Finian Dufford’s film nominated for Best Documentary

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Dalton Gates

Finian Dufford (12) is an aspiring filmmaker who has other interests in theatre, art and photography.

Dalton Gates, Reporter

Finian Dufford, a senior at Manitou Springs High School, created a documentary with Youth Documentary Academy. The film was a runner-up for the Best Documentary at the All-American High School Film Festival this year.

YDA is a program started in 2013, exclusive to the Colorado Springs area, that helps high schoolers to create documentaries about their unique lives. “It was started by a man named Tom Shepard, who is a documentary filmmaker who splits his time between here in Colorado Springs where he grew up, and also in California,” Wendy Harms said. “Tom started YDA because he wanted to empower teenage people around documentary filmmaking in this program, which runs in the summer, for about eight weeks.”

Dufford worked with YDA to create a documentary where he could showcase and give the spotlight to his story. “It’s my experience with OCD and how meditation helped me go through that. But with this film, it’s a little bit different,” Dufford said. “Around halfway in the film. I kind of do this interview, where it’s me a few months later. And I kind of talk about how I changed a little bit and how meditation did help me and honestly, how it didn’t, or how I don’t meditate anymore, just because I want to be honest.”

“I like everything I’ve made, whether it’s a drawing or a film, I’m proud of it. But with this one, it almost feels like a little bit of a love hate relationship.””

— Finian Dufford

Dufford’s documentary, “Breathe,” was created under unusual circumstances for the YDA program. Going from one to two summers of the program. “My YDA experience was a little weird because I applied to YDA right before COVID, and so when I got accepted, it was COVID,” Dufford said. “My first year of YDA was just us on Google meets, talking about documentary filmmaking, watching documentaries, talking with each other and learning how to interview people. My Second summer was actually making the film I wanted to make.

While working on his documentary, YDA helped Dufford throughout the whole process. “It was definitely collaborative with YDA, because there were other students that helped film mine, I helped film some other students’ things too. There were times where they said, ‘Listen, we can’t make this part happen because we just don’t have the time and the resources,’” Dufford said. “So, it was kind of an outline scenario where they weren’t too controlling. They still let me have freedom, just with limits.”

Asher Evans (12), a friend of Dufford, has seen his friend’s progression throughout the course of this documentary. “Congratulations,” Evans said. “I know you’ve worked hard on it.

Now that Dufford has finished his documentary, he has the perspective to look at his film and see how he feels about it. “I like everything I’ve made, whether it’s a drawing or a film, I’m proud of it. But with this one, it almost feels like a little bit of a love hate relationship,” Dufford said. “When I first started making it, I was super into it. Then over time, that feeling kind of dwindled, and I felt like I wasn’t telling the story I wanted to tell anymore. That’s why there was a second interview because it didn’t feel like something I wanted or what I thought I was going to make.

Myah Hindshaw (12), another friend of Dufford, has seen him grow and is proud of her friend. “I was really impressed. It told an interesting story, and it was something that I didn’t really know about him,” Hindshaw said. “It was really cool to see him tell that story that he’s passionate about.”

At the All-American High School Film Festival, Dufford’s documentary was nominated and was a runner-up for the Best Documentary award with Rose Nseya; only being beaten by Manitou Alumni, Olive Van Eimeren. “I feel very honored and also a little weird to be nominated for the award,” Dufford said. “It was just a big shocker and it felt sweet.

Wendy Harms, a teacher and introducer of YDA for Dufford, has watched him grow up into the person he is today. “I’m proud of him. I’ve known him since he was little and I love watching Finn on stage,” Harms said. “Bringing some of that sensibility into his filmmaking, I think he’s charted a really great path of where his trajectory is going.

With Dufford’s documentary now behind him, he looks ahead to his future prospects. “Right now, I’m doing a capstone where I take photos of Manitou for its 150th year anniversary. That’s the main project I’m working on right now,” Dufford said. “I’m probably going to go to MSU in Denver to study film and media production.

With Dufford moving on from this point in his life, he thinks about when he was starting in the filmmaking world. “For any high school student that wants to make a documentary, I would recommend YDA,” Dufford said. “If you don’t have that option, then all you need is a camera, a little bit of good sound, and some natural lighting to make a really good observational documentary. Talk with your friends or find a good story.”