October 18, 2006

Lights, Camera, Action Young Filmmaker Awarded

Many kids on a day off from school would head to the skate park or surf at the beach. Others might play video games on the computer or remain in couch-potato pose in front of the TV.

Not Anthony Arfi. The Westhampton Beach High School freshman took advantage of a sunny holiday from school last semester to round up his friends and embark on an adventure of another kind, a foray into filmmaking.

And last Friday a young star was born: Arfi learned that he was the recipient of the highest award bestowed by the Tiger Woods Foundation's Start Something program — a $5000 scholarship to be used toward his future endeavors in filmmaking.

His award-winning film, Vacation, is a 15-minute look at the comic attempt of several brothers trying to pack the car and hit the road for a much-anticipated vacation. Arfi wrote the script, acted and directed. After learning of his award this week, he admitted, "I was kind of in disbelief. I didn't think I would win."

The Tiger Woods Foundation and Target Corporation teamed up in 2000 to launch the Start Something program, geared toward encouraging kids from ages eight to 17 to identify a specific personal desire or goal and begin taking steps toward achieving their dreams.

After completion of the program, which Arfi participated in while in middle school, students can submit their completed projects to a scholarship competition, with prizes ranging from $100 to the top award of $5000. Since the program's debut, more than $1 million has been awarded, with over three million children having taken steps to transform their fledgling dreams into reality.

Arfi credits his friends and younger sister Gina, who acted in the film, and his mother Diane, who devoted a day to driving the young people, none of whom have their licenses yet, from one Westhampton-based location to another. Arfi has also been influenced by teachers who've helped him hone his craft, including Frank Cento, who teaches acting and filmmaking in a program sponsored by the Town of Southampton, mentor Jim Vignatto, who helped Arfi with camera angles, and Arfi's father Tony, a musician, who helped his son in the audio arena.

The concept for Vacation was conceived after the filmmaker reached into real-life situations for artistic interpretation. "I was thinking of funny things, the sort of situation that happens a lot that I could poke fun at," said Arfi. "The same kind of thing happens every time my family tries to go on vacation, so I just built off of that."

Arfi, who plans to use his scholarship toward a summer camp sponsored by The Dalton School in New York City next summer, would like to attend New York University Film School when it's time for college and hopes to follow in the footsteps of cinematic legends such as Steven Spielberg.

"When you write a book, a lot of times people can interpret it in different ways but if you make a movie, whatever the people see is what's there," he said. "That's why I enjoy filmmaking most, out of all the forms of artistic expression."

"My goal," he added, "is to make films that impact society and leave a mark for other films to follow."

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