40 Under 40 Class of 2009

Gretchen Siegchrist

Gretchen Siegchrist

Age 30: Owner, Media Shower Productions

In a way, it began with a farm in Vermont — a special place, not only because Gretchen Siegchrist grew up there, but because it had been in her family for more than six decades.

Which is what made it so difficult to part with. When the time came to decide whether to preserve the land or sell it for development, her family was unable to reach an agreement. That’s when Seigchrist starting filming.

“People can be authentic in front of a camera,” she told BusinessWest. “It allows them to communicate in a way that’s different from any other medium.” The footage became the basis for The Barber Farm, a documentary about her family history and the importance of land conservation.

Pulling stories out of people is what Seigchrist does best, but she didn’t delve into filmmaking immediately. Instead, she began her career as a newspaper reporter.

When she read about how video would become the future of journalism, she returned to school to get a master’s degree in Media, using the farm documentary as her thesis project.

The film won several awards. But upon graduation, Siegchrist saw a more lucrative opportunity in the business world. “I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t going to make a career in documentaries,” she said.

After freelancing for a year, Siegchrist launched Media Shower Productions, a Northampton firm that makes training and other videos that companies can easily put on their Web sites. She also maintains an About.com Web site on video-making and is a founding member of Northampton Area Young Professionals.

As for the land in Vermont, that story has a happy ending. After seeing the documentary, a local farmer decided to rent the land. Now the farm remains at the heart of Siegchrist’s family — and a followup documentary is in the works.

—Amy Castor