Budding filmmaker earns People's Choice Award for documentary

by Catherine Whitnall from

Janetville-area resident Slater Jewell-Kemker earns top votes for 2012 MY HERO International Film Festival

(JANETVILLE) The past three years have been quite the emotional roller coaster for Slater Jewell-Kemker.
The young film maker has weathered the ups and downs of environmental advocacy, experiencing first-hand - and capturing it all on video - "how people felt so strongly" about climate change yet had their hopes for a better future dashed at virtually every turn.

"I think there's this feeling of it's a waste of time to engage on that level or that platform," said the 20-year-old Janetville-area resident, citing such events as the 2008 Environmental G8 Summit in Kobe, Japan and UN Climate Change Conferences held in Copenhagen, Denmark and Cancun, Mexico, the following two years. The lack of progress at the first two meetings left many feeling defeated.

That's when Ms Jewell-Kemker began thinking of a "different approach."

"As I got more and more involved...I realized I needed to use it to inform; to get more youth involved," said Ms Jewell-Kemker of her film-making talents.

Having had an "obsession" with movies and movie-making since age five, the youth began compiling, and shooting, new footage for An Inconvenient Youth - a documentary that gives a voice to young people on the front lines of climate change; both the victims of erratic weather swings and the movement of young people trying to affect the world's climate policy.

The big turning point came when she travelled to Nepal.

Instead of an "over-lit conference", Ms Jewell-Kemker found herself knee-deep in reality. Overcoming a language barrier, difference in country and culture, the teen, accompanied by fellow environmental youth activist Alina Pokhrel, reached out to those living - and surviving - the impact of climate change.

"I was able to make it human. Connect on an emotional level," she said, The experience resulted in a dramatic impact on the direction of her work. "I was at the point where I needed to get it out there."

Recently, the film garnered world-wide attention courtesy of the MY HERO International Film Festival, earning her a People's Choice Award.

"It's a huge honour," said Ms Jewell-Kemker. "It shows me that what I'm doing is worthwhile and worthy. It inspires me to keep going...that there is an audience and a time for this story to be told."

It's not the first time she has been recognized for her work. She has been honoured by the United Nations, Toronto International Film Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival, My Hero Film Festival and SilverDocs. She was also selected as a Dan Eldon fellow by Creative Visions, a non-profit group founded by Kathy Eldon that develops socially conscious filmmakers.

Although she has already accomplished what many of her contemporaries are still striving for, Ms Jewell-Kemker notes her current piece isn't quite complete. She's in the process of editing the work - and shooting extra footage - for release as a full, feature-length documentary in 2014.

Deciding to take her passion to the next level - "I didn't want to be just another film crew" - Ms Jewell-Kemker has also partnered with Architecture for Humanity to develop a prototype, off-the-grid facility for the Nepali village seen in the film. The shelters are designed to collect fresh water and solar power, but are more than shelter during times of emergency. They are year-round safe spaces designed to address each village's cultural and communal needs.

Ms Jewell-Kemker also looks forward to creating more films in the future.

While she plans on attending film school at some point, Ms Jewell-Kemker counts her experiences, so far, as being a "crash course in filmmaking," giving her the confidence she needs to continue her passion. She has written a feature film and hopes to begin work on it in future.

"But I will always be drawn to stories," said Ms Jewell-Kemker.

Page created on 4/16/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 9/1/2017 7:25:03 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Extra Info

The MY HERO International Film Festival is part of the acclaimed MY HERO Project, a non-profit organization devoted to sharing stories of everyday heroism through interactive media.

MY HERO's interactive website ( hosts the world's largest archive of hero stories.

Submissions for the MY HERO International Film Festival are accepted year-round.

To view An Inconvenient Youth and other finalist films from the 2012 MY HERO International Film Festival, please visit

To check out some of Slater Jewell-Kemker's work, and the latest segment from An Inconvenient Youth, check out


Author Info

January 9th, 2013
Janetville, CANADA