help of the Edna Dawley Strnad '42 Fellowships in Creativity Program, which supports student projects with funds and mentorship.
With support from the art department, her friends, family and teachers, Stambler unveiled the iMagine Film Festival — a term coined by Stambler to play off the technological era we live in — last April. But her work on the event began at the start of her junior year.
"I sorted out the different schools I wanted to reach out to, I called all of their offices and sent information to their art departments," recalls Stambler, who created a website and a commercial to entice fellow Northeast Ohio high school students to submit short films. In total, Stambler showcased 13 films produced by 27 high school filmmakers from Laurel School, Hawken, Beachwood High School, St. Joseph Academy and Hathaway Brown.
"Maddie and her student colleagues, her teachers and advisers did a terrific job in getting different types of short films," says local filmmaker Scott Lax, the event's keynote speaker. "The films were often thought provoking, some were quite funny and all were creative."
Best of all, Stambler made a new friend: Cleveland native and Modern Family writer and co-executive producer Dan O'Shannon. In town for the Cleveland International Film Festival, he surprised Stambler by attending the iMagine Film Festival with CIFF executive director Marcie Goodman.
"Meeting Dan O'Shannon was surreal," Stambler says. "He is so modest and unassuming, and has become a true role model for me in this industry."
Stambler is returning to Hathaway Brown for her senior year after a summer at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a student in the arts and architecture program. This year, she plans to expand her film festival with hopes of it becoming an annual event.
"With the school's support, I will expand the festival to include an international component in collaboration with HB's Global Scholars program," she says. "I plan to increase the number of submissions and garner community support, because I feel that this festival fills a niche in Northeast Ohio's high school community."