By KATIE HOPSICKER
DELMAR — A group of film students at Bethlehem Central High School was rewarded tenth place for their film in an international film challenge last month. The task? Create a short film in just ten days.
“I was amazed at what [we] were able to do,” said Bethlehem senior and director of the film Madaleine Kotary. “It was our first time participating; it was really great to see how our work was rewarded.”
And work it was. The 10 Day Film Challenge, a competition for high school students, features strict requirements and was one of the culminating projects for Kotary’s film class. “We’re all in the BCTV Filmmaking for Production class… we knew [the challenge] was coming but we didn’t know the requirements until the first day.”
The 10 Day Film Challenge, as described on its website, requires students to create a short and original film in only ten school days. On the first day students are given requirements to incorporate in the film, which may include a specific character, prop, backstory, genre, and line of dialogue. The website describes the challenge as “intense” and “invigorating” and Bethlehem senior and sound editor Matt Stento agrees, stating that at times the challenge could be “strenuous and hard.”
“The biggest challenge was the time we had to make the film,” recalls Stento. “It was hard to edit in the time that we had… we only had class for 45 minutes per day, and we could work after school but many of us had sports and other activities as well.” Despite the major time crunch, Stento declared “I had a lot of fun working with the group… we didn’t really know each other at first so we had to learn to work together to get something done; the teamwork makes everything.”
Kotary chimed in saying “I was excited going into it. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I was confident… everyone had their own unique skills to bring to the table. The most challenging part for me was just trying to make sure we all felt invested and happy with what we were doing. As director, I wanted to make sure it was really a team effort.”
Both seniors emphasized the importance of teamwork and their group. Along with Kotary and Stento, the production team included Megan Arsanon, Tess Biggane and Zephan Conway. Acting was performed by Connor Chung and Grant Napierski. Kotary praised the two, saying “Grant and Connor really brought [the film] to life.”
The film, named “Final Judgement,” explores the courtroom-drama of a man who can’t remember a crime that he committed. Kotary explained that the group drew inspiration from film and filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, “The Twilight Zone” and Kafka’s story, “The Trial.” A pocket watch and old video camera were used as props, the required line of dialogue was ‘that makes perfect sense,’ and the film focused on the interactions and dynamic between the interrogator, played by Chung, and the accused, played by Napierski.
Out of 270 films, “Final Judgement” earned tenth place overall, a nomination for best sound and was chosen for a special screening. “There was one film that placed from Japan” said Stento. He continued, laughing, “I guess you could say we were tenth in the world!”
Kotary attributed the success of the film to the group, saying that “everyone was invested and contributing, which is what made it so successful.” She added that “it was a wonderful thing to share with everyone.”
With the film class being an elective at BCHS, not all the members are pursuing film. However, Kotary will be studying film in the fall at Boston University. She recalled her childhood, saying “I remember writing scripts on post-it notes in second grade” and describing her summer tradition of making movies with her cousins. Her love for filmmaking transferred into high school when she took all three film electives throughout her junior and senior years.
Kotary concluded, “overall, my time in the film classes [taught me] the importance of unrestricted creativity and the importance of creative collaboration.” As for the film challenge specifically, she believes that “the most helpful technique was just learning to communicate and appreciate our ideas… it’s really to communicate effectively and efficiently and work as a unit in order to bring the story to life.”
BCHS previously participated in the film challenge last year, with the 2018 group achieving third place and the title of Best Cinematography. With the continued success of the students, Stento thinks the film classes will continue to complete this contest. “I’m not surprised… I do think classes will continue this tradition.” Additionally, Bethlehem was ranked as the best school district in the Capital Region, according to the Albany Business Review’s 2019 school report.
Kotary gave thanks to Ms. Giovanna Prezio, an art and film teacher at Bethlehem Central High School. The students participating in the challenge were enrolled in Prezio’s film class and Kotary states that “she encouraged us to be free with our ideas and and supported and gave us what we needed to succeed.”
As a teacher, Prezio believes “in a system that supports the exploration of a students’ individual path.” She described that the challenge “gives students the opportunity to discover if working on a production team is something that inspires and motivates them,” and added that next year there will be two music students in the Filmmaking for Production class. This collaboration will require students to “[work] with their peers to create the sound and music each film requires. My vision is one where diverse students come together to make art that is meaningful.”
With the award of top district, the success of the film challenge, broadening availability of fashion and art classes and the reconstruction of the auditorium, it seems that BCSD is strongly developing its arts programs. Prezio responded to this assumption, saying “without a doubt… making art increases focus, teaches us about our unique creative process, helps us to practice following our guidance and inspires empathy and compassion. These are invaluable skills to learn and practice. We have so many different art classes. There really is something for everyone!”
Prezio was very proud of her students, including those in her film and graphic novel classes. “In summary, I hope future arts students feel their ideas are encouraged, heard and supported. We need their voices.”
To watch “Final Judgement,” visit www.tendayfilm.com/2019-multi-state-films.html.