Sixteen-year-old Max Greenwald is in demand: He’s a straight-A student at Kent Denver School, captain of the chess club, and on the varsity tennis team. He also happens to be an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

It all started about two years ago when Greenwald enrolled in the Starz Denver Film Festival’s Young Filmmakers Workshop, a three-week course that teaches aspiring moviemakers how to plan, write, shoot, and edit cinematic works. Shortly after, he began producing his own movies about regular Joes accomplishing incredible feats. This past November, he was honored as the youngest entrant to be featured at the festival. Greenwald’s 10-minute film, Making Molehills Out of Mountains, captures a small Vermont town’s response to a flood, its most devastating in a century. The community’s rebuilding started with repairing a bike path. “Filming those kinds of people—the ones who don’t ask to be put in the spotlight, or for anything in return—is the really inspiring part about what I do,” the 11th-grader says.

Molehills screened at two film festivals, and one of his other shorts, I’m Too Young to Buy a Prius (which will screen at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival in Golden, February 23–25), won Best Student Film at last year’s Yosemite International Film Festival. Up next: Greenwald looks at a runner’s 27-hour struggle to tackle the Leadville Trail 100. Beyond that, maybe film school. “Kind of like my filmmaking, I’d like to think that I’ll meander through my life and not know the ending until I get there,” Greenwald says.

Perhaps most impressive is his founding of, a nonprofit that encourages teens to make short films to raise money for charities. “There are a lot of kids my age who feel like they don’t have a way to make a change in this world,” Greenwald says. “This gives them a means of doing something about that.”