“My Own Worst Enemy” Shines on Ninth Annual Awards Night


James Cullinane

Sophomore Jackie Gately makes a speech after winning an award

For most students across the country, the high school end of the year experience is often universally unsatisfying and unoriginal.  Nearly every high school has a prom, which often leaves those in attendance unsatisfied.  Similarly, graduation is a watershed moment in the lives of many, but does not exactly personify excitement, as speeches and procession lines tend to become a bore.  However, at Walpole High, the student run film festival has added much needed spice and variety to the final stages of the high school experience.

First organized by English and Film teacher Michael Alan in 2003, the film festival has become a staple of Walpole High’s end of the year activities.  A three day event, the film festival is a well-deserved celebratory culmination of years of hard work put forth by Alan’s dedicated students.  The most exciting night of the festival is the third and final, which acts as a student organized awards night modeled after the Academy Awards.  Equipped with limos, formal attire, paparazzi, and its own red carpet, Walpole High School’s auditorium is transformed into a downscaled version of the Kodak theater, providing an unparalleled atmosphere for these film students.

Due to inclement weather, this year’s red carpet entrance was held in the gym.  Although not as glamorous as the outdoor entrance used traditionally, the Oscar-like atmosphere was still present as cameras flashed at a seemingly constant rate.  The rain would prove unable to put a damper on the exciting evening that has become known simply as “Thursday Night.” After the playing of the four films nominated for Best Film, the awards ceremony commenced.

For those in attendance, an inescapable sense of deja vu was felt as the awards show would commence and end in very similar fashion–with senior Matt Mullen, junior Kellie Jo McCann, and junior Jen Sifferlen giving identical acceptance speeches for their work on My Own Worst Enemy.  Mullen was first thrust into the spotlight after winning the Best Editing award, the highest honor for those who work endlessly in front of Final Cut Pro software program.  This award did not surprise many as Mullen’s editing abilities were showcased easily due to the fact that both My Own Worst Enemy‘s protagonist and antagonist were played by sophomore Jackie Gately.  Presenting a challenge to making this film was the lack of a body double, “I didn’t know how we could do it until I randomly saw Jackie Gately and Brian Cameron in the science wing one day.  At that point, I knew they were the two for the job” said Mullen.  Mullen proved to be multifaceted as he later won the prestigious award for Best Director. When asked about the Hofstra-bound Mullen’s importance to this year’s festival, Mr. Alan said, “Matt was unbelievable.  He could do anything that needed to be done.  Very rarely, students reach a zone where they can complete any task asked of them without any assistance.  Matt Mullen was in that zone for the entire year.”  Largely in part due to his editing and directing prowess, Mullen’s My Own Worst Enemy was deemed the Best Film of the 2011 festival, joining the ranks Best Film winning royalty in film festival lore.

The awards for Best Art Direction and Achievement in Music are often overlooked, as neither jumps off the screen to viewers.  However, the art direction team, coordinated by Ms. Laura Padis did a lot to keep actors looking their best and sets looking as realistic as possible.  The award for Best Art Direction went to junior Rebecca Goula and seniors Sara Batchelder and Emily Quinlan for Best Film nominee Hair Salon. Most notably, the Hair Salon art direction crew acquired the ability to use Salon Saveria, a local Walpole salon, as one of their primary filming sets.  Musically, the film festival has made large strides over the past nine years, with students composing their own scores and songs.  The award for achievement in music came as no surprise, with junior Pat Maloney, who worked on music for many different movies, while also starring in Lunch Lady Land, edged out a strong core of senior musicians.  However, if one didn’t know better, he or she could have easily assumed he had been the star of Hair Salon, as he rocked dyed red liberty spikes while donning a matching red tuxedo.  One could not help but that think if there had been a category for Best Dressed, Maloney would have been the hands down favorite.

