East student’s movie gets selected for local film festival


Courtesy of Zaiden Ascalon

Zaiden Ascalon at last years film festival, posing for photos.

Despite the coronavirus, the Garden State Film Festival has taken matters into their own hands. This year the festival has decided to livestream all of the chosen films for New Jersey residents.

Zaiden Ascalon’s (‘20) motion-picture “Quick Clean” debuted at the Garden State Film Festival. Ascalon has been engulfed in the world of film from a young age. His dad has been a member of the Festival’s board of directors for years, leading him to see directors’ final works and meet talented filmmakers from as young as ten years old. Those experiences fostered his interest in the arts, specifically film.

“I like showing what I’m thinking rather than just writing it down,” Ascalon said, explaining what he liked about filmmaking.

He said three-dimensional depictions are his artistic preference, as opposed to the more 2D literary method. That interest in film is what led him to enroll in a three-week college course at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts two summers ago. It was in that class that Ascalon wrote and produced his film that was later chosen as an “Official Selection” for one of New Jersey’s biggest film festivals.

The ten-minute picture tells the story of an old man who hires a young house cleaner. Everything goes wrong when the cleaner accidentally kills his client with a squeegee (a tool for window cleaning). Calling up his friend, who acts as comedic relief in the story, they work together to dispose of the body in New York’s East River. The film school’s location offered a perfect opportunity for onsite filming at the river itself — but filming was just part of the production process.

Week one of the course centered on writing and character development, which Ascalon described as “a lot more intricate than I thought before I entered there.” He said you have to consider every detail, from a character’s religion to their height and weight. There may not be direct, in-story connections to every detail a writer predetermined, but those small bits of information are kept in mind throughout production and help formulate an on-screen portrayal that better matches what the writer has envisioned.

The second week was focused on the actual filming. A full soundstage and other high-quality equipment were available for Ascalon’s use. Still, some challenges occurred,
especially when filming went outdoors.

“A lot of people wanted to, y’know, heckle, get into our shot,” he said. The photobombers and other challenges could make shooting a three-minute scene take up to an hour and a half.

But once that footage was all captured, Ascalon could begin editing during week three. While he said they could have made a few things more perfect with extra time, Ascalon seemed happy with the edit overall. Adobe Premiere, the editing software often used in professional productions, was at his disposal for the post-production work.

The three-week process led to “Quick Clean” becoming a finished product, and it was not Ascalon’s first. He worked on a short movie called “Traffica” and the TV pilot “Arthur Fitchuro” before his festival debut. He also hopes it won’t be his last, with hopes of attending a community college before committing to a larger four-year film program. With big moviemaking dreams and a big accomplishment already in “Quick Clean,” Ascalon suggests that aspiring talents take initiative to achieve their goals.

“If you have an idea, don’t wait for somebody to help you.” With that advice in mind, you’ll be primed to forge your own path for success. Who knows — maybe someday, Ascalon will be producing a movie about you.