Written, directed, filmed and composed by…

This dynamic duo has many achievements across a variety of creative fields

Carly Travis, Opinion's Editor

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At New Trier, we’re surrounded by raw talent. There’s kids inventing apps, releasing EP’s, and even launching their own clothing lines, yet you would never know it; these modest students could be sitting right next to you. Among them are seniors Cookie Belknap-Fernandez and Regina Madanguit, two girls who make films together. I sat down with the duo on a Saturday afternoon to discuss their past accomplishments, marvel at their work, and hear about upcoming projects.
“That’s disgusting,” Madanguit sarcastically laughs when I hesitate in calling them “cinephiles,” which is someone who is fond of movies. And she’s right! The term sounds like pedophile, which is gross. I went on to suggest “film buff” to which Belknap-Fernandez joked, “I’m not buff; I’m really weak. I’m feeble.”
After getting to know them some more, I realized that there really is no perfect word to describe them. Yes, they’re filmmakers, but they also possess a variety of creative assets that contribute to each film they make. Everything from writing, editing, and directing is done by the two of them, an undertaking that can be challenging for most people in any regard.
“Whenever we make films together, it’s exactly 50-50,” Belknap-Fernandez and Madanguit explained (they literally split the sentence in half, too). “Her hand is on the keyboard and my hand is on the mouse,” Madanguit said. “And we’re not even talking,” Belknap-Fernandez finished. The two work in perfect unison with one another, a quality that is reflective in their movies. Because they’ve been collaborating together for so long, their process is fast and in-sync, as though they’re speaking their own language.
Together the team has made seven films and have won eight awards, which brings us to the start of their friendship, also known as the beginning of their filmmaking carrer.
Madanguit’s older sister introduced the pair to Greg Harris Film Festival, a New Trier student film festival to which any NT students can submit work. With the help of Madanguit’s older sister’s camera (which they still use today), Belknap-Fernandez and Madanguit shot their first short film “Kill Tanner.”
“Typically, freshmen don’t submit; it’s usually a Winnetka campus thing,” Madanguit said of their first Film Fest. Nonetheless, the girls entered the race and won, not one, but two awards for their film. I commented, saying how great that must feel to be rookies and go home with a little golden statue: “Yeah! We got the ‘Rookie of the Fest’ award,” they exclaimed.
Together Madanguit and Belknap-Fernandez approach their films by taking relatable vignettes from their daily lives and glorifying them. One example that comes to mind is their film, “Wanna Bean the Photo.” A family member is photographing her touristy family in front of the iconic Bean in Millennium Park. A stranger walks up to the family member shooting the picture and gestures for them to hop into the frame as well. Another stranger approaches and assumes the new photographer is a family member and performs the same gesture. The scene plays out until a large group of strangers, all clearly not related, are joined together to take one huge picture, essentially hijacking the tourists’ moment.
The idea behind this simple yet genius masterpiece? Belknap-Fernandez’s family trip to Disneyland several years ago. The clever title choice? Madanguit’s mom. Collaboration at its finest.
The duo isn’t limited to film either. Along with seniors Genevieve Kane and Mia Neumann, Belknap-Fernandez and Madanguit host a radio show every Monday evening called “Our Hour.”
“I feel like my sister has opened so many doors for me,” Madanguit said of how she was introduced to radio. The foursome originally took their lunch up to the radio station, ate there, and chatted some 40 minutes about this and that. It was a blow off period. In terms of the content of their show, “it was kind of like our lunch [conversations], but broadcasted,” Belknap-Fernandez said.
Now, instead of talking about profound topics between munches, Kane, Neumann, Belknap-Fernandez, and Madanguit bring on live musical guests. “We were spreading the names of local artists and this was their first time on the radio too,” Madanguit said. Belknap-Fernandez added that they ended up receiving a Golden Mic, the award presented to ‘best radio show of the year.’
By the end of our chat, I was a fan. Not only are these girls mega talented, they’re also incredibly humble, authentic, and cool. Their vibrant personalities are reflective in their work across all mediums.