By Bailey McGuinn
This year’s New Jersey High School Film challenge? Write, film, and edit a short film following the theme of “Broken,” utilizing some kind of broken object and a main character named Jack or Jackie.
The catch: You only get five days from start to finish.
Morristown High School was up to the task, winning both Best Comedy and Best Overall Film on Thursday at the 6th annual New Jersey High School Film Challenge, at Jackson Liberty High School in Jackson.
BEST OVERALL: ‘Broken’
The Colonials now are two-for-two, after winning Best Overall Film in 2017.
Forty schools submitted more than 145 entries this year. MHS was among only three schools with multiple winners, and one of only three schools to have more than one of its teams rank in the top 20.
Morristown’s Broken was written by Jessica Vogel, starring senior Greg Mehlin as character “Jack.” Nya Federoff was editor and head of sound, Grace Keane acted and helped with editing, and Grace Prachthauser served as director and cinematographer. They are all members of the Colonial Corner film club, run by Broadcasting teacher Michael Butler.
“Last year’s team realized that the majority of pieces other schools do are deep and depressing, so we’ve stuck with taking the comedic route,” said the film’s editor, Federoff.
“We only had five days for the whole thing, so Jessie Vogel wrote all the ideas down that came to our head, and the screenplay we chose was one we all agreed on. She’s really creative, and I have no idea how she thinks of this stuff!”
Another MHS film, about a bungled burglary, won Best Sound Design for students Haley MacMillan, Owen Sindorf, Kylee Strasser, Kevin Crawford and Mat Mruz.
Best Sound Design 2018:
“I’m so proud of my students, they are extremely talented and driven,” said Butler, the project adviser and a former director for Court TV.
“Winning Best Overall two years in a row is quite an accomplishment, considering the number of entries.”
“This experience was so great” said Prachthauser, a senior.
She said she started shaking when the comedy took first place. “But I lost my mind when I heard our high school and my name for Best Overall!
“Everyone brought something really unique to our group which is what I think made it so successful… It feels surreal that we won. I went into this not knowing what to expect. I kept watching the film over and over again, picking out the smallest of errors.”
The short feature is about a trio of students trying to make a birdhouse as a school project.
“Cinematically, I wanted to put an emphasis on the broken aspect, really showcasing the birdhouse. We did a few of the shots in just one take because there was only one chance to get the shot of the birdhouse breaking. Luckily, Greg was a great actor!”
Mehlin, a senior who was the film’s comedic star, honed his humorous skills as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in the school’s spring musical, Anything Goes.
One day was spent writing and creating the shot list, he said. Two more days were spent filming, and the remaining time was for editing.
And next year?
“This year’s winning team is comprised of three rising seniors,” said Butler, referring to Keane, Federoff and Vogel. “So maybe a three-peat is on the horizon!”
Morristown Green correspondent Bailey McGuinn is a senior at Morristown High School. She will attend the University of Virginia this fall.