Senior Film Majors Create 24 Documentaries in Three Months

The FSSA senior film class with Mr. Spagnuoli.

On the first day of school, September 5th, 24 film students from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) hit the ground running when they were given a challenge by their screenwriting and production teacher, Mr. Spagnuoli.

The senior film students know how to work with fellow peers in a team effort to create films together, but this was the first time they were challenged to work independently on a project.

Mr. Spagnuoli, the sophomore and senior film teacher at FSSA, has only worked at FSSA for a little over a year, but is dedicated to the art form and loves teaching students to better evolve themselves not only as filmmakers, but as teenagers.

“I was inspired to do this project because at the end of last year I gave them a survey asking them what they would like to work on as some of the final projects in their last year as film students and what kind of crew roles they would like to have and a lot of them said they wanted to direct,” Mr. Spagnuoli said.

With this project all 24 senior film students will be creating, directing, filming, and editing their own films by themselves.

The process started on the first week of school when their screenwriting teacher introduced different styles and substances of documentaries to the class. With the knowledge of a variety of different documentary modes, students were able to incorporate those modes into three ideas that they felt were interesting enough for a documentary.

Joseph Rana, senior film major at FSSA struggled with what he felt was “interesting enough” for his documentary, just like other fellow classmates.

“Honestly, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I was just brainstorming ideas for the documentary and I wanted to expose light on a topic that isn’t very well known,” Joseph said.

By using mentor docs, the students were observing different techniques and traits they could incorporate into their own documentaries and helped them create a structure of a storyline they want to portray to the audience.

Eventually questions were created to ask for interviews and students revised their work with fellow classmates for constructive criticism.

As October came along the class made its first treatment draft and were given revision notes by Mr. Spagnuoli for the second and final treatment draft.

Toward the end of October the documentaries were transitioned into film production class and students began shooting in November. Every weekend students have the opportunity to take out equipment and film interviews, b-roll, and gather stock footage.

Andrea Mejuto, senior art major at FSSA was chosen as a documentary subject for Joseph Rana’s documentary.

“I was really excited when Joseph chose me as his documentary subject because I’ve never been in a film and I thought it was really cool that he thought I was interesting enough to make a film about,” Andrea expressed.

In production, students have filmed mock interviews with each other so they can get used to the camera settings, framing, etc. By practicing in class they can go out on their own and properly film their subjects independently.

The students are currently in post production and will start presenting to their classmates for feedback.

By creating calendars, the class has scheduled and organized shooting dates and rough cuts so the project can be completed before their viewing party on December 21st.

Anyone is invited to join the viewing party during periods two and three. Breakfast and refreshments will be served. 

by Gabriella Yarczower ‘19