Introducing MONTCLAIR FILM!

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Montclair Film Festival is thrilled to share our new identity and festival campaign. Moving forward, our new organization name is MONTCLAIR FILM!

The name, intended to better express the organization’s year-round commitment to a wide range of film and education programming, will be the new identity under which the non-profit operates. The Montclair Film Festival (MFF), will retain its name as the organization’s signature program.

The new spring festival logo and campaign (shared below) were designed to introduce the elements of the Montclair Film brand (shared above), unifying the MFF and Montclair Film under an integrated visual language that features this year’s campaign theme, “Fall in love with film.”

Additionally, the new Montclair Film website is currently under development with a new user experience focused on the announcement of the 2017 Montclair Film Festival program. The website will launch on April 3, 2017, the same day the 2017 MFF program is announced. This includes a switch to our membership program. For those looking to renew or purchase membership, we should be up and running by next week.

Festival tickets go on sale for Montclair Film members on Wednesday, April 5 at 10:00 a.m., and to the general public on Friday, April 7 at 10:00 a.m.

Once again the MFF enjoys recognition as NJ’s Favorite Film Festival! Through your generosity and support we we will continue to provide world class programs with our new identity at our new location 505 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey.

View our press release about our new branding and home as well as MFF 2017 for full details!

Climate Change Student Action Kit

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The Climate Campaign Partnership is an integrated STEAM program
sponsored by MFF and partnered with the Montclair Cooperative School
and National Geographic’s Years of Living Dangerously that focuses on the
critical scientific, political, economic and social issues of climate change
through powerful and provocative films, art, conversation, and social
action.

Click here to view the Climate Change Student Action Kit.

Click here to learn more about the Climate Campaign Partnership.

MFF16 Closing Night!

Filled with incredible performances, laughs, tears and plenty of inspiration, Montclair Film Festival 2016 was thrilled to present Miss Sharon Jones!, last Saturday, May 7th as our closing night film.

New York, NY - February 2, 2014 - Sharon Jones performs at the Beacon Theater following cancer treatment. CREDIT: Jacob Blickenstaff

New York, NY – February 2, 2014 – Sharon Jones performs at the Beacon Theater following cancer treatment. CREDIT: Jacob Blickenstaff

In 2014, on the eve of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings launching a new album, Ms. Jones faced her greatest challenge yet; a cancer diagnosis that brought her career to a stand still. Miss Sharon Jones! documents the singer’s battle to not only heal her body but continue to drive the Dap Kings toward the musical summit.

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Photo by Kimberly Cecchini / Montclair Film Festival

Two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple and members of the Dap Kings joined MFF Executive Director Tom Hall for a lively discussion after the screening.

Here are some highlights below.

Director Barbara Kopple on the making of Miss Sharon Jones! before the screening and working with the film’s main subject: “Making documentaries like this, you want to stay attached to them. You want to watch how they grow and how they change. Having the privilege of making Miss Sharon Jones! was one of the most passionate and beautiful experiences.”

Barbara Kopple on meeting Sharon the day she was having her hair cut and shaved in preparation for chemotherapy treatments: “We bonded that day because when you go through something like that and you have people around you and you’re starting to make this huge transformation in your life, something happens. We just felt so privileged and so honored to be in the life of Sharon Jones.”

Barbara on how the crew captured Sharon’s performance energy on camera filming the first show Sharon performed after her chemotherapy treatments in New York City: “That was really extraordinary because Sharon did not know who she was going to be when she went out there. She didn’t know if she was going to be able to move or remember the lyrics. She was just very nervous. She went out there, of course, and she killed it, but also the Dap Kings and the Dappettes followed what she was doing. When she was out of breath they would play until she got her breath back. I think for me that was so courageous and so wonderful for her to take that risk.”

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Photo by Kimberly Cecchini / Montclair Film Festival

The last scene of the film is from a concert Sharon and the Dap Kings played in Augusta, Georgia. Producer David Cassidy credited Gary Griffin’s cinematography for capturing Jones’ energy: “This guy—that was the best thing he had ever shot for us in 12 years—was that one little moment, that scene . . . . that’s not meant as a joke, that’s meant as a compliment. I can distill it down; it’s just so transcendentally brilliant the way that he shot that moment and that song and that stage.”

Responding to Cassidy’s question about how he shot the concert footage in Augusta, Griffin said: “Kopple has amazing instincts and told him to film the show. I remember Jean Tsien [editor] in the editing room said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if she in the middle of Get Up and Get Out, she stopped and started to witness to the crowd?’ I went, ‘Jean, that’s a great idea’ and it’s exactly what she did. I mean it was like (turns to Tsien) you were channeling over there and it was just amazing.”

Kopple, after an audience member asked about Sharon’s wardrobe: “She’s so great when she’s trying things on. She puts heels on and she models in front of the window and the mirrors. She just loves it. She’s a joy to take anywhere.”

