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THE MAN BEHIND THE CAMERA: Ben Saltzman, a recent graduate of Princeton High School who will be attending New York University this fall as a film student, entered his short film, "A Dark and Stormy Night," in the Princeton Public Library's Student Film & Video Festival. Fifteen student films that were selected by the library's Teen Film Committee will be screened on Thursday, at 7 p.m., in the library's first floor Community Room.

Teens Show Off Their Talents At Library's Student Film Festival

Candace Braun

More than a dozen short films by teenage filmmakers will be screened at the second annual Student Film & Video Festival at the Princeton Public Library this Thursday evening.

The festival, which is co-sponsored by the Arts Council of Princeton, concludes a summer film series at the library for teens and adults. It will feature 15 student-produced short films ranging in genre, length and style, from animated to action, and comedy to serious documentary. The student films were submitted by both local and out-of-state teens.

The films that will be shown were selected by the Princeton Teen Film Committee from at least 30 submissions, said Susan Conlon, teen services librarian. The committee was composed of local high school students, a film historian, and representatives of the Princeton Public Library and the Arts Council of Princeton. This is the second year the library has sponsored the event.

The selected films will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the first floor Community Room. The teen filmmakers have been invited to attend, and they will answer questions and talk about their films to the audience.

"We received about three times as many films this year and are happy to once again provide the opportunity and space for teens to screen their work to an audience," said Ms. Conlon.

One of the teens who will be showing his film on Thursday is Ben Saltzman, a recent graduate of Princeton High School. Ben's film, A Dark and Stormy Night, is only 2 minutes and 32 seconds long. The length of his film, however, is what he felt made it a potential submission not only for the library's film festival, but also others around the country.

"My film is short and concise, with a laugh at the end. I really think this is a tight package," he said, adding that the film needed to be short in order to keep the audience's attention.

He described A Dark and Stormy Night as a long commercial about a secret agent who wakes up in the middle of the night with a craving for milk, only to discover she doesn't have any in her house. To satisfy her craving, she breaks into her neighbor's house, in what develops as both an action and comedy sequence.

When asked where he got the idea, he said: "It just came to me."

In order to make his film, Ben auditioned actresses from New York City for the leading role, and searched for a musician to create the soundtrack. As a student he didn't have a lot of money to pay those who assisted him, but he said that providing food for them as well as assisting with their traveling expenses seemed to make up for it.

The film was shot in three days in the homes of his parents and his neighbors. Most of the shoot went smoothly, except for when the fog machine triggered the smoke alarm. However, he added, his parents are very supportive of his work: "They're very much into it. They've helped me out in so many different ways."

A Wealth of Experience

Ben, who already has business cards advertising him as the director/cinematographer for Saltzman Productions, will be a freshman in the film program at New York University in the fall, where he received early acceptance.

When asked when he first took an interest in cinematography, he said: "I got a video camera in eighth grade and it just went from there."

Ben said he started by making "experimental films" at home with his friends. He then enrolled in a film course at Princeton High School with Charles Gallagher, who encouraged him and assisted him with some of his work.

And while his most recent film is complete and the soon-to-be freshman could take this summer to relax before the real work begins, he would rather spend it creating a video of clips from a recent class trip to Japan with his Japanese teacher and fellow classmates. He also recently helped a professor at Princeton University edit a film on a world religions symposium in Spain. As if that isn't enough, Ben recently had a job filming a wedding and is interning for the summer at NJN (New Jersey Public Television and Radio), where he has assisted editing film in a professional editing program, and has gone on a shoot in Asbury Park.

Interested in architecture, Ben has interned in the field, which he says can be of value in filmmaking because it helps him to find the best way to design a set and the whole look of a film.

"You have to start when you're young," said Ben, who has also participated in a 6-week summer filmmaking camp at Princeton University offered by the New York Film Academy.

In the program, he took film appreciation courses and was able to meet other high school and college students with an interest in film. Following the student film screening at the library on Thursday, Ben will be heading to San Diego for the weekend to visit a friend that he met through the program and to go to the Best Fest America, one of three film festivals in which his film will be screened over the weekend.

Ben said he eventually sees himself making feature films in California, but for now, he is excited about going to college in the Big Apple: "New York is the whole Indie scene. I'm really looking forward to living in the city."

For more information about the library's Student Film & Video Festival, contact Susan Conlon, at (609) 924-9529, ext. 247, or visit the library's Web site, at www.princetonlibrary.org/teens/

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