Alum-created Baby Teeth Film Festival centers queer filmmakers and characters

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Photo: Sophie Schoenfeld

A promotional image for Baby Teeth Film Fest.

By Parker Garlough

The second annual Baby Teeth Film Festival will present short films created by trans and gender non-conforming individuals in a variety of genres including fantasy, comedy, and drama. 

The festival, created by alumnus Sophie Schoenfeld, will take place on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at Easy Lover in Brooklyn, NY.

Schoenfeld graduated as a Media Studies major in 2018 before going on to serve in various production, props, and music licensing roles. They also sit on the screening committee for NewFest, a New York LGBTQ+ film festival, and work as a Program Specialist for an LGBTQ+ support organization in Queens. These experiences inspired them to create Baby Teeth last year to highlight trans and gender non-conforming voices.

For Schoenfeld, it’s crucial that the festival is open to all genres, extending beyond stories that center the trans experience.

“[At other film festivals], there’s very little room for stories by trans and gender non-conforming artists that are just about anything,” they said. “It has to be a trans story or have a trans character or tell a specific angle of the filmmaker’s experience. It pigeonholes people a little bit, especially new filmmakers.”

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Since the beginning of Baby Teeth Film Fest last year, Schoenfeld has gathered a team of creatives. This includes a screening committee to balance the increased number of submissions.

“This year, when we start screening submissions, I am going to have other people watching them,” Schoenfield said. “Last time, it was not a board, just me, because [the festival] was very small, and this year I got people together to watch the films so I’m not the only one making the judgment call. I want it to be a more honest curation.”

Schoenfeld’s team also includes Geordon Wollner, a New York Times news assistant, who has taken on a variety of responsibilities, specifically those related to marketing and outreach—something which has greatly expanded.

The first annual Baby Teeth Film Festival was primarily advertised through word-of-mouth. Through the use of flyers and an Instagram page, it has now spread beyond Brooklyn and those with a direct connection to Schoenfeld.

Nevertheless, Wollner aims to increase the number of submissions Baby Teeth will receive, especially by connecting with other trans and gender non-conforming film groups.

“A challenge has been finding film groups to outreach to,” Wollner said. “Those groups exist, but it’s hard to get in contact with people. It’s hard to find those direct links and get the word out.”

Having personally witnessed the importance of networking and ambition for young filmmakers, Wollner encourages Emerson students to put themselves out there with a new mindset.

“If networking scares you or makes you nervous, it’s important to reframe it,” Wollner said. “You’re not elevator pitching yourself, you’re just curious and you want to hear other people’s stories. Filmmakers and other creatives have that innate curiosity. Tapping into that and being able to say ‘I want to hear your story’ is a more approachable way to network.”

Schoenfeld similarly strives to support new filmmakers, in part by providing a financial incentive. The proceeds from ticket sales will fund an Audience Award, selected by popular vote on each night of the festival. Furthermore, films that are accepted and shown at Baby Teeth Film Fest will be given an official laurel to use in further promotional materials.

As the film festival nears, those involved are eager to observe the submissions and watch the film festival grow to new heights.

“It’s been incredible to be part of the Fest in this way, because last year was the very first time [Schoenfeld] did it, and they did it all by themself,” Wollner said. “Seeing it at this level, with so many people excited about being part of it, really means a lot. I’m proud to be here to witness all of it.”

Student filmmakers, including those not based in Brooklyn, are welcome to submit their work to babyteethfilmfest@gmail.com until Sept. 16.