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Writing  by Gia Miller

Photography by Justin Negard

When she was 10 years old, Amity Doyle, now an eighth grader at The Harvey School, entered her first film contest. She and her friend Miriam Bertin created a series of sketches and titled their short film “Amity and Miriam, A Quarantine Special.”

“It wasn’t really about anything, and it was really bad,” she admits. “It was just a bunch of super-fast sketches that didn’t have anything to do with each other. We were kind of just goofing around and seeing what would happen. But it got in, somehow.”

By “in” she means the Katonah Classic Stage Film Festival, which features filmmakers from around the globe.

Because it was during the height of the pandemic, Doyle and Bertin mainly filmed outside and in her garage. There was no script, they just “said random things.” It was about five minutes long.

The next year, they entered again. This time, they managed to write a loose script.

“It was called ‘Amity and Miriam, A Jumbled Fantasy,’” she explains. “It started out with Miriam and I playing cards while also playing the ‘Would you Rather’ game. The question was, ‘Would you rather not be able to answer a question or only answer questions in a baby voice for the rest of your life?’ So most of the film is her daydreaming about those different options and what it would be like. I played all the other characters, and there was a lot of 50s stuff in the film, because why not?”

“We knew what we were doing a bit more,” she continues. “I mean, it still wasn’t the best, but it was a lot better.”

And yet again, that film made it into the festival, too.

For year three, she went solo. She was 12 years old, and she wrote the entire script for a short film she called “Happily Ever After.” The plot was simple – an employment agency that helped fairy tale characters find new jobs.

“There was Cinderella’s fairy godmother and the big bad wolf,” she remembers. “And I also invented an eighth dwarf from Snow White. His name was Tardy, and he was too late to be in the movie.”

Thanks to green screens and her gigantic costume trunk, Doyle played every single part. That film not only made it into the festival, it won first place in the 13 and Under category.

This year, she recruited a new co-creator, her friend Guilia Muenzen. Together, they wrote a script and spent three straight days filming a mockumentary “Explorava Explores: In Search of Amitus Solo.”

“It took a while to come up with an actual idea, a finalized idea, but eventually, we did,” she says. “I was a wild creature named Amitus Solo, and she was Clara Explorava, a wildlife expert. She’s been searching for me for about 20 years, and still hasn’t found me. And at the end of the movie, she sees me in an art gallery, and I’m like, ‘No, dude,’ and I attack her. Then, you see a government warning that says, ‘The Amitus Solo is still at large. Stay inside. In memoriam of Clara Explorava.’”

For this one, they made “an outline of a script.” They wrote down all the scenes and had a general idea of what should be said. Then, they improvised on the spot. The film runs three minutes and 42 seconds.

“I’ve watched her grow over the years,” says Trent Dawson, artistic director for Katonah Classic Stage. “She’s learned how to tell us a story with a beginning, middle and end, and with a structure. With ‘Happily Ever After,’ it was almost like a situation comedy – she put these characters in a situation and sculpted out a plot and a story for them. Her storytelling craftsmanship has really grown a lot.”

This year, 13 filmmakers under the age of 18 submitted films, and only a few made it into the festival. Doyle and  Muenzen’s film won the Best Young Filmmaker award.

Photo by Amity Doyle

Words and pictures

Doyle’s talents aren’t just limited to the screen. She is also a published poet and photographer. She entered her first poetry contest when she was 10 years old, and she won. Her poem, “Locked Winter,” was selected as a winner of the New York Botanical Garden Young Poets contest, and it was read by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, who she got to meet.

Since that time, she’s had three of her poems published in “Stone Soup,” a literary magazine completely written and illustrated by kids, two poems in the children’s section of the renowned literary journal “The Louisville Review,” and this year, her collection of poems, collectively titled “Four Poems,” was selected as a Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Gold Key winner for the Hudson-to-Housatonic region. According to Scholastic, “approximately five to seven percent of all regional submissions are recognized with Gold Key Awards and advance to the national competition.”

Her four poems focused on animals and/or nature. They are titled “The Yearning of the Well,” “So Much Depends,” Scalloped Shell” and “The Red Sea.”

“When I write a poem, I just start writing it,” she explains. “Sometimes I start with a topic in mind, and I know what I want to put into words. Other times, I just start writing about something in the world. And there are also times when I really want to write poetry, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a topic, so I ask for a prompt.”

Doyle has also entered and placed in The Harvey School’s Michael Lopes Annual Poetry Recitation contest the past two years.

