MIRANDA ANDERSEN BELIEVES that young people should play an active role in influencing the issues they care about. “Kids should get involved in something they love because it’s easier to get your message out when you’re a kid,” says the 13-year-old resident of Port Moody, BC. “When others see that a kid can do it, they know for sure that they can do it too.”

Andersen’s first documentary, Making a Difference, began as a grade-four writing project that evolved into a five-minute film. It follows Mossom Creek Salmon Hatchery co-founder Ruth Foster, who works to repopulate healthy salmon runs and provide students with field experience. Guided by her teacher, Andersen submitted her doc to the 2009 My Hero International Film Festival in Los Angeles, where it won first place in the elementary school category. Inspired by the achievement, Andersen has since produced more than a dozen films with an environmental message.

“People think that what I’m doing is so amazing, but if an adult did it they would think it is no big deal,” says Andersen. “I think kids get noticed more because it is unusual to have young kids so passionate about a subject. People listen to kids.”

The response to Andersen’s work has certainly been strong. A 90-second silent version of Making a Difference won the grand prize at the Everyday Heroes competition in 2010 (an event co-sponsored by Earth Day Canada), and the full-length film was recognized as best screenplay at the Reel2Real International Film Festival for Youth. That same year, Andersen took first place again at the global My Hero festival for her second film, Help Mary Save Coral, which also screened at Toronto’s Planet in Focus festival. The short documentary profiled Smithsonian Institute biologist Mary Hagedorn, who is cryogenically preserving coral to protect the world’s reefs for future generations.

In addition to making the leap to middle school in 2011, Andersen bested the My Hero festival competition again with Forever Plastic, which focuses on the Pacific garbage patch and one women’s pledge to live plastic-free. The 10-minute film features marine conservationist Taina Uitto discussing how everyone can use less plastic, paired with extremely powerful images of the devastation caused by using too much. “I’ve been made more aware of my consumption,” says Andersen of her discussions with the heroes she showcases. “It makes me think a lot more about my choices.”

Andersen’s current projects include Blue Trees, which follows Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos on his mission to raise awareness about global deforestation, and Toxic Technology, about a Vancouver-based ethical recycling company called Free Geek and the true impact of e-waste. (The former will be her entry in the 2012 My Hero film festival.) Late last year, she travelled to San Diego to interview author Richard Louv – who coined the term “nature deficit disorder” – for a new film about why the current generation of kids needs to reconnect with the outdoors. Future subjects on Andersen’s radar include the northern sea lion and orca whale populations of the Pacific Northwest, and her dream project is to film the albatross on Midway Island, where chicks regularly die after ingesting plastic from the ocean.

Clearly, Andersen’s passion for environmental filmmaking is growing, and for good reason. “I learned how fun it is to make movies and how easily making them comes to me,” she explains. “I saw that as a chance to let out some of my feelings about what we need to do to help, and how we can all make a difference. The excitement comes from knowing someone might be changing what they do because of a message in my film.”

Visit mirandaandersen.com to read about Andersen’s most recent investigations or check out more of her films at her YouTube channel.. Andersen also spoke at the TEDxKids@BC event in Vancouver in October, so keep your eyes peeled for her speech at tedxkidsbc.com.

See other fantastic films, videos and animations created by Canadian youth for the Everyday Heroes film festival at everydayheroesfestival.com.

Chelsea Gutzman is a former A/J editorial intern, now working on a post-grad degree in journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax. 

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