Morristown High film fest winner wins big by coming up short

WINNERS CIRCLE: (L-R) Maggie Mustion (3rd). Nya Federoff (2nd), Kylee Strasser (1st) and Jessica Vogel (2nd), at the 2018 Morristown High School Film Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
WINNERS CIRCLE: (L-R) Maggie Mustion (3rd). Nya Federoff (2nd), Kylee Strasser (1st) and Jessica Vogel (2nd), at the 2018 Morristown High School Film Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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It’s hard to come up short and win big.

But that’s what Kylee Strasser did on Friday, winning the sixth annual Morristown High School Film Festival with her entry, Click.

Spoiler alert!

The short part came when her screen character’s kid sister, played by her kid sister, 11-year-old Kaycee, mischievously hit a magic command on Kylee’s laptop. Presto!  Kylee suddenly was two inches tall.

End of spoiler alert!

Clever special effects abound in this mini-fantasy, with an even cleverer take on the festival’s theme, “Impact.”

“I thought about the font, Impact,” and imagined what special powers that typeface might invoke, the high school junior explained after collecting her prize, a drone donated by an anonymous supporter of the festival. 

A panel of recent MHS graduates chose Click over 17 other entries.

“I can see her really going far in video…she definitely shows impressive editing skills, especially for a young filmmaker,” one of the judges, Jessica Torres (’15), said of Strasser.  Torres just graduated from Ithaca College and is entering a masters film program at the New York Film Academy.

Video: ‘Click’ by Kylee Strasser, first place 2018 MHS Film Fest:

ON A ROLL

Second place, for the second straight year, went to the team of Jessica Vogel and Nya Federoff for Until You Notice. It’s a stylish, edgy reflection on the cumulative impact of bad behaviors.

Prizes are nice, the juniors said, but their real reward is working together. They have been best friends since 2nd grade.

“I make films by myself. But it’s always better working with her,” said Federoff. “I get her mind and she gets my mind.”

“It’s being with my friends that makes this so great,” added Vogel.

The duo is on a roll. They were part of a Morristown High team that topped 39 other schools to win “Best Overall Film” in last month’s New Jersey High School Film Challenge. Kylee Strasser’s team won “Best Sound Design” for its entry in that competition.

Video: ‘Until You Notice,’ by Jessica Vogel & Nya Federoff, second place, 2018 MHS Film Fest:

Third place in Friday’s MHS Film Fest belonged to Maggie Mustion for The Last Text, a cautionary tale about electronic bullying.

“I wanted people to know your words do have an impact on others,” said Mustion, a senior who plans to study broadcasting this fall at Muhlenberg College.

She recruited her fellow stars from the MHS drama department for the movie, which required lots of crying. One actress brought eye drops, but everyone mustered real tears on camera, Mustion said.

Video: ‘The Last Text,’ third-prize winner, Maggie Mustion:

STRONGEST YEAR

“This was my top year, top to bottom the strongest” competition, said broadcasting teacher and festival founder Michael Butler, a former director for Court TV. He made cameo appearances in two of the festival films, including Strasser’s.

In addition to Torres, panelists included former Butler students Matty Monahan (’17), now studying TV/Radio/Film at Syracuse University and bound this summer for an internship on an Irish film; Trevor Stephney (’17), a scholarship winner to Montclair State University’s film program; and Darren Gong (’17), former executive producer of the high school’s Colonial Corner show, now studying film and video at Drexel University.

Panelists / alums, 2018 MHS Film Fest (L-R): Jessica Torres, Trevor Stephney, broadcasting teacher Michael Butler, Skyler Frost, Matty Monahan, Darren Gong. Photo: Kevin Coughlin
Panelists / alums, 2018 MHS Film Fest (L-R): Jessica Torres, Trevor Stephney, broadcasting teacher Michael Butler, Skyler Frost, Matty Monahan, Darren Gong. Photo: Kevin Coughlin

Founders Awards also were handed out. Butler recognized students Owen Sindorf and Jonathan Davies. Photography teacher Brian Kievning, founder of the school’s Art & Design Show, singled out Mat Mruz.

Teachers, winners, panelists, 2018 MHS Film Fest. Front row, L-R: Jess Vogel, Nya Federoff, Kylee Strasser, Vienna Volinsky, Jessica Torres, Grace Keane. Back row (L-R): Photo teacher Brian Kievning, Matty Monahan, Trevor Stephney, Owen Sindorf, Maggie Mustion, Darren Gong, broadcasting teacher Michael Butler, Mat Mruz. Photo: Kevin Coughlin
Teachers, winners, panelists, 2018 MHS Film Fest. Front row, L-R: Jess Vogel, Nya Federoff, Kylee Strasser, Vienna Volinsky, Jessica Torres, Grace Keane. Back row (L-R): Photo teacher Brian Kievning, Matty Monahan, Trevor Stephney, Owen Sindorf, Maggie Mustion, Darren Gong, broadcasting teacher Michael Butler, Mat Mruz. Photo: Kevin Coughlin
K² : Sisters Kaycee and Kylee Strasser worked together on Kylee's prize-winning film 'Click,' for the 2018 Morristown High Film Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
K² : Sisters Kaycee and Kylee Strasser worked together on Kylee’s prize-winning film ‘Click,’ for the 2018 Morristown High Film Fest. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The school literary magazine’s Tricorn Club honored Vienna Volinsky and Grace Keane, while the Colonial Corner Award went to Steven Gronke and Brendan Doherty.

Getting back to Kylee Strasser, it’s worth noting that besides coming up short in Click, she made short work of the project–writing, starring, shooting and editing in just three days.

While her screen persona learned to be careful what she wishes for, Kylee learned a real-life lesson, too:

“It was not as frustrating as I thought it would be working with my sister!”

Video playlist: Watch all the entries from the 2018 Morristown High Film Fest:

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