Monday, November 4, 2013

MASCO High Film Festival Draws Self-Taught, Multi Talented Students

Dan Proctor, second from left, with friends and
teacher (right) Gregory West.
By Katherine Stephens
Gordon College News Service
Oct. 30, 2013
(This story appeared Oct. 31, 2013, in the Danvers Your Town site of the Boston Globe.)

TOPSFIELD—From screen writing, casting, production, and directing to the occasional cameo and then hours of editing, the students at Masconomet (MASCO) High School have been busy this fall preparing for their bi-annual film festival. Though the school provides some resources, the student-directors are mostly self-taught and use their own equipment while collaborating with student actors and crewmembers to create original films.

“When we first started doing the festival, I knew more about video than anybody else, and now I know nothing compared to these students,” said Gregory West, health education teacher at MASCO since 1988, theatre instructor since 1993, and advisor to the festival since it began. “They’re growing up making videos with their own equipment. They are brilliant with their films; they are creative with it, and their tools are amazing.”

The festival runs from Friday, Nov. 15 to Saturday, Nov. 16 at MASCO High School’s auditorium at 7 p.m. both nights and is open to the public. This is the fifth festival in the course of ten years, and this year features six short films, each around fifteen minutes long. Admission is $10, and proceeds will go to the drama department to help fund costumes, sets, copyright for the shows, staff, etc.

With no official drama club, MASCO high school produces a musical every year, with either the film festival or a play the other years. Students pay a $200 fee at the beginning of each school year in order to participate in the drama productions.

Senior Dan Proctor, 17, directed a film two years ago and is back again with the longest film in the festival at 20 minutes titled Midsummer High.

“It’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream,” said Proctor. “It takes place in a modern high school show the parallels between a Shakespearean play and high school personal life.”

Proctor has been writing his movie for the last six months. He shot the film in a week with a five member crew and an eight member cast, using both the school’s equipment and his own. Proctor said he will most likely be editing until right before the festival.

“I've always enjoyed making videos since I was really little, although I never really wanted to pursue being a film maker,” said Proctor. “But after doing the festival my sophomore year, I developed a stronger interest in filmmaking and even began thinking about it as my future. I’ve spent a lot of time developing my skills and it was no brainer to do the festival again.”

Students must use only original material to enter the festival, a policy enforced after previous student films included recorded music and other copyrighted material, which the school decided against because of legal issues. Now, the music and script is completely student generated.


“Students who do the directing are kind of a rare bunch because they’re creative to the point that they have to generate a story, able to organize and direct production, and then they go into post and edit everything,” said West. As a result, West says he’s become more of a supervisor than a teacher because the students are so well prepared before the festival.

First publicized in April, the festival gave students time to prepare and discuss ideas with West. Student-directors then spent the summer writing scripts, and when school began, they began to story board the films, creating shot lists with their crews. Auditions followed and directors cast their actors.

Senior Rose Ferraro, 17, first auditioned for a school musical, where she felt confident in her singing voice. This year, she stepped out of her comfort zone, and will debut her acting skills in Proctor’s film.

“I’m going to go for music education in college, and I think it’s really important to gain acting experience before heading into this,” said Ferraro. “It is also great to create stronger bonds with people through this filming process.”

An estimated 40 students worked as actors and behind the scenes to create a broad range of original stories. For instance, one film, The System, is about a glitch in world forces that sends a girl on the hunt for her best friend. Another entitled, Monster, is about the discovery of a sobbing girl in the forest who may—or may not—be as mysterious as she seems.

“There are a lot of creative opportunities with the film festival that you don’t have when you’re putting up a regular show,” said West. “It spreads out the wealth of opportunities, so we can try to include as many students as possible.”

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