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HHS Students Bring Home Awards from Film Festivals

MVP students excitedly show off their awardThe spring season has brought flowers, warmer temperatures, and for Howell High School's Fine and Performing Arts Center program, awards on the film festival circuit! 

At the 2023 Garden State Film Festival, a team of juniors and seniors received the Best Home-Grown Student Short award for their film, She Gazed Into the Mirror and The Sun Stared Back. The ten-minute short, directed by Meaghan Krantz, stars EmmaLynne DeRoss (who also produced the piece) as Luna, a girl seeking personal fulfillment in New York City. The project was prepared in New Jersey during the months leading up to the October kickoff and was shot and edited over three days as part of the 2022 All-American High School Film Festival's Three-Day Invitational. 

The next day, Krantz and She Gazed editor Ella Lambiase were surprised to learn they also had won Best Home-Grown Romance Short for their silent film Maya! The Musical. The frequent collaborators were co-directors on the project and teamed up with She Gazed teammates Andre Paras, Trenton Konopack, and Clover Otero to execute the ambitious experiment. Maya! tells the story of a girl who dreams of embracing the spotlight and the stage but is hesitant to take the leap. 

"Being acknowledged at the Garden State Film Festival was a huge accomplishment. We wanted to share our film about self-love with a community of creative minds and to make a positive change in the world," said Krantz.

This is Howell's second straight win in this Garden State Film Festival category, having previously won for a short examining domestic abuse, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, made by Amanda Katz, now of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. In addition to She Gazed, Howell also screened three other films at theMVP students pose with their awards Berkley Hotel- silent film comedy Mr. Lonely Makes a Friend, musical short Maya! The Musical and the dramatic Love, Aaron

Just as the students prepared to relax on spring break, they discovered that Maya! had seized another festival's attention, taking home the Jury Prize at the Kent Place Film Festival. Co-director Ella Lambiase hopes that the movie "speaks to the hearts of dreamers. (Maya) is an inspiration to all people who want to make something of themselves and do something great. Editing this piece was one of the most fun, shiny, fast-paced pieces I've ever done."

 "These students are filmmakers with something important to say," said Howell FPAC video instructor Scott Napolitano. "They plan out every detail, they know when to improvise in the moment, and overcome major production obstacles to make these stories a reality. These festival wins reflect the kind of ingenuity and skills they possess."

Over the last decade, Mr. Napolitano's students have screened projects over 150 times at nearly 50 festivals, winning 60 awards in seven countries on three continents.

The Music, Video, and Production (MVP) program the students participate in is part of the Fine and Performing Arts Magnet program at Howell High School. Since 1984, the FPAC program has provided intensive studies in the fields of acting, dance, music, and video production. Previous students have gone on to pursue film and television education at prestigious schools such as NYU Tisch, University of Southern California, Chapman University, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Syracuse, Savannah College of Art and Design, and more. 

To view previous student projects from the MVP program, visit

For more information about the FPAC program, visit

MVP students pose with their awardMVP students pose with their awards