“You have to memorize a poem and put hand gestures and understanding into it,” she explains. “You also have to write about it, and then you have to recite it in front of the class. Everyone votes, and if you get moved up, you recite the poem in front of the English teachers. Then they vote, and then it goes to the finals. When I was in sixth grade, I did E.E. Cummings’ poem ‘[little tree],’ and I won second place. This year, I did E. E. Cummings’ poem ‘You Are Tired (I Think),’ and I won.”

And as a budding photographer, Doyle has also had numerous photographs published in “Stone Soup” and, this year, two of her photos earned honorable mention in the Scholastic Awards.

“I like to take pictures of nature, and sometimes I take pictures of people,” she says. “I’ve also taken a lot of pictures of objects through drinking glasses.”

Photo by Amity Doyle

On the stage

Her other long-standing passion is dance, which she began at age four, “but that doesn’t really count,” she says, because she only danced for one year. She resumed ballet at age six, and she’s been a faithful student ever since.

Doyle has trained at several different ballet schools over the years, leaving one because her teacher passed away, another because “they don’t take ballet seriously,” and a third because it was “way too much.” She currently studies six hours a week at Logrea Dance Academy in Ossining as part of the school’s intensive ballet program, which is by invitation only.

“To be part of the program, she must take two ballet technique classes, one point class, a turn class, a workshop/conservatory class and a class in another discipline – she takes modern,” her mom, Lauren Acampora, explains. “It’s a half hour away, so there’s lots of homework done in the car.”

And, of course, Doyle acts and sings on stage – she’s starred in her school plays as Lord Farquaad in “Shrek” and Tinkerbell in “Peter Pan.” Plus she’s a member of her school chorus. She also enjoys songwriting, even though she cannot read music.

“Normally I start with a tune in my head, and I’m like, ‘Ooh, I like that,’ and then write words to it, or I kind of do both at the same time,” she says. “I know some people do lyrics first, but that doesn’t make much sense to me, because they must have some sort of rhythm for it to work. There are times when I don’t write down the words, and I just have an idea. Then I’ll start recording, and I just make up the words on the spot.”

“I write about stuff that’s happening in my life, or I just make up situations and pretend they’re happening in my life,” Doyle continues. “It really depends. But lately, I’ve been writing about more about my life.”

As of deadline, Doyle was building a website to showcase her music, and she wasn’t sure when it would be live.

Personal style

Among her friends and within her community, Doyle is also recognized for her sense of style. Whether dressing up in a black dress with a red fascinator hat and black veil for the red carpet at a film festival or creating a fun outfit for a party, Doyle’s clothing is another vehicle for artistic expression that lies in her diverse myriad of traits.

In true artist fashion, most of her clothing is previously loved – he clothes mainly come from the Katonah Presbyterian Church’s annual rummage sale, The Community Shop or from friends as hand-me-downs – and in her book, almost anything goes.

“Purple and red do not go together, and navy and black generally don’t look good together,” she says. “Some people think they’re the same thing, but they’re not the same. Other than that, I don’t really have any rules. Those are just things that I strongly believe someone shouldn’t do. But I don’t really have any rules for my outfits.”

But unlike many artists, Doyle does enjoy school and gets very good grades.

“I really like Latin,” she says. “But that was also mostly because of my Latin teacher. I also like history, and obviously, all the art stuff. I like science, too, but I don’t like science in school if that makes sense. The topics they teach us don’t generally interest me – I like learning science more on my own. It’s the same with English; that’s another subject that I don’t really like learning in school. I just like learning it on my own.”

With so many interests, narrowing down a future career path is tricky.

“I have a lot of ideas – an artist, a singer, a writer, a scientist – I don’t think I’m not ready to make any decisions,” she says.

Luckily, she turns 14 in the middle of September and is only in eighth grade, so she has time to decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

This article was published in the September/October 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Editor-in-Chief at Connect to Northern Westchester | Website | + posts

Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor-in-chief/co-publisher of Connect to Northern Westchester. She has a magazine journalism degree (yes, that's a real thing) from the University of Georgia and has written for countless national publications, ranging from SELF to The Washington Post. Gia desperately wishes schools still taught grammar. Also, she wants everyone to know they can delete the word "that" from about 90% of their sentences, and there's no such thing as "first annual." When she's not running her media empire, Gia enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, laughing at her crazy dog and listening to a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her amazing husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.