MILLBURN, NJ - The next generation of rising filmmakers delivered in a big way on Friday night.
The eighth annual Millburn Film Fest, held in the auditorium of Millburn High School, brought together 12 student films. The entries ranged from short stories to animation and even included a mockumentary.
For event co-chairs Lauri Palomaki, Robin Eichler and Lea Cruz, who are new to hosting, the event was a great chance for town residents to see what students in the district have been up to. All three took over co-chair duties this year from Lynn Farscht and Alyssa Russo, who had been involved with the event since its inception.
Palomaki, Eichler and Cruz could barely wait for moviegoers to see what the students had brought to the table.
"It's going to be exciting to have the other people see [the films]," Palomaki said. "We screened them all ahead of time, so we would know what we're talking about and know about the filmmakers and know something about their films. But it is exciting because there were so many good films submitted this year."
"We're so excited for everybody to see them," Eichler added. "They're fabulous and these kids are so talented, and this is all about putting the kids in the spotlight."
"I've helped out with Millburn Schools Rocks last year, and that was kind of fun, but it's for the adults. This is so nice because it's really all about the kids," Cruz said.
Of the 12 films screened, Millburn students Jessica Yeager, Kyle Farscht, Matthew Green and Danielle Benna took home first place for their film "After the Beep," which tells the story of a romantic relationship through juxtaposed video clips and voicemail recordings.
Farscht and Yeager co-directed, with all four helping to write the short film.
For Farscht, who will continue on to the Tisch School of Film at New York University, the win in the festival was exciting.
"I think it's really fulfilling," Farscht said. "This is the first film fest I entered, and now I have been entering so many others. It was just really nice as a senior, to get first place, especially since I've never done that before. And it's really nice to see all of my hard work from the past so many years of making films to finally pay off."
Farscht also had two other films at the festival. "A Sensation" told the story of the highs and lows of a relationship through all five senses and the music video for the electro-pop song "Drive."
Along with the films shown, the Krueger-Rhodes award was presented for the eighth consecutive year. AP Studio Art teacher Kathleen Harte Gilsenan won for her tireless work in fostering a positive atmosphere in her classroom, as well as sending students out into the world to study art.
For Harte Gilsenan, who has been at the school for almost 15 years, winning the award was a welcome surprise.
"Receiving the award was a big surprise, and it's a great honor," Harte Gilsenan said. "I'd like to think I help support [student] creativity, and I'm honored to be able to watch them develop as artists throughout their career at Millburn high school."
For residents who missed the premiere of the fest movies, there will be a second chance to catch them all. The films will be screened at Bowtie Cinemas on May 1.