Griffin on an audience member’s question about filming Sharon in the church when she’s witnessing: “When I said when you fall in love with Sharon, it’s an emotional connection and you just feel her and your part of her.”

Cassidy’s mom asked if Sharon had finished the paint-by-number piece that she worked on when she was ill and he said she surprised him by gifting it to him and it now hangs in his office: “It’s just beautiful and one day hopefully it will be in a museum after she’s won her Grammy and sold a million records [in the film, Jones said that she wants to sell a million records].”

Saxophone player Neal Sugarman on Sharon’s performances after her illness: “I think Sharon’s singing harder and better than she’s ever sung in her life. As David talks about in that last scene, that to me is what we’re seeing every night. There’s something that’s happened where she’s just even more grateful every night that she’s singing and everyone should take advantage of seeing this American gift that we have.”

Backup singer Saundra “Saun” Williams on meeting Sharon and fellow backup singer Starr Duncan Lowe: “Starr and I and Sharon, I call us the ‘trifecta.’ It’s because for some reason the universe saw to bring the three of us together years ago. I met Star in 1986 at an open mike and we met Sharon together in ’91 and just to be a part of this is amazing.”

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Photo by Kimberly Cecchini / Montclair Film Festival

Kopple on Sharon’s recent birthday: “As Jean mentioned, on May 4th, Sharon turned 60. She was in Augusta and she was performing with the James Brown Band and was just knocking herself out. She had lunch on her birthday with James Brown’s daughter and so she is so happy.”

Check out more great photos from our closing night film!

Written by MFF blogger Kimberly Cecchini.

Norman Reedus Conversation

If you’ve seen the footage from The Beatles’ famed appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show — the swaying, spellbound audience shrieking, beaming, quaking, hyperventilating — then you have a pretty good idea of how things went when Norman Reedus joined Montclair Film Festival 2016 for a spirited discussion, part of MFF’s In Conversation series.

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

When moderator (and Montclair resident) Joel Stillerman, President of Original Programming at AMC and Sundance TV, called Reedus out on stage, the theater exploded with the thunderous caterwauls of excitement and affection from hundreds of Daryl devotees. Throughout the event, lone voices would boom from the audience, “WE LOVE YOU!” or “NORMAN REEDUS FOR PRESIDENT!” followed by whoops of assent around the theater. One might expect an actor with this level of acclaim to get a little big for his britches, but Reedus received his welcome warmly, even shyly, and that only adds to his appeal.

Stillerman kicked off the conversation by asking Reedus about his childhood. Even when picturing Reedus as a kid, it’s easy to imagine him wielding a crossbow and wearing a leather vest and a scowl, but he assured the audience he was anything but a smooth operator. “I was definitely not the cool kid,” he said. “I had braces at one point, and I was super pigeon-toed.” But there was a mischievous streak in him even then. “There was this cool kid with a mohawk who worked at a yogurt shop, and I remembered he had tools in the back,” he recalled, laughing. “I took wire cutters [to the braces] and — ka-tink, ka-tink! — which completely shredded my mouth.”

Leaving home at a very early age had a profound effect on Reedus both personally and professionally, especially when it came to playing a man as self-sufficient as Daryl. “At the time that I left, it was definitely time to go. All those experiences like that, especially as a little kid, help you make things,” he said. “There’s a certain level of honesty that you can’t really fake. People ask me like, ‘How do you become an actor?’ One of the first things you should do is pack a bag and go around the world, gain some life experiences.” He remembered his arrival in Los Angeles and his first foray into acting: “Somebody invited me to an acting class. I went in there, looked at everybody, and was like, ‘There is no way I am coming back here.’ I think a lot of it was just to get the nerve up to try something new.”

It was on the set of his debut film, Floating, that he recognized his full potential as an actor, and how he could channel his own experiences into a powerful performance. In the film, Reedus plays Van, whose father is confined to a wheelchair as the result of a drunk driving accident. There is a particularly emotional scene when Van’s father gets out of the wheelchair to hug his son; Reedus, on his first film set, wasn’t sure what to do. “The director said, ‘What are you going to do to prepare?’ I was that green,” he recalled. “He gives me a phone and I call my real dad, who was, coincidentally, in a wheelchair, and we had a normal conversation.” Emotionally cocked, he hung up the phone and filmed the scene, crying so much on the first take that snot poured torrentially down his face, rendering the shot unusable. When the group broke for lunch, a defeated Reedus retreated to his trailer, only to have an epiphany. “I begged them to use [the take], but they wouldn’t,” he said. “I went back to my trailer and took a nap, and this grip came up and said, ‘I know you’ve never been in a movie before, but I want to tell you that nobody spoke at lunch. They barely touched their food.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what this is.’ And then I kind of got hooked.”

