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Wilton Woman Crafts Stories On Page and Screen

Wilton resident Megan Smith-Harris.
Wilton resident Megan Smith-Harris. Photo Credit: Submitted

Megan Smith-Harris is all about telling important stories.

By day she's the editor of Wilton Magazine but after hours, before hours and weekends, she wears a different hat: That of a filmmaker.

In her 25+-year career, Smith-Harris has produced 30 films -- 24 short documentaries on famous people in the arts in Canada and six long-form documentaries in the U.S. The Wilton resident is also a playwright, a screenwriter, and is in the midst of developing a television series.

"My friends think I’m a little crazy because I’m always juggling various projects, but once again, everything is related to story-telling and I really love what I do," she said.

"Even on vacation, I always write."

She said she was always open about her work as a filmmaker when she interviewed for the Wilton Magazine editorship over four years ago.

"These two sides of my work life enhance each other and happily co-exist," she told Daily Voice. "They are both visual story-telling mediums; they just come to the consumer in different ways."

When she's not writing about local artists, area volunteers or taking a peek inside some awesome Wilton homes, she's thinking about what would make a good documentary, debating how she'd shoot it and figuring out how to raise the money to create it.

Her most recent project, "The Buddy System," which began screening at film festivals and special events in March 2017, was filmed over a three-and-a-half year period and entailed a combination of working from home and traveling.

The film, about three families touched by autism who experience meaningful change when a specially trained assistance dog comes into their lives, also showcases the personal journey of Patty Dobbs Gross, executive director of North Star Foundation and a pioneer in the field. Smith-Harris served as producer and director, and her husband and business partner, Bill Harris, was the executive producer.

The film also features interviews with volunteer puppy raisers and trainers and was shot in various locations in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Dobbs Gross, it should be noted, first recognized the potential of dogs to support children on the spectrum years 20 ago when she saw how a “social dog” placement helped her son, Dan, explained Smith-Harris. Today, her organization specializes in the breeding, training, and placement of autism service dogs with children who need them. Buddy is her 250th placement.

Prior to that, Smith-Harris worked on "Trial By Fire: Lives Re-Forged," an independent feature documentary about inspirational burn survivors.

"It was a powerful film about a difficult subject and it aired across the country on PBS and around the globe," she said. (It is currently available on Amazon Prime).

With that subject being so heavy, her husband had joked to her that her next project had to be about something featuring kids and puppies. And so ...

"Having read about how beneficial autism assistance dog placements could be for children on the spectrum, I cold-called Patty, set up a meeting, and we started preliminary filming that weekend," she said.

In general, Smith-Harris seems to like stories that make you think -- and look at a topic in another way. She's produced/directed "Surrogate Stories," a 90-minute television special on surrogacy and "Child Brides and Polygamy Cult."

She's also worked on "The Tackle Girls," about women’s professional tackle football, which has not been released.

As for "The Buddy System," Smith-Harris is still working on distribution, setting up special screenings and searching for underwriters/sponsors for a national broadcast.

After all, she said: "Anybody who likes kids and dogs will enjoy this film!"

To book a screening or for more information, go to www.buddysystemfilm.org/ .

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