Arts & Entertainment

Montville High School Film Club Finalists in Film Festival

D Champion, J Motherway, J Gallup, Z Vallese, P Riccio, D Trombitas, S Grossman, A Grossman, D Nasisi, A Kumar. Front row: H Giudice, D Dang, M Trogani, S Jennette, M Benno Credits: Melissa Benno
Dhruv Dang in "Chem Club" Credits: Melissa Benno
David Champion, Paul Riccio, Heather Giudice, Dhruv Dang, Martin Trogani, Jack Motherway at the Project FX Film Festival at Count Basie Theatre Credits: Melissa Benno
Dana Trombitas in a scene from Chem Club Credits: Melissa Benno
Jacob Choc in Chem Club Credits: Melissa Benno
Panelists Kim Surowicz, Shannon Gans, Alex Biese, Linda Safran and Tom Bernard Credits: Melissa Benno
Sal Cicatiello in Chem Club Credits: Melissa Benno
Jacob Choc, Jeffrey Gallup, Veronica Tullo Credits: Melissa Benno
the Chem Club logo Credits: Melissa Benno

MONTVILLE, NJ – Members of the Montville Township High School Film Club traveled to the Project FX student film festival on March 18 where the club’s film “Chem Club” was one of ten high school film finalists.

The festival, now in its third year, was held at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. Its aim is to “locate and promote the very best in student filmmaking in the state of New Jersey,” according to a release.

The MTHS Film Club, now in its fourth year, is a student-run club in which “kids from all different grades get together and learn how to make films and solve problems constantly as a team,” club president Paul Riccio told TAPinto Montville. “It’s a great way to make friends. We have fun and hang out while getting to make and watch films.”

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“Chem Club,” a five-minute film parody of a chemistry club, was written and directed by Dante Nasisi.

“I really like The Office TV show, so I wrote this to be similar,” said Nasisi. “This was my first-ever project for film club. It was fun to be in the science room filming and see it played out instead of on the script.”

Riccio submitted the film to the festival officials; it became one of ten finalists after a sub-committee of the festival’s judges vetted it. The films were then posted onto the Project FX Facebook page and the public could vote for their favorites. The complete group of judges, which included film industry leaders, judged ten high school and ten college films based on storyline, cinematography, technical aspects, sound, editing, and social media presence.

At the March 18 festival, all 20 films were screened and a panel of five of the judges commented on the films and answered audience questions.

“I was thrilled with the quality, the editing and the screenplays [of the films]; they were very unique, and they were very creative,” said Tom Bernard, Co-President of Sony Pictures Classics, who was one of the judges and a panelist for the festival.

“It was a privilege to watch all the films this year,” said judge and panelist Linda Safran of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. “I was bowled over generally. What stood out to me were the technical skills involved in making the films. Everything worked and really made our decisions difficult.”

“This was not an easy year to cast votes because the quality was so high,” said judge/panelist Alex Biese, who is entertainment reporter for the Asbury Park Press.

First place in the high school category went to “Trick Question,” a film by David LaPorta, a senior at Shore Regional High School. It was a film that poses the question, “how would you want to die?” and discouraged suicide. Second place went to an animated film called “Goldilocks,” which showed Goldilocks receiving punishment for her actions in the woods, and an audience of bears pleased at that result. Third place went to “Unconditional,” which explored a young man’s changing relationship with his mother. First prize winner LaPorta received an internship at Sony Pictures Classics, a Sony digital movie camera and a $1,000 cash award. 

“It was a great experience,” Nasisi said. “The festival was more formal than I thought it would be. It was fun to see the movie on a gigantic screen in a big fancy theater, especially because it was the first thing I ever did in film club.”

To view the movie, click: CHEM CLUB

Chem Club was created by: Dante Nasisi (writer, director, script supervisor), Heather Giudice (producer and cinematographer), Mike Pfaff (assistant director), Paul Riccio (cinematographer 2), editors Dhruv Dang and Luke Defilippo, actors: Sal Cicatiello, Jacob Choc, Dhruv Dang, Jeffrey Gallup, Veronica Tullo, Dana Trombitas, and behind-the-scenes by Michael Benno and Ganeesh Arunachalam.

To read about the Film Club’s win last year at the Montclair Film Festival, click: 2016 festival

The judges for Project FX were:

• Alex Biese (entertainment reporter, Asbury Park Press)
• Paul Bernard (director/producer)
• Tom Bernard (Co-President, Sony Pictures Classics)
• Nena Danevic (film editor, Amadeus)
• Shannon Gans (visual effects producer, Hugo, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Inception)
• Matthew Gratzner (visual effects supervisor, Shutter Island, A Good Day to Die Hard, War of the Worlds)
• David Iserson (producer, Mr. Robot, Mad Men, writer, Saturday Night Live) 
• Adam Philipson (CEO, Count Basie Theatre)
• Nick Paleologos (Executive Director, NJ Council of the Arts)
• Linda Safran (National Board of Review of Motion Pictures)
• James Schamus (screenwriter and producer, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain)
• Kim Surowicz (producer, Change In The Air, Call Me by Your Name, Fighting)
• Maureen Van Zandt (actress, The Sopranos, Broadway's Hair)

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