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Lodi HS Student Takes 1st Place In Filmmaking Competition

Lodi High School student Urmil Dalal, center, receives his first-place prize with Johanna Gandolfini, sister of "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, and Tom Richardson at Fort Lee High School Nov. 7.
Lodi High School student Urmil Dalal, center, receives his first-place prize with Johanna Gandolfini, sister of "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, and Tom Richardson at Fort Lee High School Nov. 7. Photo Credit: Joshua Jongsma
The eight finalists gather at Fort Lee High School for the 2015 Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow festival Saturday, Nov. 7.
The eight finalists gather at Fort Lee High School for the 2015 Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow festival Saturday, Nov. 7. Photo Credit: Joshua Jongsma
Tom Meyers, executive director of the Fort Lee Film Commission, introduces the student films for the festival at Fort Lee High School Nov. 7.
Tom Meyers, executive director of the Fort Lee Film Commission, introduces the student films for the festival at Fort Lee High School Nov. 7. Photo Credit: Joshua Jongsma

LODI, N.J. -- The story of a student's struggles to pass his driving exam -- with help from the Backstreet Boys -- brought a 16-year-old Lodi High School junior first place in the 2015 Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow festival in Fort Lee on Saturday.

Urmil Dalal's "Parallel Parking" was among a eight finalists from Bergen County in the competition at Fort Lee High School.

"It was a great experience," Dalal told Daily Voice. "It always feels great when your movies makes an impact and you feel like you did a good job."

In the film, the main character uses the song "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys to help him concentrate on parallel parking. Dalal said he chose the song because the boy band wasn't known for being popular with guys.

"It stuck with him, it stuck with me," he said. "We thought it was a great idea especially since we were trying to go with comedy."

More than 100 high school students submitted short movies, with the Fort Lee Film Commission and other judges narrowing the finalist list to eight.

The judges included Michael Gandolfini, son of "Sopranos" star James Ganolfini. Tom Meyers, executive director of the Fort Lee Film Commission, said the "Sopranos" highlighted the state's iconic scenery.

"What James and ['Sopranos' creator] David Chase did in New Jersey was terrific," Meyers said.

Ganolfini's sister, Johanna, presented the first-place prize to Dalal.

Other finalists included Bergenfield High School students Kyle Siringan, Alexander Garcia and Anthony Lorelli, Pascack Valley students Alex Hacopian, Andrew Favorito and Zachary Kaplan, and Alden Etra of Fort Lee High School.

Meyers noted that all eight of the finalists were winners. Nelson Page, executive director of the Fort Lee Film Commission, said he saw tremendous talent in the young directors.

"The submissions this year were better than they've ever been before." Page said.

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