Lifelong Palisadian Chelsea Trotti Is Carrying on a Proud Family Legacy
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Palisades Charter High School senior Chelsea Trotti has an inspiring message for the Palisades community—and she is anxious to share it.
“I just want to let everyone know that Pali High performing arts is still being represented locally and internationally, even though we cannot perform in front of a live audience,” she said. “I’d like to get the word out to inspire other Pali students to seek alternate outlets for their passions and creativity.”
Trotti’s short films have been official selections and even winners at some local and international film festivals this summer and fall, and to anyone who knows her, that comes as no surprise.
“It all started when we went into the coronavirus lockdown during tech week for the spring musical ‘Aida’ on March 12,” she recalled. “Saddened that we wouldn’t be performing the show, my creative juices got flowing in another direction. On the third and fourth day of the lockdown, and while waiting for Pali to get its remote learning plan in place, I made a short film called ‘Life in Limbo.’ My best friend [fellow senior] Mia Ruhman, wrote original music, ‘Quarantine Waltz,’ for it.”
Trotti described it as a two-minute comedy about how their lives suddenly began “going nowhere fast.” The music, composed and performed by Ruhman, is designed to capture a “sense of endless repetition”—which is why Ruhman came up with the idea of a waltz.
“Well, two weeks of lockdown led to another and another with no end in sight, and I started looking for something to be a part of,” Trotti said. “I found some teen film festivals and got busy.”
Trotti created a second short for the Teens of LA Film Festival put on by Los Angeles Public Library. It was a trailer for a book she read for a class called “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. Ruhman again wrote an original song for her friend’s book trailer and performed it along with Pali High senior Will Merchant.
“My mom calls us the ‘Dynamic Duo,’” Trotti said of her and Ruhman.
“The Glass Castle: Book Trailer” cast includes Alex Homami, Francis Spencer Shapiro, Ella White and Jonah Sachs.
“Life in Limbo” came in second place while “The Glass Castle” took first place in the Book Trailer category—and for Trotti, the accolades were almost as intoxicating as the applause from Mercer Hall. She decided to look for more film festivals that were suitable for her short films.
So far this fall, “Life in Limbo” has earned laurels and official selection status at the All American High School Film Festival in New York City, the McGuffin Youth Film Festival in Moscow, Venice Shorts and the Reel 2 Reel Teen Film Fest in Burlington, North Carolina.
“Life in Limbo” also received a Special Honorable Mention at the London World Wide Comedy Short Film Festival.
“I’m entered in a few more festivals, but most of them are in the winter of 2021,” said Trotti, who is busy writing college essays and prepping for her next short film. “Waiting to hear about the status of my entries is nerve wracking. Today I was building props and driving my actors to get COVID tests. We’re being COVID-compliant on my set, even if it’s just a student short.
“No matter how awful this remote learning situation has been for my junior and senior years, I won’t let it stop me from expressing myself or sharing my voice with audiences.”
Trotti has lived in Pacific Palisades her entire life. She attended Palisades Charter Elementary School from kindergarten through fifth grade and Paul Revere Charter Middle School from sixth to eighth grade.
She is fifth generation in the film business on her mother’s side and fourth generation on her father’s side.
Her father, David, is an assistant director and producer, and his grandfather, Lamar, wrote 54 films for FOX, including three for local actor Will Rogers, and won an Academy Award in 1945.
Her mother, Amy Kate Connolly, was an actress and is currently a COVID-19 compliance officer for film and TV.
Chelsea’s great-great-grandfather was Emmett Connolly, who joined the film industry in set construction, then drove equipment before the Teamsters Union organized Hollywood drivers.
Her great-grandfather is silent-era child actor Ginger Connolly, and her grandmother, Laura Connolly, is an Emmy Award-winning hair stylist.
“I’ve been creating short films for as long as I can remember,” Trotti said. “But it’s only in the last three years at Pali High under Nancy Fracchiolla that I’ve really begun to find my voice as a filmmaker. I’m also thrilled that since last year we’ve been joined by [film teacher] Malia Jakus. Some of my most recent short films and content have been doing very well at festivals and on the internet.”
Trotti’s “I am Cake” recently went viral on TikTok, hitting 5.7 million views.
“Yes, cake,” she said. “Like much of TikTok content, there’s no explaining it. Watch it and embrace your inner cake.”
For Halloween this year, Pali High hosted a short film festival. Trotti entered a dark comedy told from the point of view of an upbeat and deadline-oriented serial killer. She titled it “Deadline,” which came in third place at Pali High’s Freak Fest.
Trotti shared that she loves being part of the Pali High theatre program and Pali High’s “Friday Night Live” sketch comedy troupe.
“I’ve been honored to be involved in Pali High’s Theatre Department since my freshman year,” she said. “Nancy Fracchiolla, Monique Smith and Cheri Smith put on the most amazing shows.”
Past productions she has been involved with include “The Producers” and “Chicago.” She played Mother Superior in “Sister Act” her sophomore year and Bea Bottom in the high school world premiere of “Something Rotten” her junior year.
Last spring’s production of “Aida” was canceled due to COVID-19 and it is doubtful there will be any live productions at Pali High for the remainder of this school year. However, live performance lives on in the form of “Friday Night Live,” Pali High’s version of “Saturday Night Live.”
The sketch comedy troupe has moved online to YouTube Live where five times per year, students take over their small corner of the internet for an hour of live skits, prerecorded comedy shorts and a musical guest.
Lead writers this year include junior Malcolm Hobart and seniors Kerry Cooper and Zoe Egilsson. Pali High’s next edition of “Friday Night Live” will stream live on December 11 at 7 p.m.
“Even though we as students have been isolating at home and following quarantine protocols, it doesn’t mean that all our creative outlets have been cut off,” Trotti emphasized. “Short films and videos can be amazing opportunities to express the feelings you’re having and connect with others. And there are hundreds of film festivals, short film competitions, and sites like YouTube and TikTok where you can be seen and heard.
“We may not be able to be together, but we’re in this together and thanks to the internet, we will never live down all our bad hair days shared with the world over Zoom.”
“Life in Limbo” can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=PeQh0AEeypc&t=6s and “The Glass Castle: Book Trailer” at youtube.com/watch?v=r8fyYO57Nnk.
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