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Kimberly Cecchini / Montclair Film Festival

“You’re always trying to find yourself,” he added. “I think all those moments growing up help you be that open person.”

While playing a character as revered as Daryl Dixon on a number-one television show has its perquisites, there are also some drawbacks, especially for an actor Stillerman described as “all about the work, who would do it for free.” When asked about the “trappings” of fame and fortune, Reedus commented on how “knowing too much” about an actor can disrupt the immersive fantasy of the film-going experience. Additionally, the Internet, especially social media, has allowed wider access than ever before into the private lives of actors and celebrities, and the lines between role and actor often blur. “People think you’re your character,” he said.

Reedus affirmed his gratitude for the critical and commercial acclaim of his work, but he acknowledged that the lack of anonymity can prove stressful. “I can’t go to the store anymore,” he lamented. “Even on the flight here this morning, after working all night and getting all beat up, feeling cranky in the morning, there go people [recording] with their cell phones, and I’m like, ‘I know what you’re doing!’” On another recent flight, Reedus recounted, he had to finish his sandwich in the lavatory because everyone was videotaping him eating.

Although he is best known as an actor, Reedus is also an accomplished photographer of a published collection (The Sun’s Coming Up…Like a Big Bald Head), and Stillerman invited him to discuss his affinity for the art form. He charmingly downplayed the label. “It’s weird to call myself a photographer because there are so many photographers who know way more than I do,” he said. “I just take pictures. I’m not an artist; I just make art. I just act in things.” He shifted the conversation toward the short film that he wrote, directed, shot, and edited himself. One of the shorts developed in 2005 while Reedus was convalescing in a German hospital following a serious car accident in Berlin. Reedus feared that he would never act again. After reading a piece about Miles Davis and receiving a gift of green plastic army men from a friend, he got an idea. “I’m in a hospital gown with a patch over my eye and my whole head was hamburger, and I wrote a script in my head about being inside the head of Miles Davis,” he said, using the green army men to block shots.

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Returning to the source of his creative impulses, Reedus revealed, “I like to take really dark things and find beauty in them.” The subjects in The Sun’s Coming Up… Like a Big Bald Head (titled after a Laurie Anderson lyric) range from tender, sun-dappled shots of Reedus’s son to up-close roadkill and taxidermy to fetishistic portraits of wolf-masked women pouring syrup on a stack of flapjacks. The masks are a recurring motif, as Reedus is an avid collector of masks. “I like the idea of hiding behind a mask,” he explained. “I wear sunglasses all the time. You feel a little more comfortable being faceless.”

Motorcycles are another passion, which dates back to the outlaw days of his youth spent cruising around town looking for mischief, zigzagging down side-streets with the cops struggling to hold their pursuit. Reedus joked about his innumerable accidents and the steady stream of stitches he received from popping wheelies downhill on a friend’s ride. Stillerman announced that Reedus’s new show Ride with Norman Reedus will air on June 12 on AMC. In this documentary travel series, Reedus will ride his chopper to a different city alongside a special guest each week, waxing badass on biker culture, celebrating the top motorcycle craftsmen and mechanics, and visiting the most beloved tattoo parlors, bike shops, and dive bars.

“That’s what I love about this show: a lot of it’s off the cuff,” he reflected. “You meet these super-interesting people and it’s kind of like how you would talk to a therapist or a bartender after a while, because you’re with each other so much. You really feel like you get to know each other. It’s such an interesting show and it’s so fun.”

From there, Stillerman steered the conversation back to the serendipitous start of Reedus’s acting career. “I met someone while drinking at a party, so I strongly recommend going out drinking,” he quipped, prompting applause from the crowd. “I was screaming on a balcony, which I thought was funny, and had broken some glasses and somehow that led to me being introduced to someone who was directing a play. I got cast as the understudy and the guy didn’t show up for the first day, so I went with it. I did the play and [casting director] Lora Kennedy was in the audience, and she ended up casting me in The Boondock Saints.” The film, considered Reedus’s breakout, was a smash.

In both The Boondock Saints and The Walking Dead, moral ambiguity is a prominent theme. Stillerman wondered if Reedus gravitated toward roles and plots that explore that ambiguity. “It’s so complicated — what paths people choose to take and the reasons they choose to take them,” he said. “What are you willing to fight for? What are you unwilling to fight for? You have to pick your battles, and it’s a real opportunity to show what you’re made of.” This is especially true in the world of The Walking Dead, where the fights occur largely out of self-preservation. “You’re not trying to impress anyone,” he said. “When your back’s up against the wall, you swing a little bit differently.”

