Calling All Up-and-Coming Filmmakers and Austen Fans!

Meghan Hanet, 2021 first-place winner for her short, “Lizzy’s Adventures in Online Dating”

Young Filmmakers Contest » JASNA

JASNA Southwest launched an annual Young Filmmakers Contest in 2017, as part of hosting JASNA’s Annual General Meeting, which attracts hundreds of attendees from across the country.

Originally open to high school, college undergraduate and graduate students from throughout North America, eligibility to all amateur filmmakers under the age of 30 beginning in 2020. We award cash prizes and a year’s membership in JASNA to all winning entries.

The 2023 finalists (and all past winners) can be viewed on JASNA Southwest’s YouTube channel. Watch the 2021 finalists’ playlist now.

The Young Filmmakers Contest is now run by the national JASNA organization. For information, visit 

2022 Highlights

Southwest’s Young Filmmakers Contest Awards Event Is a Highlight of the 2022 AGM
The Victoria Conference Centre’s world-class theatre, where the Young Filmmakers Contest
(YFC) awards event took place on September 30, was a fitting venue with its large stage and
tiered seating. That evening, before a packed house, the contest truly came into its own and was
duly recognized as an important way to foster interest in Jane Austen to new audiences. Founded
by the Southwest Region in 2017, the Young Filmmakers Contest was voted to become part of
JASNA starting in 2023.
“The JASNA board was impressed with how the Southwest Region developed and grew the
contest,” says Erika Kotite, YFC chair. “They commended us on our ability to attract top-notch
judges and young talent over the past six years.” Erika will continue with the program as co-
chair and has brought in Janeen Sara as chair. Janeen, a member of the Southwest Florida
Region, is a video production professional and board member of the Women in Film and TV of
More than 100 AGM attendees settled in to watch the results of this year’s contest, which had
four finalists from around the country. Founding YFC Chair Susie Wampler introduced the
awards gala with the strains of “Hooray for Hollywood” ringing in the background. She also
introduced Alex Siskin, a Southwest member who acted as emcee for the evening. Erika worked
behind the scenes, making sure all went well with the screenings. Nancy Gallagher, who
originated the idea for the contest when she served as coordinator for the 2017 AGM in
Huntington Beach, was also in attendance as was Southwest member Diana Birchall, one of this
year’s judges. Journalist and author Deborah Yaffe, another judge, also attended.
Southwest members and YFC committee members Catherine Hayes and Vicki Broach, along
with Southwest member and volunteer Wendy Weiss, assisted before and during the event by
assembling popcorn bags filled with a People’s Choice voter ballot, golf pencil, movie log
notepad and postcard promoting the 2023 event. Other team members working hard throughout
the year include Alicia Lomas-Gross and Teresa Chien (Southwest); Amy Stallings
(Southeastern Virginia); and Elizabeth Pickens (Greater Phoenix).

And the Winners Are …
1st place: Pegah Serajeh, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Her film, titled Proofs of Tenderness, portrays a
modern young woman returning to the dating scene in New York City, who attempts to instill the
values of Jane Austen in her new love interest.
2nd place: Daniela Bond, 24, of Los Angeles. Bond’s artful film, A Letter to Fanny, brought to
life one of Austen’s actual letters to her niece Fanny.
3rd place: Marika Hall, 20, of Oxford, Miss Hall’s downtown Oxford setting showed what a
modern-day encounter between Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth might look like after their
eight-year separation.

All of the winning films, from this year and previous years can be viewed on JASNA
Southwest’s YouTube channel:
For more details on the contest and the AGM, be sure to read the next issue of JASNA News or


The winning submissions from our 2021 contest are now live on JASNA Southwest’s YouTube channel. Watch the playlist of finalists (as shown at the screening event at the Chicago AGM) or any of the individual films:
“Lizzy’s Adventures in Online Dating” by Meghan Hanet (first place)

“I Had Price, I Had Prejudice” by Jordan Sartor-Francis (second place)

“Strength and Vulnerability” by Talitha Moniz McMillion (third place)

“Persuasion” by Zoë Hodge (honorable mention)

“Pride” by Charlotte Balogh

“The Austen Avenger” by Leah Madsen

Contestants entered from all over North America, including British Columbia, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Winners receive cash prizes and a year’s membership in JASNA.

