Neuqua Valley students take part in Silent Film Festival

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Popcorn was popping and the soft drinks were flowing, but it wasn’t your typical movie night Wednesday at the Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove. Local high school filmmakers gathered for the 2023 Student Silent Film Festival, with ten students from Naperville’s Neuqua Valley High School there to show their film “A Broken Melody.”

“It’s honestly very intimidating because I’m proud of the work that we put into it, but I also know that there are a lot of other great films being shown here,” said Jayden Adkins, who played the lead actor Matt in “A Broken Melody.” “I hope it’s a great representation of the other people in the group, and I hope it’s a great representation of the Neuqua Media Department.”

Creation of “A Broken Melody”

The theme of the festival was “New Horizons,” with 11 different high schools from the Chicagoland area taking part. The student filmmakers from Neuqua knew from the beginning they wanted to put a focus on the deaf community with their entry.

“We had a couple people say that we wanted to do something with the deaf community, especially considering many of us know ASL (American Sign Language),” said Adkins. “The focus was more on showing some deaf representation, even if we didn’t have deaf actors.”

Out of that idea, “A Broken Melody” was created.

“It follows this guitarist and he’s recently been diagnosed because he’s going deaf, and he doesn’t connect with society,” said the director of photography for “A Broken Melody” Aidan Garcia. “He’s kind of an outlier until he meets Melody, who’s also a guitarist. Obviously, it’s hard for them to communicate, one can hear, one cannot, but they both connect through music, and that’s just what brings them together.”

Without dialogue, each film in the festival relied on its score to create an atmosphere. Garcia said it took a collaborative effort in the writer’s room to produce the silent short film.

“I think the thought process is definitely you want to go for something different,” said Garcia. “A lot of people want to stick with what’s original. So it’s really just about going outside the box and trying to be more creative.”

A volunteer effort

“A Broken Melody’s” crew was all made up of volunteers in John Gelsomino’s Production 3 and 4 classes at Neuqua Valley. 

Though their film didn’t place in the top three, Gelsomino was proud of the effort his students put into the project, and was excited for them to see their production on the big screen.

“I think they did a nice job of telling a touching story in a very challenging way,” said John Gelsomino, Media Production Instructor at Neuqua Valley High School. “When you don’t have dialogue to fall back on, it makes things a little tougher.”

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