What followed was a more in-depth conversation about The Walking Dead and its inception, to the delight of the cheering audience. Reedus had heard of the massively popular comics but had not read them until he was hired for the show. “I bulked up on the comics, but I’m not in the comics so I didn’t know if that was the right thing to do,” he joked. Reedus had originally auditioned for the role of Merle Dixon, Daryl’s firebrand brother. The crew was so impressed with Reedus that they created the character of Daryl in order to feature him on the show; he would go on to become the series’ most popular character.

What was it that initially drew him to the character? “He had such a chip on his shoulder,” Reedus explained. “When I first came to set in Episode 3, that whole cast was already friends and had done publicity shots, had bonded, and I was this new kid. When I gave my first lines with Merle, I turned around and saw all these new faces, and automatically I felt like the odd guy out.” The original trajectory for Daryl was markedly different than what we see on the show, and Reedus is grateful for that. “The deal was he was always going to be Mini-Merle. It’s like being trapped inside of a trap. I remember, in those earlier scripts, they had me taking drugs and saying racist stuff. I want to be in Al-Anon; I don’t want to be in Alcoholics Anonymous,” he said. “I want to have grown up with that but not be proud of that. And now that [Merle] is out of the way, it gives him an opportunity to be the man that he never would have actually become if Merle was still around during the apocalypse. It gives him all these reasons to shed layers.”

Over six seasons, Daryl Dixon has grown from a feral misanthrope into a much more richly textured, complicated character. But he hasn’t lost his bite. “If you were in an alley and you found a coyote, it would snarl at you, but if somehow you could get a little closer the next day, and a little closer the next day, feed it and pet it, it would just stay here,” Reedus said, gesturing down near his legs. “But it would snap still. Sometimes [Daryl] snaps even harder than he would have before, because he has to fight for it. I like being that guy.”

Photo by Kimberly Cecchini / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Toward the end of the conversation, the floor was opened to questions from the audience, to whom Reedus gave a warm reception. The first question began with a profession of undying love, followed by an acknowledgment of those (apparently few) Walking Dead fans who hate Daryl. “When you play in a show that’s so emotional, people have their favorites,” said Reedus. “I think if you make art, the idea is to have people talk about it, so any talking is a compliment, really.”

Deirdre, an acting student at Montclair State University, asked Reedus about how his process differs when playing a character over many years as opposed to one-time role. “This is my first long run of anything and it’s great! Little things turn into storylines sometimes. You can do something way over here and pick it up way over there, especially interacting with the other actors,” he replied. “You get to know them personally and the bond is stronger, so you play off each other better because you know what the other is thinking.”

When asked about whether Daryl would eventually fall in love or have a sexual relationship, Reedus said, “Once you do it, it’s done. I don’t think he’s that type of guy yet. If he falls in love, he’ll always be in love. I don’t think he’s a ‘throw you against a tree in the moonlight’ kind of dude.”

Music was revealed to be another profound source of inspiration for Reedus when preparing for a scene. “Last night was a lot of Slayer,” he laughed. “Andy [Lincoln] and I swap music all the time. I always thought it would be interesting to get the cast together and make a playlist of all the bigger scenes and what they were listening to.”

Another audience member asked whether Reedus would like to continue directing; the answer was an emphatic yes. He expressed an interest in directing short films and music videos, and also mentioned a feature he’d written with a friend several years ago and was talking to the late Heath Ledger about starring in.

Reedus also discussed a restaurant he is opening with special effects artist Greg Nicotero. It is called Nic & Norman’s and will be located in Senoia, Georgia. The Walking Dead has previously filmed in Senoia.

Dana, an English teacher, asked about the best life lesson Reedus learned from Daryl. “That it’s okay to be you,” he said. “It’s something I wish I’d said to myself as a kid: it’s okay to be you.”

Toward the end of the evening, a flustered audience member stuttered, stammered, and sweated until, overwhelmed with Reedus fever, she had to take a seat to steady herself and allowed another person to take her place. Reedus was so tickled by this that he picked up what appeared to be three foot-tall painted statue of Daryl, strolled to the edge of the stage, and handed it to her, which did not aid in her resuscitation. A laughing Stillerman explained that, unbeknownst to Reedus, he’d set that one-of-a-kind statue up simply as a stage decoration. “Don’t sell that on eBay; if we see that on eBay, we’re going to find you,” he said dryly.

“Thank you for just being a regular guy that anyone can go up to,” said the next patron simply, to which the audience roared with applause. Reedus thanked her graciously.

Reedus was asked about whether he was actually handy with a crossbow off-camera, and he boasted about his legitimate talent. He relayed a story about his appearance on a live Japanese television show, on which he was challenged to hit an impossibly tiny target from a great distance. To the shock and frenzied excitement of the showrunners and audience, he was successful.

Since directing has become a major interest, Reedus discussed how it impacts the decisions he makes when acting and vice versa. “They both can be stressful, but they’re different,” he said. “Behind the camera, you’re looking at a bunch of different stuff, but in front of the camera, you have to concentrate on yourself.”