Meghan Hanet of “Lizzy’s Adventures in Online Dating”

Talitha Moniz McMillion, creator of “Strength and Vulnerability”

Aspiring filmmaker Jordan Sartor-Francis

Zoë Hodge’s film “Persuasion”


The winning submissions from our 2020 contest are now live on JASNA Southwest’s YouTube channel. You can watch or rewatch the full event in which the winners premiered, the playlist of winners (as shown at the event) or any of the individual films:
“Morland and Mishaps” by Courtney Birnbaum (third place, 20+)
“Letters to Cassandra” by Sajween Khan (third place, under 20)
“A Certain Step Towards Falling in Love” by Ellie Cagle (second place, under 20)
“A Letter to Jane” by Lydia Smith (second place, 20+)
“Handsome, Clever and Rich” by Thomas Fitzgerald (first place, under 20)
“Jane Austen Virtual Book Club” by Jillian Davis and Yolanda Rodriguez (first place, 20+)
Courtney Birnbaum shared a link to the concept for her series based on Northanger Abbey.
The chat from the event is also available on our website.

Winners and contestants entered from all over the United States, including California, Florida, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas. 

Jillian Davis and Yolanda Rodriguez won first place in the over-20 category for their film, “Jane Austen Virtual Book Club.”

High school senior Elliot Cagle won second place in the under-20 category for her film, “A Certain Step Towards Falling in Love.”

High school junior Thomas Fitzgerald won first place in the under-20 category for his entry, “Handsome, Clever and Rich.”

Courtney Birnbaum won third place in the over-20 category for her film, “Morland and Mishaps.”

Lydia Smith won second place in the over-20 category for her film, “A Letter to Jane” (with cinematography by David Pearson).

College freshman Sajween Khan won third place in the under-20 category for her entry, “Letters to Cassandra.”

Top row: Ashley Clements, Thomas Rigler, Kenneth Turan

Bottom row: Laurie Viera Rigler, Robin Swicord, Aydrea Walden

Judges for the 2020 annual Young Filmmakers Contest were:
  • Ashley Clements of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, who is starring in and producing A Tale Told by an Idiot, a modern adaptation of Macbeth 
  • Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and its sequel, and creator of the Babelgum web series Sex and the Austen Girl
  • Thomas Rigler, Emmy-winning director, executive producer and showrunner 
  • Robin Swicord, director and screenwriter of The Jane Austen Book Club
  • Kenneth Turan, longtime (recently retired) film critic for the Los Angeles Times
  • Aydrea Walden, writer/producer/actor and creator of the Webby-nominated Black Girl in a Big Dress 


Ellyn Cardon, a senior undergraduate at Brigham Young University, won the 2018 Young Filmmaker Contest for her entry, Mrs. Bennet’s Plan. Both she and her mother, Dana — the inspiration for Mrs. Bennet in the short film — attended JASNA Southwest’s December 2018 meeting at Sony, where the winning entry had its world premiere. Cardon intends to pursue a master’s degree in ethnographic filmmaking, which she says is appropriate since this film is practically an ethnography of her life.

Ellyn Cardon addresses the crowd at Sony Pictures Studio.

Screening “Mrs. Bennet’s Plan” at Sony Pictures Studio.


Second-place winner Katiana Bennett (with her father, Andrew Bennett) and first-place winner Rivkah Penarelli and her husband, Jason Penarelli, with inaugural contest chair Susie Wampler at the 2017 AGM in Huntington Beach

View the winners of our inaugural 2017 JASNA-Southwest Young Filmmakers Contest.

First place: An Accomplished Woman by Rivkah Penarelli

Second place (tie): I Am Jane Austen by Margaret Lu

Second place (tie): Timeless by Katiana Bennett

Third place: Novelist Jane Austen: Inside the Wardrobe by Elizabeth Hayes

First-place winner Rivkah Penarelli had the opportunity to chat with filmmaker Whit Stillman at the 2017 AGM.