The Charger Blog

Sustained Success: Chargers Win Top Honors Again from National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

Communication, Film, and Media Studies majors won the National Student Production Awards across multiple categories – Best Long Form Film, Best Director, Best Writer, and Best Music Video.

May 14, 2024

By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer

Crewmembers on the set of 'Unconditional.'
Crewmembers on the set of "Unconditional."

For months, Salvatore Gullotta ’23 and the team of a dozen student filmmakers had been working on their short film “The Third Act,” devising a budget, fundraising, creating a marketing plan, and auditioning professional actors in New York.

Gullotta, the director, wrote the script about a playwright facing despair and uncertainty as his working life and real life begin to merge. He fine-tuned the script with his writing team. They launched into preproduction and later began filming, all part of a semester-long project in Paul Falcone’s Film Production II course.

Students gain hands-on set experience working on “The Third Act.”
Students gain hands-on set experience working on “The Third Act.”

They were about to shoot the most complex scene – when the walls would, literally, fall in around the main character. Gullotta and the team hoped to have lots of time to set up the shot and work with the actors on blocking, the process of describing the positioning and movement of actors on stage. But as can happen often on a film set, he said, they were behind schedule and had just half an hour to get it right.

Gullotta said that because he and his fellow students work with industry tools and equipment from the first day of class and have so many hands-on experiences, by the time they are making their final film, “we are comfortable with everything. We know what to do.

“Everyone worked so hard on the logistics to make the walls fall down without hurting anyone and without destroying other props,” he continued. “We did two takes in 30 minutes and got one of the best-looking shots in the film. It was such an exciting moment for all of us.”

Prof. Paul Falcone (back, right) and students who worked on 'The Third Act.'
Prof. Paul Falcone (back, right) and students who worked on “The Third Act.”
‘Collaborating with some of my closest friends...will live on in my memory forever’

This month, “The Third Act” won three first place/ high honor awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences - Boston/New England Chapter (NATAS) for best fiction long-form, best director, and best writer, as well as several honorable mentions.

“I was ecstatic when I heard that we won,” said Gullotta, who will be pursuing his MFA in film at Emerson College in the fall. “Collaborating with some of my closest friends creating this film will live on in my memory forever.”

The University also took first place in the music video category for the band Hope You Like Roses’ “Powder” video, led by practitioner-in-residence Natalie Chavoya, director Harley Angelillo ’23, and producer Jazmin Morris ’23.

The short film, “Unconditional,” written and directed by Eliana Vazquez ’23, and created by a team of student filmmakers, won multiple honorable mention awards.

The student winners and faculty will attend the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Award Ceremony in Boston in June.

“We have such dedicated faculty and talented students,” said Tom Garrett, MFA, associate professor and chair of the department. “In the past seven years, we have had more than 30 first-place winners in various categories.”

Students shoot a scene for “The Third Act.”
Students shoot a scene for “The Third Act.”

Prof. Falcone, who serves as director of studio operations and media production and instructional and institutional media, said the students in the program “are extremely creative and motivated. A high bar has been set and they say, ‘let me see how far I can get.’”

“Our students have gone on to work on major motion pictures such as The Joker and The Many Saints of Newark, The Soprano’s prequel,” Garrett added. “Many land jobs through the help and support of previous alumni, such as Tim Metzger ’85, an art director leadman, who will be teaching for us in the near future. That is how the industry has always worked. It’s always been about one-on-one mentorship.”

‘We have professors who support us’

Morris worked on two of the award-winning projects, “Unconditional” and the “Powder” music video, said the experiences confirmed her desire to work as a film production manager.

“I was the producer, assistant director, and one of the camera members for the “Powder” music video,” Morris said. “My classmate Jessica Finn ’24 is the lead singer. Working with Jess and Harley Angelillo ’23, the director and visionary for this project, was such a delightful experience.”

Jess Finn ’24 on the set of 'Unconditional.'
Jess Finn ’24 on the set of 'Unconditional.'

Morris said Angelillo “came up with the idea, communicated with the band, getting their insight on what they wanted for the video” and Morris made sure “everything on the set ran smoothly.”

Finn, who graduated earlier this month with a degree in communication, with a concentration in film production and media entrepreneurship, worked on “Unconditional” as assistant director, co-writer, and production designer. In the fall, she will begin pursuing her MFA in film production at Chapman University in California.

“Being able to work with a crew to create this production from the ground up brought out a different form of motivation and passion that I didn’t even know I had in me,” Finn said. “We poured everything we had into this production, so knowing that we are receiving this recognition for that effort means the world to me.”

Finn said the University’s success with the NATAS awards and in the industry happens because, “We have professors who support us in our endeavors. When bringing an idea up to them, it’s never a question of whether we are allowed to create it. It’s a question of how they will help us create it.”