The last question of the evening came from a young girl who asked, “Why are you so cool?” and he closed out the night by doling more of The Walking Dead items on stage to members of the audience.

View more awesome pics from MFF16’s Conversation with Norman Reedus.

Written by MFF blogger Michael Traynor.

Young Voices Conversation

What do young people have on their minds today? The subjects that teens and pre-teens explore when creating films provide fascinating insights into their ideas, hopes, dreams, and deeply felt concerns. Using a selection of submissions to MFF16’s Emerging Filmmaker Competition as a platform for discussion, Young Voices: A Community Conversation held last Wednesday allowed us to talk about the concerns of local youth and examine how our community can provide a safety net to support them.

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Photo by Brad Resnick / Montclair Film Festival

Moderated by John Mooney, Founding Editor and Education Writer of NJ Spotlight, panelists included:

  • Betty Strauss, MA, RN, NCSN, District Head Nurse, Montclair Public Schools
  • Sonja B Gray MD, Gray Consulting Services INC
  • Andrew D. Evangelista, LCSW, LCADC, DRCC, Student Assistance Counselor, Montclair Public Schools
  • Linda B. Mithaug, Director of Pupil Services, Montclair Public Schools

Below are highlights from this important discussion.

Sue Hollenberg, Montclair Film Festival Education Director: “Montclair Film Festival was so thrilled to partner on this critical community conversation. These films are a window into the types of issues kids deal with on a daily basis and we look forward to exploring ways to use film to help kids find their voice.”

Jahleel Giles, award-winning student filmmaker: “The films presented show not only what students feel within themselves but also how society has affected their everyday lives.”

Jailene Perez, award-winning student filmmaker: “Society has a huge impact on us kids today—we tend not to be ourselves. Our film goes to show that we shouldn’t depend on other people to define who we are.”

Al-Nafi M. Walker, award-winning student filmmaker: “Our film shows that it’s okay to be yourself. At one point in my life, it was hard to be myself… With this conversation I’m proud and happy that adults are aware of these tough times in teens lives.”

Tonjia Walker, mother of an award-winning student filmmaker: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

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Photo by Brad Resnick / Montclair Film Festival

Emily Borilla, media literacy teacher of the award-winning student filmmakers: “Engaging youth and providing them a safe space to discuss their feelings or thoughts about the world will encourage compassion within our schools.”

Andrew Evangelista: “The younger generation is amazing… they have many hurdles to overcome on the way to being adults.”

Betty Strauss: “Wonderful that Montclair Film Fest and Partners for Health hosted an event to highlight the physical and mental health needs of youth in our community.”

John Mooney: “It is just so important we talk about these issues as a community—not just for these kids, of course, but also for their families who struggle with issues of mental health in teens and younger. Uncomfortable conversations. We must force it and have more of them.”

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Pam Scott, Executive Director, Partners for Health Foundation: “This conversation is only the beginning. Partners For Health is exploring ways to continue to work with the Montclair Film Festival to build a culture of caring and youth resiliency.”

Steve Smith, audience member: “The films and the panel were fantastic! I am now moved to attend and view Emerging Filmmaker Competition films.”

Written by MFF blogger Karen Haas.

Rob Reiner Conversation

Montclair Film Festival 2016 was thrilled to welcome the inimitable Rob Reiner last Sunday, May 1, for a laughter-filled and memorable discussion with Late Show host Stephen Colbert as part of our In Conversation series, presented by Audible.

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

THIS IS SPINAL TAP. THE PRINCESS BRIDE. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. STAND BY ME. MISERY. A FEW GOOD MEN. All Rob Reiner films, each one becoming a favorite filled with unforgettable quotes (“I’ll have what she’s having!”) that fans re-watch obsessively again and again.

Reiner delighted the MFF16 audience by sharing tidbits about these classics, reminiscing about his childhood, time as a comedy writer, improviser and actor, transition to acclaimed director, and his other passion, political activism. (Reiner and his wife Michele helped form The American Foundation for Equal Rights.)

Here are our favorite highlights from the conversation.

MFF Executive Director Tom Hall, as he prepared to read out a list of Reiner’s accomplishments before introducing him: “I was going to say to hold your applause for the end. But why?”

Stephen Colbert, after quoting Director Richard Curtis (FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, LOVE ACTUALLY) as saying that Reiner had directed the two greatest romantic comedies on screen, asked Reiner which two he thought they were and Reiner replied: “MISERY.”

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

On where Reiner’s lifetime of political work comes from: “Well, it did come from the family. When I was growing up, the Vietnam War was going on . . . I was raised in a very political atmosphere. . . . [Also] my wife, Michele. I can honestly say the reason I’ve done as many things in the political sphere is largely because of her. . . . She is my Bunsen burner that lights the flame in my ass.”

