Lots to see at KHS film festival

Photo by Ron Leir Among KHS film festival participants are, standing, from l., Sam Sanchez, Muskan Vyas, Kaitlyn Cullen and Paul Bannon and, kneeling, Matthew Farias.
Photo by Ron Leir
Among KHS film festival participants are, standing, from l., Sam Sanchez, Muskan
Vyas, Kaitlyn Cullen and Paul Bannon and, kneeling, Matthew Farias.


Okay, so it’s not Sundance, but they’ll be rolling out the red carpet Thursday night, Oct. 29, at Kearny High School for its first-ever student-made film festival, open to the general public.

There will be 13 entries, representing a variety of styles and genres, which involved at least 50 participants including in front of and behind the screen, according to history teachers John Adamski and Jessica Couto, advisors to the senior class, the festival’s sponsor.

Instead of Oscar statuettes, the young filmmakers will be competing for two cash awards – a $100 grand prize and $50 for second place.

Audience members get to judge the films on the basis of “creativity/originality, messaging, content and technical quality.” More precise instructions will be given on the night of the festival.

Admission is $10 for the public and $5 for KHS students and senior citizens and latecomers won’t miss a thing because, after the doors open at 6 p.m., patrons will be directed to separate third-floor classrooms to view each of the DVD films which will be screened continuously on a repeating loop.

Under festival rules, films could be no longer than 20 minutes and several run as short as five minutes so there should be plenty of time to see everything.

Festival applications were distributed to students in May and were due back by September so many students actually began working on their creations during the summer on home equipment and continued into the fall term.

Adamski and Couto felt that opening the festival to the public was a good way to get a lot of community support by giving parents, in particular, an opportunity to see the kind of work their youngsters were capable of executing.

“Hopefully, the festival will continue to be presented in future years,” Adamski said. “I can assure you, people will be impressed by what they see.”

And, lest parents and/or townspeople get a bit antsy over the kind of material being presented on screen, Couto told The Observer that among the criteria for submissions was a caution to students that the contents of their movie had to be “appropriate to show in a school.”

As stated in the festival rules, “Your film cannot depict any lewd act, tobacco, drug, curses, or material that many would view as offensive.” And, further, “Youth actors (18 and under) cannot be portrayed with any underage alcohol, drug or tobacco use in the film.”

Filmmakers were permitted to use adults in their movie but only for “on-screen talent and/or behind the scenes in a faculty advisor capacity only.”

Plus, all films had to be prescreened by an advisor before being included as part of the festival.

Matthew Farias, a junior who plays center-mid for the KHS soccer team, has created what he described as “a highlight reel” of the lead-up to the Sept. 26 match with archrival Harrison High at Red Bull Arena, the game and the postgame celebration of Kearny’s 5-1 victory. The film is intended “to show the perspective of a Kearny player, how it is to be in front of your peers.”

The film takes the viewer “from the players getting ready for the game, taking the bus to the Arena, to highlights of the game that I edited from the game film donated by the Red Bulls, to the bus ride home,” said Farias, who wore a small GoPro camera with chest strap and head band to film the pre- and post-game activities. He credited senior Miguel Caturra and junior Joseph Rodrigues with key assists in the film’s preparation. Running time: estimated at between seven and eight minutes.

Seniors Sam Sanchez and Paul Bannon co-produced “The Case,” a drama about two police detectives trying to crack a case involving the distribution of morphine while one detective – the main character – is experiencing  flashbacks about the death of his dad, himself a former detective in the same department.

Six KHS students appear as actors in “The Case” which Sam and Paul figure will screen at between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on final editing. Both have prior experience, having produced a 10-minute filmic re-enactment of “A Streetcar Named Desire” last year.

And junior Kaitlyn Cullen is director/animator/editor/ sound mixer of “Who Almost Killed Me?” – a combination “supernatural comedy/ mystery.” Here’s what Cullen chooses to reveal about the plot: A young man who has inherited the estate of his great-uncle is attacked and, while in a coma, is permitted to assume a ghost-like form to learn who did the deed. If he fails, he will die. Among her five actors is junior Muskan Vyas, who voices the role of the estate manager.

When Cullen was interviewed, she had completed two of the five scenes in her film and those scenes alone called for completion of 50 animation drawings which she sketched out on a Wacom tablet linked to a computer, then digitally mixed with dialogue and music recorded via voice mem, assembling the aggregate in Windows Movie Maker.

The final product should come in at between 16 and 20 minutes, Cullen estimated.

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