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The Theater Project branches out to recognize young filmakers

Ethan Lynch wins Judges’ Pick Award
The Theater Project

“It’s like falling in love with your best friend,” said New Jersey screenwriter and contest judge Bill Mesce, Jr, recalling how his love affair with movies began at Saturday matinees in the 1960s and led to his becoming a writer for and about film. “You wake up one morning, and realize that what you feel is more than friendship. It’s love, and you have to go after it.”

His audience was teenaged filmmakers, all finalists in The Theater Project’s first annual Young Filmmakers’ Competition. Also present were the films’ casts and crews, friends and families, all gathered at Café Mondo in Summit on June 22 for the screening and to find out who would win the Judges’ Pick award. The event was also supported by the Summit Film Society.

Mesce encouraged his young audience to explore their love of film and storytelling. “The skills you develop in this kind of creative process will serve you your whole life in any career you choose or in achieving any goal you set.”

Mesce and contest coordinator Will Budnikov presented certificates to finalists after their films were screened. The finalists were:

John General, Hackettstown, Warren Hills Regional;
Lindsay Morrison, Mendham, Morris County School of Technology;
Gabriella Grinwald-Alves, Toms River, OCVTS Performing Arts Academy;
John Cassidy, Cherry Hill, Camden County Vocational Technical School;
Ethan Lynch, Randolph, Morris County School of Technology;
Brett Thompson, Clementon, Camden County Vocational Technical School.

The students of Mr. Jim Kelly, Nutley High School, submitted an impressive group effort: a public service film about the dangers of distracted driving.

These mini-movies were evaluated by Theater Project’s contest coordinator, filmmaker Will Budnikov (Woodbridge); novelist, playwright and screenwriter Bill Mesce, Jr, (Linden); and actor/producer Matt Farnsworth (Los Angeles) whose most recent film is THE ORPHAN KILLER. John General of Hackettstown and Ethan Lynch of Randolph tied for the Judges’ Pick. Gabriella Grinwald-Alves of Toms River was selected by attendees to win the Audience Favorite Award.

“Film and theater are both concerned with telling stories and exchanging ideas,” says competition coordinator Will Budnikov. “Both give kids the chance to develop critical thinking skills as they pick and choose the words and images that will tell their story.”

“The goal of all our programs – mainstage productions, playwrights workshops, classes and competitions for kids, artist panels and discussions – is to build a creative community that can support the artist in each one of us,” according to the company’s artistic director, Mark Spina.

The Theater Project is an award-winning professional company in residence at Burgdorff Cultural Center in Maplewood, NJ. Past winners of their Young Playwrights Competition have gone on to pursue degrees in theater and playwriting, and they often return to The Theater Project to present prizes and share their journeys with the newest honorees. The Theater Project hopes the same will hold true for the participants in the new filmmaking competition.

For more information about how to enter next year’s contest, visit TheTheaterProject.org