Colbert mentions that Rob’s father is the great Carl Reiner and he’s never met him, and Rob quips back: “Really? Funny enough, neither have I.”

On whether anything in The Dick Van Dyke Show was taken from the Reiner family: “When he [Carl Reiner] did Van Dyke . . . he would write all the shows. And I always knew when he was struggling because he’d come in and say ‘Anything interesting happening?’”

Reiner on The Smothers Brothers Show, where he had his first writing job at 21 years old, working alongside another comedian named Steve Martin: “It was at the time a very edgy show. We were way beyond the edge of the envelope . . . . we were doing anti-war stuff, there was racial tension, Harry Belafonte was on. Before we even got to shoot, they [CBS] would say, ‘We’re not doing the sketch’ . . . But we [Martin and I] did write the very first fart joke ever done on national television.”

Reiner on All in the Family: “We knew we were making a good show. We knew it was real, it was honest. But we didn’t know how the audience would take to it. And the network was scared of it. They put a big disclaimer at the beginning of the show . . . We don’t know how it got on the air . . . This was the first thing that really showed a real blue-collar family and dealt with real issues of the day . . . Norman [Lear], to his credit, he pushed us even further.”

Colbert: “I remember my parents’ reaction to it at the time. My mom and dad were supposed to be going someplace . . . and they were late because they were sitting on the edge of the bed, saying, ‘What the hell is this television show?’”

On his character’s nickname: “What I always found funny was that I was a meathead based on the perception of a guy who was a bigot. An ignorant bigot was calling me Meathead!”

Colbert: “What would you call him [Archie Bunker] today?

Reiner: “Donald Trump! Archie would definitely have voted for Donald Trump.”

On THIS IS SPINAL TAP: “I always wanted to direct. I’d directed theater, but I always wanted to direct film . . . In those days, if you were in TV, you were like a second class. So it was a very tough transition. I was raised on improvisation . . . For years, people would say, ‘I can’t believe the first film you ever made had no script.’”

On being a director: “Everyone thinks you’re a schmuck at some point. There’s a lot of good directors who are actors . . . if you’re telling a character-based story about the human condition, it’s better if you know what you can do.”

On directing BEING CHARLIE, the autobiographical film written by his son: “This was the most emotional creative experience I’ve ever had.”

On LBJ, his just-completed film: “[When I was younger], as far as I was concerned, Johnson was the devil. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had greater and greater respect for what he got done. He’s almost Shakespearean.”

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Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

On the current presidential race and whether Reiner’s feeling the Bern: “At some point, you have to look at reality and say, ‘Do you want Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?’”

In response to an audience question about whether it was more important to think about what the audience thinks is funny or what he thinks is funny: “You’ve got to tickle yourself. You’ve got to make yourself laugh first.”

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Check out more fab photos from Stephen Colbert’s conversation with Rob Reiner.

Written by MFF blogger Karen Backstein.

Masters of the Score

Montclair Film Festival 2016 hosted an informative, fun and free community conversation, Masters of the Score: Sound Design for Film, Audio, and Games, last Saturday at the Audible Lounge, presented by Audible.

Photo by Racehl Moehl / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Racehl Moehl / Montclair Film Festival

The score is a narrative workhorse. It can establish mood, focus attention, illuminate the inner life of characters, and announce structure. In the hands of a master, it can be dazzlingly remarkable or utterly unnoticeable. Moderated by Ellen Horne, Executive Producer, Audible Original Content, panel guests included:

  • Composer and designer for film, Nathan Johnson (Brick, Looper)
  • Sound designers for podcasting, Mark Phillips (Serial) and Dylan Keefe (Radiolab)
  • Sound designer for video games, Caleb Epps (Dawngate, and Rock Band versions 2,3, Beatles, and Lego)

Here are some highlights from their conversation.

Ellen Horne kicked things off by asking, “What are some of the things that you hate the most when it comes to sound design, what are your ‘pet peeves’?”

Caleb Epps: “I can’t stand sound taken from libraries, I prefer more natural sound, sounds taken from nature. I will actually spend time with my recorder wandering around just recording great sounds.”

Nathan Johnson: “The general direction towards perfection bothers me. I don’t like slick, perfect sounds. There is after all something to be said for the imperfections… life after all isn’t perfect.”

Dylan Keefe: “When a sound designer constantly adds sound as exposition—to explain how you are supposed to be feeling—is a prevalent and unnerving problem that I adamantly try to avoid, because it is a cheap workaround.”

Mark Phillips: “I hate bad acoustics, in life as well as professionally. I feel that it detracts from the feeling and experience in the moment.”

Dylan Keefe on the unique experience of creating a visual through sound and pacing on podcasts: “Since sound designers are used to designing to pictures it is not easy. It involves creating atmosphere and environment by sometimes leading with sound, but at times following, it depends on the kind of mood you are trying to generate.

