"I directed a feature film when I was 17 years old," says Jesse Harris, 22, "and this is a thousand times harder. This is insane."

"This" is the National Film Festival for Talented Youth whose quasi-nerdy nickname is Nffty and whose youngest film-maker is nine. The Seattle-based festival will make its debut March 28-30, with 73 films (almost all from the US, although China and Australia are represented) and a kind of 'let's-put-on-a-show' spirit.

But why, in an age when film festivals seem to be spreading like a virus, do we need another' "I think there's this whole next generation of really talented and artistic film-makers out there with very few outlets for their films and few resources for them to become better film-makers," says Harris, Nffty's executive director and co-founder.

To that end, he says, Nffty is not just showing films but offering free panel discussions on such subjects as the business of film and working with SAG. "And anyone can come," Harris promises.

While he jokes about the general difficulties of launching a first-time festival, he identifies the biggest hurdle - no surprise here - as sponsorship.

"We started out six months to a year ago trying to convince people this is a really cool idea and something they should support," Harris says of his team, which includes co-founders Jocelyn RC and Kyle Seago, both 19. "It took a while for companies to realise that not only is this their target demographic - high school and college kids - but that we're also mentoring the next generation of film-makers. There are so many reasons to be involved with this."

On being told that he seems to have found the right pitch, Harris laughs. "Yeah, it worked," he says. "Volvo of North America was our first big sponsor, and that helped us a lot. Other major companies said, 'Wow, yeah, we want to be involved.' But without (Volvo), it wouldn't have worked as well as it did."

As evidenced by the popularity of the annual Seattle International Film Festival, as well as the numerous other film events that take place in the city, Nffty would seem to be in the right place too.

"We had a kind of kick-off event last year and we had really good attendance," Harris says. "It was really cool to see the age range of our audience. About 60%-70% were under 25, but there was a strong older audience too.

"We did another event, kind of a fundraiser, about two months ago and there was this older crowd there too. It's good to see them taking young film-makers seriously."

Nffty will be showing just under half the 180 or so submissions received (any film-maker under 21 was invited to submit).

Did Harris watch them all' "I did," he says, with a downward inflection. "Obviously, there are always a couple where you're like, 'What' This is ridiculous!' but there were only a couple like that.

"There's a lot of potential in pretty much all the film-makers. It was really exciting to watch the films."