Arts & Entertainment

Randolph Represented at First West Essex High School Film Festival, Attended by David Chase

May 18, 2014 at 11:41 PM

NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - The first West Essex High School Film Festival was a big success. During the evening, "The Sopranos" creator and 1963 West Essex alumni David Chase joined Fairfield filmmaker Randy Rossilli Jr. in speaking to the audience about their work.
The event was founded by the high school's student council president, senior Greg Contaldi, who also served as the evening's emcee. The festival was dedicated to showcasing films made by West Essex High School students and ten other area high school students and it featured the best original films from the 45 which were submitted, all ten minutes or less in length. 

"I was very happy with how the entire night of the festival went, it was a very fun night," commented Contaldi. "I was happy to see David Chase there and he stayed longer then we expected him to. I even had the pleasure of giving him a tour around the high school during intermission." Chase attended the event with his wife, Denise Chase, another West Essex alumni. "When I walked around with David Chase he showed me where he first met his wife," Contaldi added. "It was by my locker, near the nurses office."

David Chase Greg Contaldi.jpg
Greg Contaldi and David Chase   Credit: Allison Freeman

Audience Discussion with David Chase  
Contaldi and Rossilli led a question and answer session featuring questions submitted by film festival participants for Chase. The director spoke about how long it took him to find the right place for "The Sopranos;" he told students how he could have filmed the series in New York, but then it would have been like many other crime shows or films. Instead, he chose New Jersey and the area where he grew up.

Randolph High School Mass Media teacher Robert Finning asked Chase what advice he had for high school film students who want to continue with a career in the film industry. "People will tell you that your vision is wrong," Chase warned the students. 

Area High School Participation
Students from area high schools submitted films to the festival and home-school students participated as well. The participating high schools were:
Film Festival Entries 
The 16 top films were selected as nominees and shown in the festival. The event featured a variety of films including several dramas and comedies. Included in the evening's showings was the premiere of "Life on Pause," a film by West Essex High School student Allie Haleand her experience after she was diagnosed with cancer. 

Film Judges and Judging Criteria 
The films featured in the festival were reviewed by a panel of judges including Emmy-Award-winning industry professionals and West Essex faculty. The films were evaluated on the following merits:
  • Originality / creativity of story
  • Production value (i.e. quality of lighting, sound, camera work, editing)
  • Quality of acting
  • Judges could decline to give an award in a particular category if no entry met the festival standards or quality
There was a special West Essex Film Award, the "Audience Choice Award" presented to a West Essex student only. In addition, awards were presented in the following categories:
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Comedy
  • Best Drama
  • Best Overall Film
2014 West Essex Film Festival Winners:
  • Best Documentary
    "Smile" by Liz Martine, Jovanna Bartelloni of West Essex High School
    The documentary "Smile" featuring students with pieces of paper with smiles on them held in front of their faces.

    Honorable Mention
    "Generation Stress" by Ellie Zarr of West Essex High School
    Ellie Zarr's seven-minute documentary "Generation Stress'' looks at student stress as they prepare for the college application process.  
  • Best Comedy
    "Real Fun" by Anderson Wang of West Essex High School
    The audience laughed at Anderson Wang's "Real Fun," which featured Anderson pretending to be an exchange student in a comic farce set at times in Roseland. 

    Honorable Mention
    "Spalding" by Jordan Dalmedo, Raj Chidambaram, Spencer Kaminsky of Randolph High School
    The audience also enjoyed "Spalding," a short comedy film about a teenager and his basketball.

    Credit: RHS Electives
  • Best Drama
    "Friends" by Jack Belisle of Mamaroneck High School, NY
    Jack Belisle impressed the judges with his six-minute eerie drama "Friends," a suspenseful thriller about a girl who accepted a Facebook friend request from someone she did not really know. The film took home the first place award for drama and the best overall film award.

    Honorable Mention
    "Bystander" by Natalie LaSpisa of West Essex High School
    Natalie LaSpisa received honorable mention for her drama "Bystander," which also dealt with peer pressure and cyber bullying.
  • Audience Choice Award
    "Smile" by Liz Martine, Jovanna Bartelloni of West Essex High School
  • Best Overall Film
    "Friends" by Jack Belisle of Mamaroneck High School, NY

West Essex High School Film Festival Founder Greg Contaldi
Contaldi came up with the idea for the festival after attending a summer filmmaking program at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and approached High School Principal Gary Suda about starting a festival at the high school. The festival ultimately brought together high school filmmakers from different high schools who shared their work and socialized over popcorn during intermission. 

Contaldi expressed his appreciation for the high school's Media Production, History and English Teacher, Pat McGlynn. "Mr. McGlynn helped me out so much with all the all of the planning and logistics of the festival. I really couldn't have done it without him."

McGlynn was one of the judges of the festival and helped determine which of the original selections would be included in the festival's final sixteen slots.

"We received over 45 films but could only select a few to show as we only had a few hours the night of the festival," Contaldi explained. "I hope to see this festival continue on and hopefully grow to be a three-day weekend event."

The following Randolph High School student films were also selected as finalists and shown at the festival: “Pen or Pencil,” by RHS sophomores Vincent D’Alessandro, Lauren Eisenman and Sydney Steiner, “Good Night” by RHS senior Sam Friedland and “An understanding,” by RHS senior Raj Chidambaram.


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