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Sci High filmmaker gets award at regional film fest: 'What I really learned ... was persistence.'

June 24, 2022 | by information

As the film industry continues to flourish in Louisiana, students from New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School may well be a part of its future. Recently, a team of its student filmmakers took home the Grand Prize Audience Choice Award at Film Prize Junior 2022, the South's largest student film festival.

The short film, "Afterparty," was written, directed and edited by Sci High senior Noel Celestine

The crew included assistant director and editor Nola Szilagi and director of photography Jonas Minor, along with assistants Chilia Hicks, Nelly Gonzales, Alena Irvin and Kira Dupree. Joining Celestine as cast members were Tianna Murray, Rendell Jones, Jeanique Jackson, Deshawn Joseph, Edward Dykes, Amire Tyler, Hassaan Dubuclet, and Alena Irvin.

The film was named as winner of the Audience Choice Award by a combination of audience votes and a decision by the judges, Louisiana Film Prize finalists and former Film Prize Junior staff.

In winning, Sci High received a $1,000 film equipment grant, $500 to celebrate the students’ achievement, and a $500 cash award for the teacher/sponsor, Donte Smallwood.

The nine-minute "Afterparty" tells the story of a high school student who, after a very long day, has a crazy dream in which he attends his crush’s party. Everything is great until the arrival of some unwanted guests, and the dream starts to become a nightmare.

Celstine, 18, describes the rom-com as both a learning experience and a labor of love. He wrote the script after watching hours of how-to videos on YouTube, and then he began a three-month journey to bring his vision to life.

When he started the project, the school was just coming out of the pandemic, so staffing and resources were scarce.

“COVID shut down our productions our junior year, and several of the teachers left, so I kind of just took things on my own,” Celestine said.

He signed up other students for this afterschool project and did the casting call with minimum support. But when Donte Smallwood was hired to teach digital media midyear, the project came to life. Smallwood, a recent graduate of the Dillard University Film Program, became Celestine’s adviser and mentor.

“Mr. Smallwood helped me plan better and let me use his camera and some of his equipment,” Celestine said. “It would have been a whole different process without him.”