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ShortList 2019: ‘How Does It Start’ Director Amber Sealey’s Inspiration? Her Own Pre-Teen Diary (Video)

”There are a lot of films where there are boys aged 10, 11, 12 who are masturbating or spying on girls or interested in sex … We don’t have that same thing for young girls,“ Sealey says

Amber Sealey started writing “How Does It Start” after finding her diaries from middle school. The diary entries chronicled one of the many awkward stages of puberty — the tween years when crushes begin to bloom and hormones begin to rage. Sealey realized that she hadn’t seen very many portrayals of this developmental stage in girls on screen. 

“I feel like there are a lot of films where there are boys aged 10, 11, 12 who are masturbating or spying on girls or interested in sex, and it’s normal and natural. We don’t have that same thing for young girls,” Sealey told TheWrap. “I got interested in the idea of making this film as a missing chapter in the canon of film on female sexuality.”

Sealey’s short, a finalist in TheWrap’s 2019 ShortList Film Festival, follows a seventh-grade girl in 1983 trying to figure out how to get a boyfriend and understand her sexual urges.

She reads age-inappropriate self-help books, experiments with kissing a friend and watches her classmates’ budding relationships carefully. While the script isn’t entirely based on Sealey’s life, many of the main character’s diary entries are.

“Some of them are lifted, verbatim, from my own diaries when I was like 11,” said Sealey, who plans to expand the 16-minute short into a feature film with the same main character and theme. 

“I hope it makes people think about the experience of female sexuality and how we have portrayed it so far on screen. There are so many other new and more nuanced ways that we can portray it,” Sealey said.

Watch the film above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote through Aug. 21.