‘23 FilmFest Has Record Turnout and Massive Talent


By Daniel Johnson, Editor/Web Admin

MHS’s 16th annual Film Festival ran on May 5 to huge applause. With 9 original student films and a large crowd there to see them, the auditorium crackled with excited energy. As the movie stars walked around in full costume, the night began.

Click here to see all the films from this night.


Brains and Hearts, a high-school romance/found-footage horror directed by Sophia Kerwood, weaved two seemingly disconnected storylines into one film. As one main character explores a complicated relationship with a boy just out of reach, another main character suffers in an empty room that may not be so empty. Both main characters, though in very different situations, find themselves in a loop of reaching out, waiting, and hoping.

Kerwood said, “You, the viewer, are a part of the story too. You are the one finding the footage on this strange camera: a school movie with a cry for help sandwiched between. The glitches, the second person speech, all of it was an attempt to work the viewer into the story.”


Senioritis, a zombie comedy directed by Steven Hoehl, imagines the rampant affliction of senioritis as a zombie outbreak. Safety Sam, played by Mikey Hall, must learn to loosen up and cure the zombified seniors before he too contracts senioritis. With creative and dynamic camerawork, a classic movie vibe, and very-well edited finish, Senioritis was exceptional in both story and execution. 

Hoehl said “I could list on and on the tedious things that go on when trying to make a film… But all of those things are overshadowed by the immense joy that comes with the best parts of filmmaking. My favorite part of it all is seeing the audience’s reaction when they are watching it for the first time. You don’t understand how good it feels to hear a crowd laugh at a joke you wrote 7 months ago, and the applause at the end is validation of all the hard work.”


Catfished was a horror film directed by Dan Posen and Liam George. It told the story of two friends trying to save their friend from an obviously suspicious (except to him) date. As the night went on, they came to realize just how badly he had been Catfished. Drawing inspiration from the YouTube channel Luxury Dark and MTV’s Catfished, the film’s visuals made its audience’s skin crawl with a mounting sense of revulsion, interspersed with scenes of absurd comedic relief. 

George said, “It was very fun to film the creepy parts of our film due to how ridiculous they were. Our filming process was often delayed because we couldn’t stop laughing halfway through the shots… on the other hand, there were some genuinely creepy parts of the film such as the milk torture scene (which had to be cut down since it was too disturbing)…. I’m also thankful for Matt’s parents who allowed us to film in their house. I’m sure they woke up in the middle of the night to creepy sounds coming from their basement at least once.”

Daphne Johnson, freshman in the audience, said “It was the perfect horror movie because every single person consistently made the dumbest possible decision. I loved it.”


The Saucefather, a mafia comedy by Charles Montalbano and Kenneth Stanko, was a parody of The Godfather– in this universe, built on the sauce business instead of the drug business. With the rediscovery of the prized sauce of Nona Antonucchi, our main characters struggle to recover it from falling into the wrong hands. With fast-paced action scenes, great Italian accents, and striking cinematography, The Saucefather left quite an impression on its viewers. 

Stanko said, “The best part of working on the Saucefather was directing and working with some of my best friends. It was so fun spending time with everyone and having us all focused on the same collaborative effort.”

Montalbano said, “We got the idea because we both love the old school mob movies like Goodfellas and The Godfather. He [Kenny] came up with the basis, and we bounced ideas off each other. My favorite part of filming was the first scene at Vinyl Closet Records… we improvised a whole lot which made the whole scene much funnier.”


Uh Oh Spaghettio, a comedic murder mystery directed by Isaiah Barber, pictured the hilarious investigation of MHS menace, the Spaghettio Killer. Carried by multitasking news anchors, cops that really shouldn’t be cops, and of course, the killer himself, Uh Oh Spaghettios was a laugh-filled adventure for its whole audience. Quality editing and an array of great characters (including fan-favorite news anchor Nihaal Parmar) made this a very well-made film. 

Barber said that “The film started off as a Halloween theme for the Warrior News… A couple of my friends told me the idea had great potential at Film Fest, and so Uh Oh Spaghettio was born. The best part was working with the whole cast and crew–we had lots of laughs and lots of long days, but all in all it came out great.”


Go Find Grace, a horror film directed by Manny Parente, was a psychological horror about a boy’s crush on a girl he’d never noticed before in his classes– but all is not as it seems. The film made great use of sound and editing to create an eerie feeling that something just wasn’t quite right, perfectly setting the scene for the twist ending.

