At 9 years old, most of us were just trying to avoid our homework and get home before the streetlights came on.
At 9 years old, Lily Compton had submitted her first film into Vidjam, an annual, 48-hour filmmaking frenzy, becoming the organization’s youngest filmmaker to date.
Now 11, Compton already has 20 short films under her belt, with more to come.
“At Vidjam, someone came up to me, and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, when you’re an adult you’re going to be so great,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, cool…when I’m an adult…” she said. “That’s really been pushing me.”
Since her first Vidjam, Compton has submitted a short film every year for the Harrisburg-based competition. Her films feature an array of elaborate costumes, makeup and props created from scraps, things people lend her and items from her parents “Free Store” in back of the Harrisburg Improv Theatre.
Her latest film, “Mental,” which was submitted to the Vidjam competition in June, stars Compton as a psychiatric patient who believes she’s being visited by people of her past life. The film begins with Compton’s character in the hospital before being transported into a grassy field, surrounded by strangers in all-white clothing. They run around, splashing in the creek and holding hands before the strangers become sinister, their makeup resembling skull faces, their clothes black, and they chase Compton, revealing who they are.
“I changed my style up with ‘Mental,’ and you could hear people in the crowd crying,” Compton said. “People came up to me and congratulated me, even days after.”
Even at age 8, Compton was comfortable behind the lens. She ran around her house and her neighborhood with her mother’s Sony Handycam, creating what she called “documentaries.”
She roped friends into starring in her films, which they either loved or quickly grew tired of.
Compton’s mother Somers, co-owner of the Harrisburg Improv Theatre with her husband Jacob, met the founder of Vidjam, Sam Miller, years ago, before he started the film group. As Vidjam grew, Miller developed a relationship with the Comptons and the theater. The Comptons helped Sam with props and costumes and supported him any way they could. Somers then encouraged Lily to take a stab at the Vidjam competition.
“My mom, who really supports me and my filmmaking, was like, ‘Lily, there’s this film contest, and you should join it,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, okay,’ and just got a team together for it.”
Lily’s team consisted of her friend and fellow filmmaker, Ben Hill, and a couple of actors she found after scouting the streets and asking, “Do you want to be in a film?” In 48 hours, she helped write and direct their first Vidjam short film. But she missed having full control over her films.
“I thought that I wanted to be more part of my films,” she said. “The next film I wanted to break free of that and try editing on my own because, during that time, I had been experimenting with different editing softwares. So, the next one that I did was the ‘Picochi.’”
“Picochi” is an ugly duckling-type tale starring Lily as a ginormous bird, Picochi. After the bird is born, it begins searching for a companion, but everyone who comes in contact with Picochi scurries off or is an inanimate object. Then finally, Picochi finds a human friend. The humorous, touching film was submitted into the 2017 Vidjam competition.
“There is heart in her films,” Miller said. “It’s a sort of heart, sentimentality and awareness that I think a lot of us as older filmmakers and writers may be scared or hesitant to tap into.”
Aside from being a quadruple threat in filmmaking—writing, acting, editing and filming—Lily loves to dance, sing, write her own songs and draw. She is also involved with the Harrisburg Improv Theatre’s Kidprov, which her father runs.
Even though she has many different talents, her passion lies with filmmaking and acting. In the years to come, she plans to keep submitting to Vidjam and continue working on her acting and filmmaking future.
“I just think you’re never too young to pursue your dreams,” she said. “I don’t feel like people have to wait until their older to pursue what they love.”