Usually it is not the pacing that makes the difference, it is usually just the selected music and sounds used that change the overall feeling and the imagery that it creates it a person’s mind. After time and time again, a host or narrator will pick up a conscious rhythm that fits the show that is being produced. It takes practice and time.”

Nathan Johnson on how he gets into the director’s brain to understand the characters how the budget of a film effects sound design: “It often just involves reading through the character descriptions and trying out different traditional melodies using out of the ordinary sounds. The budget doesn’t really have that much of an effect on sound design, other than the fact that I can use more sophisticated sounds, field recordings, keyboard influences. I get to play around with more city sounds as I will wander around the area while on location picking up local sounds.”

Caleb Epps on how sound design for video games is different than sound design for film and podcasts: “Video games are exceptionally broad, there is every type of game imaginable out there and sound is an extremely important part of the gaming experience. As a sound designer you must approach video games very carefully, you are after all feeding information to the player so that they can play the game… and play it effectively. It is a conversation, and you are always being asked something, and you are always telling something to the player.

I am working with six different elements; focus, timing, density [of sound], dynamics, music, and the mix. The problem is that while in a film, the director and producer have complete control over all the element in the film… for me, the player has control over the focus and the timing, and they are constantly changing!

Fortunately I have algorithmic systems that help with those uncontrolled variables. These systems work according to what the player is doing; it helps create a responsive environment that gives the player that realistic experience.

There are a lot of sounds that are going on in our everyday lives, but it is my job to bring out the important sounds, those necessary to accomplish the task or tasks necessary in the game.”

Photo by Racehl Moehl / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Racehl Moehl / Montclair Film Festival

 

Dylan Keefe on how the pace of everyday life has effected his art: “It is a motivator. You have to get the work done, and you have to live your life too. New technology tends to change your whole workflow and anything that speeds up work is helpful.

Mr. Epps added: “You keep trying to make sound perfect.”

Written by MFF blogger Christopher Dixon.

Richard Curtis on Love Actually

In Richard Curtis’ LOVE ACTUALLY, nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Montclair Film Festival 2016 was privileged to present a special screening of the film last Saturday as Richard and his life partner Emma Freud provided live commentary, sharing stories and secrets from behind the scenes of this beloved classic.

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Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

We’ve put together our favorite quotes below!

“Now about this first section—the bit in the airport where people hug each other—it was very interesting, we actually hid in a little black box at the airport and we actually shot through a little hole. Anytime we saw something that we thought was vaguely moving we’d send out a production assistant with a little card saying it was fine [to use it]. What you see there was all edited by Emma, it took one day to knock it off and we never changed it.”

Regarding the Billy Mac aging rocker: “I wrote this part for two very famous people and I couldn’t decide which one of the two to play the part. So when we had the read-through I said to Mary [Selway], who cast the movie, ‘Can you get a nice actor who I will definitely not cast?’ And she said, ‘How about Bill Nighy?’ And I’ve seen his work and I didn’t care for it. And so I thought he’ll be perfect. Bill came along and did it so perfectly that we cast him that afternoon. And he’s been in everything I’ve done since.”

“The strange thing about LOVE ACTUALLY is that almost the happiest moment of my life is the original read-through of the film that went really, really well. It was just the actors we cast sitting around a table. And then we shot the film, and the edit of exactly that film was unwatchable, it was the worst ever. So all this intercutting of all these stories was not how the movie was planned. It was meant to be one long scene and then another and there was no intercutting, but the problem was it didn’t work at all. It worked as a script but not as a film. So through six months [of editing] in a sort of three-dimensional chess game we came up with different orders of scenes and what you’re watching now.”

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

On the set built to replicate 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s (Hugh Grant) residence: “That was the most expensive set we used for the film, we built it and it was up for a few weeks. It turned out five other movies used it.”

On the funeral scene: “The inspiration for that scene came from the funeral for Jim Henson, and all the people who worked [with Jim] brought their puppets. So what happened was there was this huge audience of people and then all of a sudden there was this audience full of Muppets singing together, Big Bird singing! So that’s where I got this idea of everyone bringing their instruments and playing.”

Keira (Knightley) was just delightful, she is exactly what you see, just charming and smiling. She was maybe—what—19 years old? I asked her what she was doing next and she said, ‘Some dodgy pirate movie.'”

“I was quite in love with Alan Rickman and I always felt he was a better actor than I was a director and I always felt he knew that.”

Regarding the scene set in France with Colin Firth: “This was one of the happiest times of the shoot; we actually went to France for this. That lake where Colin loses his script is about 11 inches deep. No one inspected the depth of the lake! So you see them sort of lying around pretending to be swimming. And all the stammering that Colin does we should have gotten 5% of his pay for THE KING’S SPEECH—he was practicing in our movie!”

