Community Access to Present “Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Festival” Virtually on April 9

Banner announcing Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Festival, April 9, 2021


Amidst the pandemic and heightened concerns over wellbeing, young people challenge the stigma surrounding mental health needs in original short films

Shadille Estepan of Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation to Moderate Filmmaker Q&A


(New York, NY)—Community Access, a New York City-based mental health nonprofit, will present its second Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Festival virtually on Friday, April 9, 2021 from 6 to 8 p.m. ET. Changing Minds celebrates the work of teen and young adult filmmakers who, through their short films about mental health, challenge the stigma that too often surrounds mental health concerns.

The Festival, which aims to facilitate dialogue and center the lived experiences of young people, will be presented this year at a time of enhanced need. Teens and young adults, in particular, are reporting increased mental health concerns amidst the social isolation of COVID lockdowns, a loss of independence, missed time in school, and an uncertain job market.

“While we will miss gathering in person, we are excited that our virtual Festival will allow us to connect with a global audience at a time when connection and community are so needed,” says Cal Hedigan, CEO at Community Access. “We are grateful to these talented filmmakers for sharing their stories and look forward to celebrating their important work.”

The film screenings begin at 6 p.m., followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers moderated by Shadille Estepan of Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation.

The schedule is available here.

Finalists selected for the Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Festival 2021

Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Competition

Community Access first launched a Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Competition in 2015 as a part of its New York City Mental Health Film Festival—the oldest and largest film festival of its kind. In 2019, the organization, with support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, transformed its competition into a second festival, presenting the young filmmakers’ projects on the big screen at Manhattan’s Village East Cinema and offering an opportunity for young people to gather in person for great films and conversation. The Festival will be held virtually this year for COVID safety precautions.

“The arts have the power to transform the way that we think and talk about mental health,” said Laurie Tisch, Founder of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “Mental health stigma has detrimental real-world impacts, and programs such as Changing Minds not only challenge this stigma but ensure that people with lived mental health experience are heard, respected, and valued in their communities.”

“We are proud to support Community Access and the Changing Minds Young Filmmaker Festival again this year,” said Rick Luftglass, Executive Director at the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “The Festival is an important platform for young people to have an impactful role in changing conversations about mental health.”

The eight films to be showcased at the Festival were selected from more than 700 submissions and represent a variety of genres from spoken word poetry to stop motion animation. This year’s Festival features young filmmakers from New York City, North Carolina, California, Massachusetts, and Ontario, Canada.

The winning film, “Nobody But Myself,” by Kat Nolan, is a love poem to a young woman’s depression. Other films explore mental health as it relates to COVID-19, technology, food, art, and intrapersonal struggles. By sharing and discussing these mental health stories, the Festival aims to foster a dialogue and change the way we talk about mental health issues among young people.

Other top filmmakers participating are:

Savanah Mears
Hannah Flores
Britney Bautista
Naeela Djemil
Alisha Heng
Rebecca Anton
Ji Seon Lee

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Access has expanded its virtual film programming. In April 2020, at the height of New York City’s lockdown, Community Access launched “Film Fridays,” a series that showcased inspirational Changing Minds films from years prior, and debuted “If the World Was a Movie: A Spoken Word COVID-19 Poem,” which received 13,000 views on YouTube. The short film will screen at the upcoming Festival.

The event is free and open to the public. Tickets can be reserved at


About Community Access

Founded in 1974, Community Access is a pioneer of supportive housing and social services in New York City for people living with mental health concerns. Driven by the simple truth that people are experts in their own lives, Community Access expands opportunities for people living with mental health concerns to recover from trauma and discrimination through affordable housing, training, advocacy, and healing-focused services. Community Access provides person-centered services that help people pursue goals that are important to them – from gaining access to an affordable home, to learning new skills; from re-establishing community ties, to setting goals for the future.