Helena Howard

Nominated for Best Female Lead


Female Lead: Madeline’s Madeline


Madeline has become an integral part of a prestigious physical theater troupe. When the workshop’s ambitious director pushes the teenager to weave her rich interior world and troubled history with her mother into their collective art, the lines between performance and reality begin to blur.


In 2014, Josephine Decker found herself crammed into a room with forty teenaged students at Union County Teen Arts Festival, judging a showcase competition for young actors. “All the students were doing…cheesy but sweet sketch things,” Decker recalls. “I had about 30-60 seconds after each act to give notes.” But, then, someone got onstage and did something different—and blew the filmmaker’s mind. Helena Howard performed a monologue from the Broadway show “Blackbird,” about a woman who stands up to the man who sexually abused her as a child. “I was speechless,” Decker says. “I think I said it was the best performance I’d seen in my life and I burst into tears! I really didn’t have a note because I was so profoundly stunned.”

Howard has a likewise intense memory of the encounter. “She had me crying and there were other kids there who had yet to perform,” the performer says. “As I was getting ready to leave she said ‘wait!’ and chased me down. She said she was making a new film and she wanted me to be part of it.” Howard agreed, but her friends were dubious. “After I got back to school, I was working on a musical at the time, and me and my friend looked her up. He said, ‘This lady is a weirdo’…I’m so glad I didn’t listen…”