Comsewogue High School students with an eye for filmmaking got the Hollywood treatment Monday, May 22, as they walked the red carpet, screened their short films for family and friends, and received awards.
The first annual North Brookhaven Scholastic Film Festival, sponsored by Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and the Comsewogue school district, gave students, grades nine through 12, the opportunity to showcase their original films, each projected before an audience on the big screen in a mini-lecture hall.
The 18 films, submitted mostly by video production students, were no longer than five minutes and included public service announcements on the dangers of texting and driving and cyberbullying; a documentary on the friendship formed between two foreign exchange students; and a series of narratives, ranging from comedy to romance to horror.
“I think it’s important we create opportunities for people to express themselves, and they are so talented, clearly, from all the ambition that came out of today,” said Cartwright, who handed out individual certificates to the participating filmmakers after the screening.
The councilwoman got involved after Lou Antoniello, of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, approached her with the idea to make a film festival for students as a way to bring more culture to the area.
“I said, ‘why not have one here for Northern Brookhaven?’ as I never heard of a scholastic film festival,” Antoniello said. He said he hopes down the line, as the event grows, scouts from bigger festivals like Stony Brook and the Hamptons will be in the audience and pluck student-produced films to screen.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said.
Antoniello said the festival was open to all school districts within Brookhaven and he hopes more will participate in the next one in September.
Kayla Jones, a 17-year-old senior at Comsewogue, produced two of the night’s entries, the texting and driving PSA, and “Distance,” a black-and-white silent film about a long-distance couple.
“It was really great to have this — I didn’t expect it was going to be as big as it ended up being,” Jones said. “It felt really good to have people see the things I created and like my ideas. It’s such a great experience to see something that was in your mind, on screen.”
Cassavete Porta, a senior classmate of Jones’ who plans to study film in college, directed a music video based on the song “Survive” by The Moog.
“I was raised by two film geeks so basically any song I listen to, I have a scene in my head to go with it,” Porta said on his entry. “It’s a good feeling because everyone clapped and had a good time. When you have an audience, you can tell if your movie is good or bad.”
Karen Verdisco teaches the school’s video production class, wherein students learn basic editing techniques on Final Cut Pro, video editing software, as well as how to work with a green screen. She encouraged her class to participate in the festival.
“I helped them with their story lines, basically guiding them through the process and critiquing their films to help them get better,” Verdisco said. “Just to watch the movies in a crowd and to hear everybody laughing and reacting, it made me feel unbelievably proud.”