As the film industry continues to thrive in Louisiana, students at New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School may well be part of its future. Recently, a team of its student filmmakers won the Audience Grand Prix at the 2022 Junior Film Prize, the largest student film festival in the South.
The short movie, “After the party,” was written, directed and edited by Sci High senior Noel Celestine
The team included director and assistant editor Nola Szilagi and cinematographer Jonas Minor, along with assistants Chilia Hicks, Nelly Gonzales, Alena Irvin and Kira Dupree. Tianna Murray, Rendell Jones, Jeanique Jackson, Deshawn Joseph, Edward Dykes, Amire Tyler, Hassaan Dubuclet and Alena Irvin joined Celestine as cast members.
The film was named the winner of the People’s Choice Award by a combination of audience votes and a decision by the judges, Louisiana Film Award finalists and former Prize Junior film staff.
In winning, Sci High received a $1,000 film equipment grant, $500 to celebrate student achievement, and a $500 cash reward for teacher/godfather, Donte Smallwood.
The nine-minute “Afterparty” tells the story of a high school student who, after a very long day, has a crazy dream in which he attends his lover’s party. All is well until some unwanted guests arrive, and the dream begins to turn into a nightmare.
Celstine, 18, describes romantic comedy as both a learning experience and a labor of love. He wrote the script after watching hours of how-to videos on YouTube, then he began a three-month journey to bring his vision to life.
When he started the project, the school was just emerging from the pandemic, so staff and resources were scarce.
“COVID shut down our productions in our first year, and several teachers left, so I kind of took things on my own,” Celestine said.
He signed up other students for this extracurricular project and did the casting with minimal support. But when Donte Smallwood was hired to teach digital media mid-year, the project came to life. Smallwood, a recent graduate of Dillard University’s film program, became Celestine’s advisor and mentor.
“Mr. Smallwood helped me plan better and let me use his camera and some of his gear,” Celestine said. “It would have been a whole different process without him.”
None of the students involved in the film were enrolled in Smallwood’s classes, but he volunteered to lend his expertise and, more importantly, his time. Within weeks, the team was working, rehearsing, and learning the process of making a film.
Smallwood called Celestine the driving force.
“Noel is passionate and a go-getter,” Smallwood said. “If it wasn’t for him, this wouldn’t have happened. He manifested what he envisioned, knew what he wanted, and did what he had to do to make it happen.
Celestine said her goal was to complete the project – even if that meant improvising scenes to make the story work.
“The worst thing you can do is not finish something. I’m glad we won, but I did this out of one passion of what my vision was and how to pursue it. What I really learned through all of this was perseverance.
Celestine will be attending LSU this fall to study film. He hopes to continue working in front of and behind the camera as his comedic inspirations, the Wayans Brothers.
In addition to preparing for another year in her digital media class, Smallwood is working on her own film — a documentary about her college concert choir director at Dillard, Dr. S. Carver Davenport.
“He created such a legacy of music and culture, I just want to honor him and give him my flowers while he’s still here,” Smallwood said.
He shared this advice with Célestine and her other young filmmakers: “Plan ahead. To plan. To plan. This is the most important part. The more you plan out every detail, the better you can execute production and post-production. »
He also encourages his students to be well-rounded. “Know all the parts. Be a jack-of-all-trades and excellent at what you do.
There’s another thing to remember, he said: “the importance of a deadline”.
Sci High CEO Dr Monique Cola congratulated Celestine, Smallwood and the team on their success and noted that the school also won the Junior Film Prize Grand Prize in 2019.
“We are very proud of our talented students in our vocational and technical department and their continued success,” she said.
Open to all middle and high school students across Louisiana, the Junior Film Prize competition is a way for young people to learn the creative and collaborative craft of storytelling. The process also instills lessons in teamwork, organization, and communication.
Celestine said he was grateful for the opportunity and proud of his team’s efforts.
“Participating in the Junior Film Prize was a great experience,” said Celestine. “It was an extremely difficult competition, and we were proud to win the trophy.
Watch the movie on www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJWlthoCrwE.