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Catalina Island Museum Premiers Silent Film by Students


Award-winning composer, Michael Mortilla, and the Catalina Island Museum recently offered a rare and unique opportunity for the Avalon High School theater class. Students Curtis Leo, Makenna Lee, and several other students from the class created a new short silent film with the help of their teacher, James Guadagno, and the film was later premiered at the Catalina Island Museum.

The Avalon High School students have been studying about silent films and the characteristics, which work particularly with the genre, for quite some time. The students drafted a rough script and discussed it with Guadagno, who helped them to complete it. Lee edited, directed, and made a brief appearance in the film, while Leo took up on the role of the main character. A local resident named Jim Watson also assisted the students with their silent film project.

When enquired about the subtleties of their silent film, Lee said, “During the editing process, Curtis’ acting reminded Jim Watson of Buster Keaton’s film’s so we watched a few videos of him.” The authorities from the Catalina Island Museum then approached Mortilla and requested him to do the original score for the silent film.

Michael Mortilla eagerly took the chance and he did three original scores for the students’ short silent film. “What a privilege and an honor to be asked to score the wonderful student film I Found My Love in Avalon,” said Mortilla about the project. “The film is so well made that with the very first viewing, I could imagine several possible scores. The editing is perfectly timed, the characters consistently well performed, the cinematography perfectly framed, and the script is both interesting and well structured. Makenna Lee is a standout filmmaker with a brilliant future ahead of her.”

When asked about Mortilla’s compositions and the experience of working with him, Lee said, “Each score inspired different feelings. The first had lots of different sounds and instruments that gave the film a circus feel. The second was all piano made the audience sympathize with the main character’s struggles. The last was my personal favorite, it highlighted every subtlety I edited into the film. I couldn’t stop smiling and it felt like I was seeing my movie for the first time. It was truly an amazing experience.”


The officials from the Catalina Island Museum expressed their interests in working with Mortilla in the future as well. The Catalina Island Museum is open to visitors seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. and it offers the best in history and art exhibitions, dance and music performances, as well as the finest international, documentary, and short films.