When it came time to announce the winner for Best Screenplay, it was widely accepted that senior “Fast” Jimmy Gillon would end up standing behind the podium accepting this award.  Working on six of the nine full length films featured at this year’s festival, Gillon’s screenwriting ability is unparalleled.  Mr. Alan expressed his admiration for Gillon, “Fast Jimmy is the man when it comes to screenplays.  Nearly every screenplay goes across his desk.  When he leaves next year, I will still constantly be sending him screenplays as I do now with Nick Piccirilli (a 2010 graduate).  As James Elwood illustrated this year, screenplay writers can come back as an essential part of future festivals, even after graduating.”  Upon graduating Walpole High, Gillon will take his screenplay writing ability to Emerson College, one of the most highly respected Film programs in the area.

The generally accepted assumption that Gillon would receive this award proved true as his screenplay for the hilarious Staples Over Walpole was recognized.  In the form of a true showman, Gillon accepted his award in character as detective Duke Ramsey, a role he played to perfection in Staples saying, “Mr. Alan came to me and said Jimmy, you were born to play a 70’s detective.”  This prediction proved viable as Gillon also earned a nomination for Best Actor as a result of is side splitting performance as the aforementioned Duke Ramsey.  However, Staples was further recognized as senior John Montagno walked away with the award for Best Supporting Actor.  Montagno’s speech may become a major remembrance of the 2011 festival, as in typical John Montagno fashion, he read what he described as “a fairly relevant quote.”  For those incapable of comprehending Montagno’s intellectual aptitude, which is most of the general population, the eccentricity of this quotation may have overshadowed its meaning.  Regardless of its effect on the audience, Montagno’s heartfelt speech showed a sincere admiration and appreciation of Alan’s film program.

Perhaps the two most highly coveted acting awards, those for Best Actor an Best Faculty Performance, were the cause of much debate amongst those in attendance at the 9th annual Thursday Night.  With thick competition in the Best Actor category, Hair Salon‘s energetic star, junior Justin Connolly, edged out Maloney, Gillon, and sophomore Jackie Gately of My Own Worst Enemy. Although Connolly’s performance was undeniably excellent, some skeptics felt as though both Gillon and Gately, who each played both the contrasting roles of villain and hero in their respective movies, delivered more dynamic performances.  Similarly, Connolly’s on-screen adversary, math teacher David St. Martin, edged out Lunch Lady Land‘s Christopher Jean for Best Faculty Performance.  In the spirit of showmanship, Mr. Jean crashed St. Martin’s acceptance speech dressed in character as the iconic Louise the Lunch Lady.  The back and forth dialogue between Jean and St. Martin provided the audience with plenty of laughs, only adding to the film festival experience.

The ninth annual Thursday Night did not disappoint as the packed house auditorium was sent on an emotional rollercoaster.  Best Film nominee, The Recovery, began as Peter Bruen documented the 2010-2011 Rebel basketball season and ended as the most emotional movie in film festival history, as the tragic death of senior Captain Mike Tempesta’s father brought the team together towards the end of their season.   The Recovery exemplified the definition of family and teamwork, as Tempesta’s teammates, along with Coach St. Martin, helped to pick their Captain up in his time of need.  This overwhelmingly tragic low, contrasted with the undeniably witty screenplays put forth by Jimmy Gillon, provided this year’s festival with a diverse range of content.

According to Mr. Alan, this range of genre was not the only momentous stride made during the 2011 festival, “I have seen gigantic strides in storytelling, shot composition, sound quality, editing, and acting.  Improvement across the board.  All of these strides are due to the class as a whole learning from previous classes’ mistakes.”  Alan’s analysis of the situation may truly be the defining reason behind the film festival’s exponential growth over the last nine years.  Alan and his film crews learn to avoid mistakes made in the past, allowing for an efficiently run awards night with movies that far exceed the high school standard.  Built from scratch, Alan’s astonishingly popular film program serves as a model of success for schools across the nation wishing to duplicate the success seen here in Walpole.