When the Dutch fourteen year old Laura Dekker set out to sail around the world solo, she embraced the following motto: do not be afraid. It was this fearlessness and determination that inspired filmmaker Jillian Schlesinger to capture Laura’s story in her film Maidentrip, which is coming to Telluride’s Mountainfilm this year.

Laura Dekker at sea

Laura Dekker at sea

Maidentrip recounts Laura’s epic journey—from her legal battles with the Dutch government to her eventual approval for the trip to her time aboard the boat sailing around the world. Throughout the film, we are reminded to challenge our assumptions about what the sea is like and what teenagers can do. Everything, we learn, is possible.

Because Maidentrip was Jillian’s first film, Laura’s motto about fear not only informed the story but also the filmmaking process. “Anytime you set out to do something, there are a thousand voices telling you that you’re wrong,” Jillian says, explaining how she would often think about Laura when she was struggling with the film. “At times, I felt as if Laura and I were on parallel journeys, both striving for lifelong goals, both learning along the way.

The film was not without its challenges. “Most of the story takes place while Laura is alone at sea,” Jillian explains, “so it was up to her to capture the bulk of the action.” Laura shot video diaries with a camcorder and Jillian gave Laura lists of topics to talk about into a Zoom sound recorder while alone on the boat. She also met and filmed with Laura several times during her journey– in Holland, the Panama Canal, the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Australia, and South Africa. “It was always exciting to collect the material Laura shot on the latest leg of the trip and see how the story was unfolding.”

Laura Dekker with filmmaker Jillian Schlesinger when she finished her trip in St. Maarten

Laura Dekker with filmmaker Jillian Schlesinger when she finished her trip in St. Maarten

At one point, Jillian sailed across the Pacific Ocean on another sailboat with friends, but “Laura was too fast for us,” Jillian said, chuckling. “She thought it was fun to race us, and in the end, we never saw her.” But even though Jillian didn’t get to film Laura in the Pacific, the experience of crossing the ocean was invaluable. “Being out there gave me a sense of rhythm and monotony that can often characterize long ocean crossings. Of course there are also moments of challenge and adventure—when you encounter a squall or see wildlife or need to fix something  But compared to life on land, things move at a difference pace.” Jillian said, explaining how time feels so different when you’re on the water for weeks on end.

These days, time has felt very structured for Jillian as she gets ready to present at Mountainfilm. “It’s been a busy three years,” she acknowledges, “but very worth it.”

Click here to learn more about why Jillian wanted to make the film and what she learned about Laura and filmmaking along the way.

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Emily Brendler Shoff

Emily Brendler Shoff

Emily Brendler Shoff found true love when she moved to the Rockies for her freshman year at Colorado College in 1994. Her love affair with the mountains hasn’t wavered since. She writes, teaches, and makes cookies for her favorite people in Telluride, Colorado.

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  1. […] Mountainfilm in Telluride hosts its annual July fundraiser at the Palm Theater. The featured film, “Maidentrip,” won the Director’s Award. Showtime is 8 […]

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