Montclair State Freshman Filmmakers: Before They’re Famous

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Published February 8, 2022
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The Montclarion
Esther Soca (left) and Sophie Jackson (center) are featured freshman filmmakers at Montclair State. They are with Mary Lage (right), a freshman film and television major. Photo courtesy of Esther Soca

Montclair State University has excellent filmmaking and media programs where many thrive after graduation.

From “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria to “Saw” actor Tobin Bell, Montclair State has offered the resources and facilities to help those succeed in their industry.

Most of the time, you will notice the same students starring in and acting as the crew in each other’s movies.

With such talented filmmakers and an amazing student community came the creation of the Instagram account @msu.studentfilms.

Founded by filmmaking freshman Peter Di Prospero, the account highlights some of the greatest and newest talents at our university.

Di Prospero himself has his own short film, “SKULLDIVE,” a thriller that follows an internet game turned deadly.

Di Prospero&squot;s "SKULLDIVE" is a thriller that follows an internet game gone deadly. Photo courtesy of Peter Di Prospero

Peter Di Prospero’s “SKULLDIVE” is a thriller that follows an internet game turned deadly.
Photo courtesy of Peter Di Prospero

Heavily involved with his community of filmmakers at Montclair State, he runs the Instagram account to show off his peers, and also created a Discord chat to help connect students to more opportunities within the university.

“The reason I made the [Montclair State] student films account was because I just found such [an] amazing community at the school,” Di Prospero said. “I really think [Montclair State] just has an amazing plethora of individual filmmakers who have come together.”

Peter Di Prospero is heavily involved with his community of filmmakers at Montclair State. Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Peter Di Prospero is heavily involved with his community of filmmakers at Montclair State.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

One of the showcased artists on Di Prospero’s account is Jenny Rose Asuzano. With the skills of filmmaking and music by her side, “Swap” director Asuzano is equipped to be a star.

“Swap” is Asuzano’s film about a girl who finds herself in an unusual predicament: her voice is swapped with her ukulele.

"Swap" is Asuzano&squot;s film about a girl who finds herself in an unusual predicament. Photo courtesy of Jenny Rose Asuzano

“Swap” is Jenny Rose Asuzano’s film about a girl who finds herself in an unusual predicament.
Photo courtesy of Jenny Rose Asuzano

While “Swap” was a one-woman show, Asuzano has found her home at Montclair State.

“Montclair State has helped me because I had a lot of trouble making connections,” Asuzano said. “[It has also] taught me the common language [or] the vernacular of film students,”

Montclair State has not only given Asuzano friendship and great opportunities, but a chance to be her true self. Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Montclair State has not only given Jenny Rose Asuzano friendship and great opportunities, but a chance to be her true self.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Montclair State has not only given Asuzano friendship and great opportunities, but a chance to be her true self.

Asuzano recently came out as a transgender woman. Her bravery, beauty and creativity make her inspiring to many and a name to remember for years to come.

A filmmaker who presents us with beautiful LGBTQIA+ stories is Sophie Jackson. Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Sophie Jackson presents us with beautiful LGBTQIA+ stories.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Another filmmaker who presents us with beautiful LGBTQIA+ stories is Sophie Jackson, a ray of sunshine that is often present in her work.

Jackson’s film, “Book Lover,” is an aesthetically beautiful short film centered around “a young girl’s quest for a new book [that] turns into a search for love.”

Jackson&squot;s film "Booklover" is an aesthetically beautiful short. Photo courtesy of Sophie Jackson

Sophie Jackson’s film “Book Lover” is an aesthetically beautiful short.
Photo courtesy of Sophie Jackson

Jackson explains the community she has found at Montclair State and how it has helped her.

“My life is a lot of learning and collaborating with other student filmmakers,” Jackson said. “I’m truly getting to know what my strong suits are and what I gravitate naturally towards.”

Sophia “Bee” Montano’s work contributes to the list of important topics portrayed in Montclair State student films.

In Montano’s silent film “Out of Body,” we learn “about the discovery of one’s gender identity and all of the denial, confusion and frustration that comes with coming to terms with who you are.”

"Out of Body" is a silent film. Photo courtesy of Sophia Montano

“Out of Body” is a silent film.
Photo courtesy of Sophia Montano

“Recently, I’ve wanted to make [more] LGBTQ-based stories,” Montano said. “I feel like there’s not much of that representation in the media.”

Montano's goal is to be a cinematographer. Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Montano’s goal is to be a cinematographer.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Montano’s goal is to be a cinematographer. With such a powerful start to their career, the possibilities for the future are endless.

Scott Ackerson takes us back to the love stories with his film “COUNTDOWN.”

Ackerson’s “sweet-yet-psycho” tale of romance shows us how “a lonely young man finally gets the love of his life … from a very unexpected place.”

Ackerson&squot;s "COUNTDOWN" is a "sweet-yet-psycho" tale of romance. Photo courtesy of Scott Ackerson

Ackerson’s “COUNTDOWN” is a “sweet-yet-psycho” tale of romance.
Photo courtesy of Scott Ackerson

Ackerson gave us some insight into his relationship with the craft.

“Filmmaking more than other mediums feels like a marriage between narrative and visual storytelling,” Ackerson said. “What you see on the frame and what you’re hearing are both just sort of working together to create a new whole piece of art.”

Scott Ackerson takes us back to love stories with his film "COUNTDOWN." Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Scott Ackerson takes us back to love stories with his film “COUNTDOWN.”
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Last, but certainly not least, comes Esther Soca.

Soca is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet, and anyone would be lucky to work with someone like her.

Written and directed by Soca, “Ghosted” is the way-too-relatable tale of “a girl [who] gets ghosted by her crush at a Halloween party.”

"Ghosted" is written and directed by Esther Soca. Photo courtesy of Esther Soca

“Ghosted” is written and directed by Esther Soca.
Photo courtesy of Esther Soca

Soca comments on how she still has so much left to do with her career.

“I know [being in] film is going to be a complete journey for me,” Soca said. “The ideas and goals I set for myself now could completely change.”

Soca&squot;s "Ghosted" is a relatable tale. Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Soca’s “Ghosted” is a relatable tale.
Avery Nixon | The Montclarion

Someday, these artists who told their story will look back and remember their time at Montclair State, before their inevitable fame.

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