Walpole parents, friends and students lined up outside Walpole High School on Thursday, May 18 to cheer on the 12 crews of the 15th Annual Walpole High School Film Festival, as they arrived to the school in limousines to walk the red carpet and answer questions about their films. The evening included a moving tribute to Anthony Conti and a surprise win for the Best Film award.
The night’s biggest winner was “The Promposal,” a comedy about one student’s struggle (Griffin Wilkins) to ask his girlfriend (Jenna McDonald) to the prom. The movie took home the awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay. “The Promposal” is the first sophomore independent movie to win the Best Film award in the festival’s history.
“Working with Guanabana Crew was so much fun! I absolutely loved the filmmaking process, and I’m just happy that people enjoyed watching our movie just as much as we enjoyed making it,” said director and actress Ava Straccia.
Other winners of the night included the film “Contra” for Best Cinematography, the musical “Alice” for Best Art Direction, “Elsewhere” for Best Editing, Mia Straccia for Best Actor, Jake Witherell for Best Music and Conor Cashman for Best Faculty Performance.
“It was really nice getting recognized for the cinematography because it was something that we put a lot of effort into, and it was one of the most important things to us about our movie,” said senior Gayle McAdams, one of the directors of “Contra.”
Walpole Film Festival Awards Night also featured the four films nominated for Best Film on the final night: “Contra,” “Elsewhere,” “Jane” and “The Promposal.”
“Getting all dressed up, being together with my crewmates, and seeing the culmination of countless hours of planning, filming, and editing, playing up on the big screen in front of a packed auditorium, is frankly an indescribable feeling,” said Dan Mullen, director of “Elsewhere.” “You not only feel like you’ve accomplished something huge by finishing your movie and getting nominated, but now you get to revel in your accomplishment for a second time as a part of the audience.”
Aside from the four nominated films, the awards show started off the night by showing eight brief clips of the movies that were not shown. One of these films included the festival’s only short film, “The Spice Boys,” a five minute story about two brothers’ (Joey and Jimmy Haskins) quest to retrieve their concert tickets in the school after they are locked outside.
The festival also showed clips of this year’s two documentaries: “Out,” a documentary about Walpole High School’s LGBTQ community and “172,” which investigated Norfolk County’s current opioid epidemic.
“I loved making a documentary this year,” said Annie Dolan, director of “172.” “It is so fun to make something that can not only be entertaining, but a piece that is informative for the audience as well.”
This year’s awards night varied from past years’ festivals, as Tamika Larson, founder of the Make A Film Foundation, took the stage to introduce “The Black Ghiandola,” the eleven-minute movie made by the foundation and Anthony Conti. Along with the movie itself, the audience also watched a behind-the-scenes video of Conti’s experience working on the movie with notable actors such as Johnny Depp and J.K. Simmons before Conti’s death in January, 2017.
“Anthony had always dreamed of being a director and playing his movies for his family and friends. To see the fulfillment of that dream play out on Awards Night was extra special for everyone. We felt that it was important that his movie play like any other student film because Anthony was a part of our film community at Walpole High,” said Film Festival Executive Producer Michael Alan. “I also feel that seeing his work on screen inspired these young filmmakers to follow their dreams no matter what obstacles may be in the way.”
Following the viewing of Conti’s film, Larson presented senior Jake Witherell the first ever Anthony Conti Scholarship, a $1000 scholarship given to students pursuing film in their post-secondary education.
“When I heard them announce my name, I was definitely honored. It’s a great feeling to be able to take the kindness and generosity of so many people and turn it towards my education,” said Witherell. “Because of this scholarship, I’m better able to go off and make the art that I want to make, and I know that Anthony would be overjoyed to be able to help somebody out like that.”
At the conclusion of the night, Michael Alan, James Connolly and Mary Ellen O’Malley, the Executive Producers of Walpole High School Film Festival, and Dan Mullaney, the host of the festival, congratulated the crews for their hard work and thanked the audience for attending.
“The 15th Annual Film Festival was a special one. It is amazing to see the dedication, passion and hard work that the students put into each of their films year after year. The Film Festival has always been an event that can bring the WHS community together and this year was no exception,” said producer James Connolly. “My favorite moment had to be the standing ovation for Anthony Conti’s movie “The Black Ghiandola,” for it showed not only the power that film can have, but also a young man’s dream come true.”