MONTVILLE, NJ – Nine Montville Township High School Film Club students have created a film which was honored at the Montclair Film Festival.

The film festival’s fifth annual Emerging Filmmaker Competition featured 20 winning films from 17 different area schools. The winning films were screened at a ceremony on May 7 at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair. 

The MTHS film, titled “The Shapeshifter,” won the Special Jury Prize for Comedy in the “Visionaries” category (grades 10-12).

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The three-and-a-half-minute movie tells the story of a high school boy, played by junior Darrel Tsinadze, who wants to ask Samantha to the prom. His friend, Jack, helps him by giving him some magic shape-shifting gum. Tsinadze also wrote the film.

“I wrote the script after some brainstorming,” said Tsinadze. “I added a high school twist to the classic shapeshifting concept.”

The film club was founded three years ago by senior Zach Vallese.

“I wanted an outlet for students to be able to express their creativity with film,” Vallese said.

He said he wears a lot of hats in the club, and teaches members how to do each job on a film. The club has about 40 members and is advised by English and Film Study teacher Andrew Cecala.

A typical production involves Vallese assigning a script idea, such as “a three to five page script with four to five actors that takes place in a high school,” which was the assignment for Shapeshifter, Vallese said.

“I’ll get maybe 10 scripts, I’ll pick three, and then I’ll assign jobs to members depending on what they’ve indicated they’d like to do,” he said.

Claudia Garbien was the assistant director, Christine Pak was the cinematographer, and Stephanie Jennette was the script supervisor for Shapeshifter. Juniors Heather Giudice and Samantha Grossman and sophomore Jack Motherway acted in the film. Vallese provided the camera and microphone for the production. 

Shapeshifter took about three hours to film in January, said director David Champion, who is a junior.  

“We had to get all different types of angles, such as close-ups and wide-angles, for each shot,” explained Champion.

Champion and Christine Pak then edited the footage during lunch in the video production room.

“At the next meeting we watched everybody’s films,” said Vallese. “It’s fun; we bring chips and popcorn.”

Then it’s on to the next production; Vallese figures the club will produce 12 films this year. He said five films were submitted to the film festival competition in various categories.

Seven local film and television professionals adjudicated a “record number” of film submissions, according to a festival press release. All films were placed into groups based upon the age of the filmmaker, which ranged from grade four through 12. Awards were given to films in each group in the Narrative, Comedy, Documentary, and Experimental film categories. A special award was also given to films that sought to make a social impact.

Vallese said he was “in awe” to attend a film festival.

“We are incredibly proud of the work of every young filmmaker who had the courage and creative vision to make and submit a film for our Emerging Filmmakers Competition,” said film festival Education Director Sue Hollenberg.

To see the MTHS film, click here: The Shapeshifter

The Film Club will be hosting a Film Showcase May 25 at 7:00 p.m. The year’s films will be screened in the auditorium at Montville Township High School. The public is welcome.