Parente said, “I really wanted to make a film that left viewers questioning even after the movie ended… The ending scene of the movie is meant to be trippy and confusing as the camera pans to Spencer, indicating he’s still there even after we concluded it was all a dream. So, is Grace still dreaming? What’s real and what’s fake? Those are the questions I wanted the viewers to ask themselves when watching the movie.” Parente gave special thanks to Boyd Nesta, Olivia Chaya, and Lucy Wanaselja for the acting, writing and overall support.


Willy Wild, a mockumentary directed by Michael Sassi, featured the incompetent and consistently drunken Willy Wild in his woodland adventures. Max King, playing the main character, put on a hilarious performance as Sassi narrated his failures (questionably reliably)  nature-documentary-style. Sassi’s film had a unique voice amidst the festival’s films, with a dry but irresistible humor that drew in its viewers to the very last shot (Of film? Of a gun? Trick question. Both.)

Sassi said, “I think my personal favorite scene is either the chess match between Willy Wild and The Bear or the very last scene. I really wanted those jokes to land so I spent a lot of time trying to time it all as comedically as possible, so  I’m really happy with how those scenes turned out… I have to acknowledge Max King for consistently showing up to filming on time and being generally highly entertaining to film with. Probably because he’s out of his mind.”

Mairi Smith, senior audience member, said, “Willy Wild was short and snappy and witty. It kept my attention and I liked Max’s accent. I’m gonna steal a poster in the hallway.”


Multigrain Man, a superhero film by Joey Maro and Kenneth Stanko, told the story of a former-Batman-turned-Subway-worker called back to his crime-fighting duty– this time, as Multigrain Man (Rodrigo Gonzalez-Ortiz). Investigating the poisoning of Commissioner Gordo, Multigrain Man battles villains like The American Woodcock (the Penguin), the Diddler (the Riddler), and the Soaker (the Joker) in a film made of equal parts sandwich-powered action and ridiculous laughter. 


This Funny Thing About Love, a romance film directed by Christian Lebold, followed the blooming relationship between two best friends into something new. Shot entirely on an iPhone but impossible to tell, the film’s feel-good romance story had its audience wanting to see more. 

Lebold revealed that this story was no work of fiction. “This movie was based on my relationship and how we met.” He continued to describe the film as “brutal to make, as I and my actors would be up very late rehearsing our lines just to get them perfect. I thank everyone who participated in my movie for their help with editing and voice-overs.”


A film festival would not be complete without references to the popular films that inspired them. Go Find Grace featured a Kubrick stare in its closing shot. Senioritis used a slow motion power walk as its heroes suited up, and ended with a nod to The Breakfast Club as the main characters walked away. The Saucefather was, of course, full of references to The Godfather. These carefully created moments added extra strength to the already impressive films.

With the last film shown, it was time for awards. Audience members had the opportunity to cast votes for their favorite film; after the votes were totaled, Senioritis won the People’s Choice Award, with Catfish coming in a close second (only four votes behind). The rest of the awards were determined by six staff member judges on a variety of filmmaking criteria. Best Use of Line went to Willy Wild for its usage of the phrase “Thirsty Thirsty Thursday.” Best Prop was awarded to Catfish for its use of a cord. Best Actor was awarded to both Mikey Hall for his role in Senioritis and Charles Montalbano in The Saucefather. Steven Hoehl was named Best Director, and his film Senioritis won Best Writing and Best Editing. Kenneth Stanko won Best Cinematographer for his work in The Saucefather.

Over 250 tickets were sold to Film Fest this year, more than has been sold in the past five festivals. The event raised more than $1,500 through ticket and concession sales, money that will go towards the Warrior News and Windy Hill. The impact of the larger audience was definitely felt– the only thing louder than the action scenes was the applause that followed them. 

After seeing just a few films, it becomes clear just how tightly knit this film community is at MHS. Directors from one film were often actors in the next, and actors in one film were often working tech in the next. To list all these double roles would be an article in and of itself, but the many cross-collaborations speak to these filmmakers’ dedication, collaboration, and leadership.

Steve Hoehl said of this collaboration that “Working together with other movie makers was a really fun experience. I was really lucky to be around so many funny people that they definitely made each other’s movies funnier by coming up with jokes. It was a nice changeup to see other people’s directing styles.”

Mr. Clark, TV production teacher and sponsor of this event, said, “It’s interesting to see the stress build and how these groups manage that. There is no doubt disagreement, but without those struggles, people don’t grow…. The ability of young filmmakers who can organize, direct, and manage one another always impresses me.”