H-ton Filmmakers Win Award at Rod Serling Festival

Rod Serling was an Emmy Award winning screenwriter, playwright, television producer and narrator.

August 22, 2016

Six Huntington High School filmmakers won first place in the Best Fiction/Story category at this summer’s Rod Serling Film Festival in Binghamton for their production of Dark Room.

Huntington’s Cody Bograd, Keegan Dunne, Charlie Ehrman, Jack Glicker, Emma Pipolo and Sam Weitzner collaborated on the winning work. The group studied film under Huntington teacher Heather Swan, who heads the high school’s video arts program.

A native of Binghamton, New York, Mr. Serling was an Emmy Award winning writer and producer and the creator and host of The Twilight Zone, an anthology series that ran for five seasons and 156 episodes, which have assumed cult status.

“This festival is held in of honor Rod Serling and his work, which has had a lasting influence on the television industry and media creation,” according to the festival’s website. “His innovative work was infused with a sense of moral responsibility and artistic integrity. The festival seeks to inspire the next generation of filmmakers.”

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Six Huntington filmmakers
won an award at the Rod Serling Festival.

Launched in 1995, the festival is coordinated by WSKG Public Media and held in partnership with Binghamton City School District’s Rod Serling School of Fine Arts, Broome County Forum Theatre, New York State Media Arts Teachers Association and the Serling family. Mr. Serling was a member of Binghamton High School’s Class of 1943.

“We submitted to a record number of film festivals in 2015/16,” Mrs. Swan said. “For the first time we entered the Rod Serling Film Festival and to our surprise we won. I was thrilled to hear this great news and I am so incredibly proud of these six brilliant young filmmakers.”

Dark Room stars Messsrs. Glicker and Dunne, Mrs. Swan, Paul Caleca and Vincent Fredericks. It focuses on a case of “mistaken identity.”

“We created this project for the 10 Day Film Challenge so we only had 10 days to work on it,” Mr. Glicker said. “It’s crazy to me that we won in a completely different festival, competing against videos with no time constraints, especially one as big as the Rod Serling Film Festival. I’m so proud of my group and this project. I think we all knew it was going to come out great while working on it, but I would’ve never guessed we would get Best Fiction at a film festival of this level.”

A very heavy smoker for most of his life, Mr. Serling was only 50 years old when he died in Rochester, New York on June 28, 1975 following three heart attacks in less than two months and a 10 hour long open heart surgery two days earlier. He was working as a professor at Ithaca College and continuing as a prolific writer at the time of his passing.

Mr. Serling wrote the screenplays for a long list of television shows and movies, including the critically acclaimed Seven Days in May, a 1964 political thriller set in the early 1970s that tells the fictionalized story of an attempted military coup d’état in the United States.

Dark Room captured the affection of the festival’s judges, who were impressed with the story and overall quality of the production. “It is exciting to gain more exposure for our film past the 10 Day Film Challenge,” Mr. Ehrman said. “What we accomplished in the 10 days shows the key of collaboration in filmmaking. Looking forward to bringing the 10 Day film team back next year!”

While the production of the film took a lot of effort, it was rewarding for the participants. “We originally made the video for the 10 Day Film Festival and after that competition ended, we loved the video so much we decided to look into other festivals,” Ms. Pipolo said. “The whole group had a lot of fun making it.”