Visiting artist screens film, teaches classes

By Sarah Novicoff

Murmurs of “That was so good” filled Ahmanson Lecture Hall as the projector clicked off and the movie ended to applause.

Professional filmmaker Michael Morgenstern ’03 screened his newest short film, “Shabbat Dinner”, to the Gay-Straight Alliance March 5 and again after school March 9 in Ahmanson Lecture Hall.

“Shabbat Dinner,” which will premiere next week at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, tells the story of two teenagers in different stages of coming out. One of the teenagers has already come out to his parents, while the other struggles to discover his sexual identity.

“The film tells a story of family pressures, social norms and a universal experience that is rarely discussed in mainstream media,” according to the film’s website.

“I thought it was awesome, and he did a great job with the subject matter,” video art and photography teacher Alyssa Sherwood said.

Morgenstern fielded questions after the film that ranged from the color contrast in scenery to his directing methods. The film’s budget was around $3,500, and different cameras were used for shots with the kids and shots with the parents.

Morgenstern also taught various levels of Video Art throughout the week. His classes focused on color correction of shots to make them appear more dramatic, more professional, lighter or darker. At the second screening of “Shabbat Dinner,” Morgenstern also showed a music video he directed before color correction and after color correction

“His class was a really great learning experience and I came to value the importance of color and light in film,” video art student Amanda Reiter ’14 said.

Morgenstern began his filmmaking career at age 10 and has directed, written or produced over a dozen films, both shorts and features. Morgenstern left Harvard-Westlake his junior year to attend boarding school in Montana. He graduated from Brown University in 2004, receiving a degree in psychology. After his graduation, Morgenstern spent a year abroad working for the non-profit organization FilmAid in East Africa where he screened educational and Hollywood movies in refugee camps.

“I love directing and turning a story into a visual,” Morgenstern said about his filmmaking.