Film crew included 7 current & former CHCA students earning ‘Best Film’ honors for 2020 Teen Film Challenge

NEWS RELEASE: Jennifer Murphy, Marketing Communications Director

SYMMES TOWNSHIP, OH (September 3, 2020)- A team including seven current and former CHCA students triumphed in the 2020 Teen Challenge, earning Best Film honors and three additional awards for a film titled The Voice in the Night.

From left: Trinity Hamm, Jack Bolander, Gabe Schmidt, Maggie Drake, Jack Curnutte, Jonah Bolander, and Carter Jackson gathered for the awards presentations. (Provided)

Judges named CHCA ’19 alumni Gabe Schmidt (of Loveland) and Trevor Cebulski (of Loveland) as Best Director and Best Editor, respectively, and University of Cincinnati sophomore Jack Curnutte (of White Oak) earned Best Actor honors for his work in the film. Awards were given out Sunday, 08/23/20, during the event’s online premiere screenings.

The team consisted of CHCA senior Jonah Bolander (of Loveland), plus alumni Jack Bolander (’18 of Loveland), Abby Cates (’19 of Mason), Cebulski, Carter Jackson (’17 of West Chester), Schmidt, and Malcolm Vanderwoude (’19 of Montgomery). Lakota West junior Maggie Drake (of West Chester) was the team’s producer, and Curnutte and fellow University of Cincinnati sophomore Trinity Hamm (of West Chester) acted in the film.

Team members wore masks the whole weekend except when actors had to remove them for their scenes.

Despite the uniquely difficult circumstances this year, the team was able to pull together and create something we can be proud of.” – Gabe Schmidt

Schmidt wrote and directed the film. Cebulski served as editor, Jonah Bolander was cinematographer, and Jackson composed an original score. According to the event rules, the team’s director, cinematographer, editor, and producer must be 19 or younger; other team members can be older.



CHCA has fared well in this event the past four years:

  • In 2017, Schmidt won Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay with a film that Jackson scored.
  • In 2018, a team of thirteen current and former students won the Audience Choice award and placed second overall in the competition, with CHCA alumnus Ben Paris (’19 of West Chester) earning Best Actor honors.
  • In 2019, eight current and former students won Best Film and the Audience Choice award, with Schmidt claiming Best Director and Cebulskie being named Best Editor.

In the competition, which was held August 6-9, 2020, each team drew a genre and a movie title, and had just 72 hours to make a short film (3-6 minutes) that fit both. CHCA’s team drew the category of an “escape” film. Given the title The Voice in the Night, the group constructed a plot in which a mysterious voice sends one man on a perilous journey. Click here to watch ‘The Voice in the Night’ video

The team took inspiration from The Matrix and The Truman Show to create a science fiction story line and used Cates as the titular voice who speaks to Curnutte’s character.

“It was my very first time working on a film,” said Curnutte. “They made the transition a whole lot easier. The script was very well written. The other actors were very talented. It was a very special and talented group.”

Both Bolanders, Cebulski, Jackson, Schmidt, and Vanderwoude all gained valuable skills from the Audio/Visual Production class of CHCA Technology Department Head Adam Cool.

This is the sixth year of the TFC, which is put on by The Underground Academy of Cinematic Arts. Twenty teams competed in the film challenge; 16 finished on time and had their films shown in the competition. The competition is open to teens in a 500-mile radius of Cincinnati; competing teams were from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky. 

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