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Briarcliff Student Wins "Chester" Award for Her Film “The Taker: Behind the Scenes”

Thomas Newman, First Place, - Mark Catolano, Technical Excellence - Zach Nagin, Second Place - Samantha Simpson, Third Place The winners of the 2014 Future Filmmakers Festival proudly show off their “Chesters.” Photo credit: Michael Dardano
Thomas Newman, First Place, - Mark Catolano, Technical Excellence - Zach Nagin, Second Place - Samantha Simpson, Third Place The winners of the 2014 Future Filmmakers Festival proudly show off their “Chesters.” Photo credit: Michael Dardano

Written by Michael Dardano 

The 2014 Future Filmmakers Festival cast a spotlight on aspiring Westchester filmmakers as four films received top awards at the culmination of the Festival in late April. Open to students from all accredited Westchester high schools, this year’s event featured  twenty-three participants displaying their cinematic creativity at Pelham’s historical Picture House.

The Festival showcased films from a variety of genres paving the way for students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to set foot into the world of filmmaking, production, and cinematography. As in past years, the Festival witnessed an outpouring of support and collaboration for its talented young participants. After careful deliberation by a panel of judges, three films were awarded ‘Chesters’– Westchester’s version of the Oscar – for their excellence with a fourth receiving a Chester for technical excellence.

Taking home the coveted first place award was Dobbs Ferry High School student Thomas Newman and his film “Change”, which chronicles the exploits of a homeless man while delivering a potent message about society’s startling inequalities. Second place was given to Zach Nagin, a Mamaroneck student whose documentary “Dos Caminos” explored the inner workings of the dual-language program at his high school. Briarcliff  High School student Samantha Simpson took home third place for her film “The Taker: Behind the Scenes”, a firsthand look into the challenges of shooting a documentary.

In addition to these three outstanding students, Mark Catolano, from Eastchester  High School was honored for the technical excellence displayed in his film, “The Suitcase”.  This film exciting graphics accentuated the storyline of the journey of a mysterious suitcase.  

The talent displayed by the four prizewinners only served to punctuate the overall effort put forth by each of 2014’s twenty-three entrants, as the Festival continued to build upon its reputation as the premiere showcase for Westchester’s amateur filmmakers and producers.

The festival is great because it gives student filmmakers the chance to be recognized for their hard work,” said Newman. “All the films were fantastic…it was truly a rich experience and it was nice to win the Chester in the end.”

The Future Filmmakers Festival has been a gateway for Westchester’s most prodigious high school filmmakers and film students, providing them with the feedback and experience necessary to further their potential careers. The event is a collaboration of The Matthew S. Hisiger Film Foundation, The Picture House and is fully supported by The Executive Office of Westchester County.  

The success of the 2014 Future Filmmakers Festival has greatly increased the anticipation for next year’s event, of which all eligible prospective filmmakers are encouraged to apply. For more information, please visit www.mshff.org or contact Dale Hisiger at dale.hisiger@gmail.com. 


When Byram Hills High School sophomore Matthew Hisiger died in a car accident in February 1999, he left behind a community inspired by his passions. Intent on pursuing his dream of screen writing, directing and filmmaking, Matt had already been accepted to the New York Film Academy for that summer. To carry on Matt’s legacy, his family, supported by his teachers, his friends and his community formed the Matthew S. Hisiger Film Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to nurturing high school students who have an interest in filmmaking, screenwriting and videography. Over the past 15 years MSHFF has touched the lives of over 250 young filmmaker’s.


Since 1921, The Picture House has served as a cultural center and community hub and is the oldest, continuously running movie theater in Westchester County. Today, after an extensive renovation and the addition of state of the art technology, The Picture House shows the best in new, independent and classic cinema and provides students of all ages with the opportunity to learn about the art, science and business of film. In a world where you can carry a movie screen in your pocket, The Picture House preserves the sense of community, wonder and engagement that has existed since the formation of the first theaters.

THE PICTURE HOUSE is a community-based, mission-driven, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

The Picture House is located at 175 Wolfs Lane,www.thepicturehouse.org, info@thepicturehouse.org, (914) 738-3161. 


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