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Fallbrook High Student Film Festival May 18 to include newly-produced documentary on ex-Cosa Nostra mobster Michael Franzese


Last updated 4/25/2013 at Noon

The documentary,

This year’s Fallbrook High School Student Film Festival is destined to be particularly exceptional, given the 13 film projects that will be screened that evening, including a much-anticipated documentary about ex-Cosa Nostra mobster Michael Franzese, who will be in attendance. The event will be held Saturday evening, May 18 at the school’s Bob Burton Center for the Performing Arts.

Students involved in the school’s film and video department have been working very hard all year round. The 13 projects, which vary from sci-fi to documentary, have provided extensive learning opportunities.

Erik Nilsen, who will present “Any Town,” said before he started film class and learned to write, direct, produce, and edit a film, “I really had no specific hobby that I really loved to do. But now after this roller coaster of trying to organize my actors and my locations and all the crazy stress to make it all work out, I realized that this is what I really love to do.”

“Having my little idea of ‘Any Town’ be put on the big screen is a dream come true,” said Nilsen. “I love the process of making a film and I would really like to make a career out of it!” Nilsen said his intention is to continue gaining experience and try to earn a scholarship to a high-end video and film production-based university.

Joe Sichi’s film, “Corrupt,” will also be screened at this year’s festival. Sichi said his film is “about a man working for the government who finds out that there was tampering in the elections, and internally debates about the right thing to do.” Sichi said he has about four months invested in the making of the film.

“I really liked working with my team of four other people,” said Sichi. When asked why he chose the particular subject matter for his film, Sichi replied, “I was inspired by the elections last fall.”

The documentary about Franzese, who gave up a life of crime in the notorious subculture of the Cosa Nostra, the biggest gang in the world, has been greatly anticipated. The documentary was directed by the students’ film teacher Florene Villane and edited by Mark Schneider.

Franzese, who will attend the festival with wife, Cammy, said, “I am looking forward to seeing the work product of such professionalism and how the school handled the project. I am fully supportive of the goals of the school.” Captivating statements from both community members and students are included in the project, which features original rap, written by Finn McGrath, to tie it together.

After an eight-year prison term, Franzese started speaking to audiences, especially those who included high-risk youth who were more likely to be influenced by a criminal lifestyle. By visiting educational, sports, and religious institutions, his motivational and encouraging message has developed into a ministry called the “Breakout Foundation.” Franzese’s message has been, “You are who you hang out with, and we are not meant to go through this life solo, so be selective in your relationships.”

Villane, the master behind the festival, has taught for 35 years at Fallbrook High School, specializing in drama and film. Villane said she has taken measures to modify the curriculum in her classes and adapt them to a more collegiate level. Her students begin by learning to write screenplays, then make the actual movie based on that material, and finally apply the skills to market their movie.

Villane, who was a top 10 finalist for San Diego County Teacher of the Year in 1998 and a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Cambridge England in 1985, has taught high school seniors bound for Cambridge and Oxford. She said she recognizes that today’s generation is very interested in special effects and editing, and believes that one can still teach the classics yet combine them with the latest technology, complementing both parts of the industry. The students are educated with hands-on camera experience, as well as sound and lighting operations.

Villane has chosen to make this her retirement year from Fallbrook High School, due to some reductions in film and drama classes caused by budget constraints. In those open periods, Villane would have been assigned to teach English classes.

“Fallbrook High School and the district appreciate the outstanding work [Florene Villane] has done with our film and drama students,” said district superintendent Dale Mitchell. “She will be missed.”

The uplifting news is that Villane said she, “finally will have time to plan my bicoastal wedding to fiancé Bill Edom, a photographer.” Another of her goals is to attend John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, where she hopes to obtain an MBA in film production. “I like taking big events and putting them together, and I believe that there is an area in the film industry (Christ-centered media) in which I would like to be involved” said Villane. She received additional training about five years ago with Universal Studios, through its certificate program. Her mentor in technology, she said, is Fritz Schattschneider, who previously taught at Fallbrook High School, and is now a videographer.

Villane also said she would like to be involved with Franzese and his ministry at some point in the near future.

Highly regarded by her students, Villane will leave a significant legacy.

Sichi said Villane has taught him “a lot of important things that I will always hold on to. I had a great time in her class.”

Erik Nilsen and his crew, including Julian Kozar and Kelly Brower, film

The emcee for this year’s festival will be Theresa Layne of Acting for the Camera at Mira Costa College. Members of the Fallbrook Vintage Car Club have committed for the sixth year to provide stylish, classic transportation for participating students to arrive in at the event. Trophies will be awarded for best actor, actress, director, editor, cinematography, sound, light, documentary, and overall best film. Following the program, will be a reception in the lobby to congratulate the students.

The festival begins at 7:30 p.m. on May 18. The Bob Burton Center for the Performing Arts in located on the campus of Fallbrook High School at 2400 S. Stage Coach Lane.


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