15-year-old Filmmaker Gets Break at Twin Cities Film Fest

High school student Isaiah Bischoff filmed a documentary about camp All in the Circle—and moved that much closer to a professional career

Isaiah Bischoff was only four years old when he and his father started creating small movies together. He started out acting in them, but Bischoff soon came to enjoy being behind the camera. He filmed his dad’s friends playing a board game, made a short video for his history class project, and documented moments from a trip to Puerto Rico. Today, the 15-year-old Bischoff, a student at Minneapolis South High School, is a Twin Cities Film Fest–official filmmaker. He just premiered his documentary, “All in the Circle,” at the fest.

The film depicts the arts and nature camp All in the Circle, which Bischoff attended as a 12-year-old. The goal of the camp is to engage kids with nature and leave them empowered to protect Earth. 

Bischoff’s parents had nurtured his love for the environment by encouraging outdoor activities and taking him camping as a kid. The camp happened to be looking for a filmmaker, so, in a way, the movie emerged by accident. His interest in filmmaking well known, he was asked to put together a short documentary, intended for campers to watch on the last day. 

This became a much larger project when All in the Circle invited film producer David Howell to come in. Interested in the camp’s mission—be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and be kind to the world and nature—Howell took on the project. Having never worked with a producer before, Bischoff agreed to collaborate—making this his first glimpse into professional filmmaking.

Bischoff’s dual role as camper and director challenged him to capture the atmosphere of the camp from an outsider’s perspective. But it also gave him an advantage that Howell, as producer, would have lacked: As Bischoff interacted with his peers, Howell noticed that they seemed to forget the camera was on.

Bischoff and Howell filmed campers learning about animals through craft projects and listening to various spiritual leaders. “With all the technology disconnecting us, this camp brings people together and helps them feel more a part of a group,” Howell says. “They didn’t want camp to end.”

“All in the Circle” took three years to complete. After filming, they had roughly 60 hours of footage to sift through and edit. “It was challenging to put it together in a cohesive way,” reflected Bischoff. Soon, the documentary was a success, 650 people attending its premiere. After seeing and hearing about the film, the Twin Cities Film Fest reached out to Howell. “I hope the film helps people in society feel connected to their neighbor and to nature,” Howell says. Their goal is to premiere the film nationally in the near future. Watch the trailer to learn more about All in the Circle.