In the past two months you’ve learned about all the leads of , which is wowing crowds this week, but do you know about the pint-sized BHS junior who has not just been preparing for the production as an ensemble member, but has done so with a video camera in hand at all times?
Meet Therese Masotta, a first-time documentary maker who has set out to capture every detail of the making of Phantom of the Opera– a feat she shares has been challenging at times.
Since rehearsals for the show began a few months ago, Masotta has been slinking around behind the scenes, hoping to capture the essence of the cast and crew as they’ve worked diligently to bring the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to life. “I am learning,” said Masotta, “what people want to see and how to make something nonfiction interesting.”
Drawing on inspiration from famed documentary maker Michael Moore, this novice shooter shares, “I would just hang around Mrs. R (Musical Director Cathyann Roding) with a video camera in her face.” This somewhat intrusive nature of the art of documentary making was allowed by Roding and Director Toni Cartisano, as long as it didn’t interfere with rehearsals, said Masotta.
She says of the instructors, “They don’t really talk about it too much so the cast members don’t lose their focus.” Spoken like a veteran documentary maker, Masotta said, the undercover filmmaking has allowed her the opportunity, “to catch the cast in their natural habitat.”
Always walking around with a camera in hand, Masotta said she’s captured some “funny” backstage happenings but laments that she can’t “be six places at once.” She said it has been a challenge to make the film because she feels like sometimes she misses something that could have made great footage. Yet, with the pressure of performing her own role and trying to capture every moment behind the scenes, Masotta remains upbeat and positive and refuses to use the phrase “stressed out.” “It’s easy to feel that way,” she said, “but I am extremely motivated.”
Branford High School Art Department Chair Madelyn Paskiewicz who teaches a video production class at the high school has been overseeing Masotta’s work for the documentary and agrees that Masotta is one of the most driven students she’s seen. In fact, Masotta, isn’t even in the video production class; she’s spearheaded making the documentary all on her own. “She’s a very enthusiastic and energetic person and she’s taking on a huge production,” said Paskiewicz. “She’s acting as an executive producer in charge of everything.”
With the goal of having students work autonomously– evidence can be found in BHS’ investment in the Senior Exhibition program– Paskiewicz said Masotta exemplifies the faculty’s goal for students. “The fact that she’s taken this on as a project independent of what she does at school speaks to her ability.”
Masotta first camera was a digital Cannon Elf, which she got when she was 13. On a typical weekend with friends, she’d shoot 50 to 200 photos; something she said has helped her as she creates the documentary: “Film more than you need,” she states. “You can always have extra.”
Growing up, Masotta said she was always the one behind the camera at family functions. “No one in my family used to take pictures,” shared Masotta, “so that’s been motivation to do it.” She added, “I’ve grown up with the mentality that if no one does it, someone has to.”
Apart from being self-motivated, Masotta’s other driving force to make the documentary has been her classmates; in fact, she shares that they are the reason she took the project on. Echoing her fellow cast members, she said the documentary will serve as a memento– something to remember the hard work. “With a crazy show like this, a lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this.” She added, she is making the documentary, “so the cast and crew have something to look back on.”
Masotta will show her finished product at the cast party when the show closes.