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Howell High School students honored for work in film, video

As the 2021-22 school year comes to an end, several students in the Freehold Regional High School District’s Music, Video and Production (MVP) program at Howell High School have won awards on the film festival circuit.

At the 20th annual Garden State Film Festival, senior Amanda Katz, 18, of Manalapan, was awarded Best Home Grown Student Short Film for her feature “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.”

“My inspiration behind ‘He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not’ was based 100% on a true story. It was based on a toxic relationship I found myself in during the summer before my senior year of high school,” Katz said.

“After the breakup, I was feeling extremely confused and upset about how I was treated throughout the relationship. I decided the best way to make myself feel better would be to create a film about the situation and sound out the message that no woman should ever be treated like that by a man,” she said.

Katz said the short film was also her college application production, which ultimately got her into Chapman University in California, where she will study film and media arts.

Katz also took the Big Dreams Youth Film Festival by force. She left the annual event with a trophy for Best Music Video for her adaptation of “Slow Dancing in the Dark” and was later presented with the festival’s Rising Star Award.

“My favorite film that I have made has to be my music video, ‘Slow Dancing in the Dark.’ This is my favorite video because it was the first film I made completely on my own, where I began developing my own cinematic style. I was able to experiment with (many techniques) and I was also able to find my interest in directing,” Katz said.

Katz and her fellow Howell High School student and frequent collaborator, Blake Alcide, 18, of Marlboro, also brought home honors after screening projects at the annual Count Basie Teen + College Film Festival.

Alcide had her poetry short “Ode to the Women on Long Island” screened.

” ‘Ode to the Women on Long Island’ was written by Olivia Gatwood and was also the first time I directly adapted a poem into a film. I was given the opportunity to create a poetry adaptation in my film class and this poem spoke to me.

“I love being a woman and I love the women who helped me grow and who have inspired me, dearly. I wanted to adapt a poem that focused on womanhood because the strength and power in femininity is art in itself,” Alcide said.

Alcide will attend the New York University Tisch School of the Arts to study film. She said her parents always told her they could see her attending the school and that she should always shoot for the stars.

She said even though she felt burnt out while submitting her college applications, she was determined and ended up getting into her dream school.

The combined average scores from three projects by Katz and Alcide led to Howell High School receiving the School Award and two Sony digital cameras. 

For the first time in more than 10 years, MVP has a video winner at the regional level of the Technology Student Association (TSA) competition.

In one weekend, Lucia Assenza, 18, was able to produce a 60-second video explaining the uses of augmented reality. With that project, Assenza became the the Video On Demand winner and has the opportunity to advance to the TSA Nationals.  

“I feel really honored and grateful my work could be recognized at a national level. I have always loved coming up with stories, but I didn’t really get to be better at putting them down on paper until the last few years.

“I was surrounded by many different forms of entertainment growing up that had an influence on me,” said Assenza, who plans to attend Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

In a press release from the school district, MVP video teacher Scott Napolitano said, “These ladies have worked particularly hard at showcasing their voices and telling stories that resonate with audiences.

“Regardless of the wins, they keep learning and keep growing. And that is the kind of thing that will take them far in life. We are exceptionally proud of their accomplishments and can’t wait to see what comes next for them,” Napolitano said.

The Music, Video and Production program is part of the Freehold Regional High School District’s Performing Arts Academy. To see the films mentioned above and others created by current and former students, visit www.youtube.com/howellfpacvideo

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