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WHS grad's film to be screened at Mall of America

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Joe Carlini2 / 2

Making movies has always been a dream of Woodbury resident Joe Carlini’s, and that dream may finally become a reality.

Next month Carlini’s first feature film, “My Senior Year,” will have a week-long run at the Theatres at Mall of America.

“I love to entertain people,” he said, “so this is exciting.”

“My Senior Year” will screen Dec. 1-7 at the theater.

 “My Senior Year” tells the story of Brian Robertson, a home-schooled boy from a broken family. Brian’s goal from a young age is to live a normal teenager’s life, and when he is finally able to make that dream a reality he is in heaven. When tragedy strikes, his life is turned upside down. He feels taking his own life as being the only viable option to escape his pain.

“It’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s a coming of age story – it’s everything,” Carlini said. “It’s just a really good high school film.”

It was eight years ago that Carlini, a 2006 Woodbury High School graduate, first started working on “My Senior Year” and since then a lot has changed for the little film that could.

Over the years, “My Senior Year,” which was shot primarily at WHS and around Woodbury, has undergone cast changes, script rewrites, re-shoots and edits.

“I wanted to make sure we got the best film,” Carlini said.

The film also features Woodbury actors. All of the cast is from Minnesota.

Carlini said he would estimate that he has put roughly 2,500 hours into the film.

“We’re finally getting to the home stretch now,” he said. “It’s been draining, so it’s a relief that it’s almost coming to an end – it’s really been a sense of fulfillment.

’Finding a home’

All of Carlini’s hard work is starting to pay off now that “My Senior Year” has found its way out to California and into the hands of some important people.

Earlier this month Carlini traveled to California for the American Film Market conference, where he met with roughly 30 film distributors.

In the end, Carlini said, about 10 of those distributors expressed interest in his film, including the Weinstein Co.

“We’re just trying to find a home for the film,” he said. “The odds are definitely against us, but you never know. We just need to get it into the right hands.”

Carlini said making, and shopping around, “My Senior Year” has been a humbling experience for him because of the amount of work and the rejections.

“It’s very hard to get cocky about it,” he said, “because you’re going to fail a lot.”

If “My Senior Year” isn’t picked up by one of the big California distributors, Carlini said Plan B will be to either self-distribute or look at possible ways to get it into high schools.

“I know there’s a home for it somewhere,” he said.

Going to California

Having “My Senior Year” all but put to bed is a tremendous relief for Carlini because it now opens him up to make his next film.

“Every film is like this beast inside of you that you’re trying to get it out of your system,” he said.

Carlini will be packing up shop and moving to California this January in order to turn his film-making dreams a reality.

Carlini already has two documentary films in the works: “Second Chance U” and “Everything is Wonderful.”

“Second Chance U” is about the University of Wisconsin-River Falls basketball team and “Everything is Wonderful” is a documentary about Carlini’s grandfather.

“He is the perfect recap of the 20th century,” Carlini said of his grandfather.

Once “My Senior Year” is officially put to rest, the filmmaker said he has a number of other feature films he wants to make – everything from a gangster film to a war film to a sports film.

The first, Carlini said, will most likely be a football movie he thought up.

Carlini said he hopes “My Senior Year” will be the beginning of a long filmmaking career.

“Making movies is a chance to inspire people,” he said.

“My Senior Year” will screen at the Theatres at Mall of America Dec. 1 at 4:45 p.m., Dec. 2-5 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 6-7 at 11 a.m. Tickets for the Dec. 1 show are $10, and includes a free movie soundtrack, and tickets to the Dec. 2-7 screenings are $5. Visit the film’s Facebook page at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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