Regarding the Juliet (Keira) montage wedding videos scene: “This whole sequence obviously was stolen from CINEMA PARADISO. I’d watched that and it suddenly occurred to me that the bit at the end where they edit together the kisses from the whole movie was perfect. And I love these scenes, as none of these scenes were shot by me. We just hired this guy and said, ‘Walk around and take beautiful pictures of Keira,’ and he did such a lovely job, and I love that scene.”

“When we were auditioning FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERALwe couldn’t find anyone to play Charles, and I didn’t want Hugh Grant to audition for the film because I thought he was too handsome, and I thought it would ruin the film to have a guy that handsome who wouldn’t have a girlfriend. And finally he came in and it was like the difference between night and day. He did every single line absolutely perfectly and we just had to accept the fact that he was moderately good looking. It turned out to be a good move for both of us. It will be interesting to see how he does in the new movie with Meryl Streep where he plays his age [FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS].”

“The funny thing about watching movies after you’ve made them is that it’s completely impossible to see them as fiction. What it is for me—it’s kind of like watching various sections of my diary of a very difficult 12-week period, and all I can remember is a huge fight with the lighting man because it took him three hours to light the set and then we did two takes or something and he says, ‘If we go on like this mate, we’ll never get finished today.’ And I had to pull him aside and say, ‘If it didn’t take you three hours to light this scene we’d be nearly finished.’ So while you’re watching two people fall in love I’m thinking I could f—ing kill this cameraman!”

“One of the first films I ever made was with Emma Thompson—THE TALL GUY, and I’d known her as a sort of sketch actress, and she wasn’t the world’s best sketch actress, there was something slightly old-fashioned about the way she performed. I remember again, showing my general bad taste, that I didn’t want her to audition for the film. We auditioned other people for the film, but within 12 seconds of watching her audition—when she was 23—you could tell she was going to be one of the great movie actresses of our time.”

“I’ve increasingly realized that when I was writing this film about ‘love’ and you ‘do the math,’ you realize that love comes in various shapes and sizes. Now I look back I think it’s as much a film about friendship and other kinds of love as it is about the romances. I tried to pepper this movie with family and friends, and that’s as much what this film is about as all the romance.”

On Rufus’s (Roman Atkinson) scene at the jewelry store: “Now this was a very bad night. What happened was that Rowan had several things to do, but he made this decision that he would take as long as he liked, so each take took fifteen minutes. And he kept doing them again and again, and then he’d break out of character and say, ‘Which one was funnier, do you think we should do that one again?’ And Alan Rickman went bananas by the end of the night because he just had to stand there and react!”

On one of the key Christmas songs in the movie: “I wanted to get Baby Please Come Home by Darlene Love, but in order to get a Phil Spector song you have to get Phil Spector’s personal permission, but he was on trial for murder, and didn’t have time to answer my request…”

On Karen’s (Emma Thompson) crying scene in the bedroom after learning the jewelry Christmas present was not for her: “This was the easiest scene in the film for me. I just said ‘action’ and I did three shots on each level [wide, medium, close].” Emma: “She did the scene 9 times and she cried in every one.”

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

“All my films are written to music. Basically, they’re all very shallow! I need the music to cheer me up because I’m a very deep person in real life. So this is the song I listened to basically every single day when I was writing the film. It got me out of my ‘difficult household.’” (Emma smiles back. The song is All I Want For Christmas is You.)” Emma: ‘Everyone thinks she [the young girl singing the song at the school Christmas pageant] is lip-synching, and she was nine or ten years old, but that was her.”

“Rowan is at the airport scene as actually, in an earlier draft, he was sort of a Christmas Angel, like Clarence [in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE], but most of that was cut out, but he is helpful at the airport and that’s why he’s there.”

Click here for more photos from this special event!

Written by MFF blogger John Yurko.

Patrick Wilson Conversation

Patrick Wilson is one of our most versatile actors, with many memorable roles on Broadway, including Tony Award nominations for his roles in Oklahoma and The Full Monty and in film and television, including his brilliant, Golden Globe-nominated performance as police officer Lou Solverson on season two of FX’s FargoPHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LITTLE CHILDREN, WATCHMEN, INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING are among his film credits.

Neil Genzlinger, Film & TV Critic from The New York Times, had a lively chat with Patrick last Sunday as part of Montclair Film Festival 2016’s In Conversation series, presented by Audible.

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Here are some highlights from their discussion.

About being cast in the series Fargo: “A lot of people were clamoring to get the jobs. Luckily, they came to me. When you’re playing a guy who is very understated, I wondered, why are they making a play for me?”

On the development of his character, Lou Solversen: “Lou is a hell of a cop. Because of watching his wife go through cancer, he became a better cop.”

On keeping Lou’s persona deadpan: “We shot the first episodes and felt parts of it were too comedic. When you’re standing there in a big maroon outfit and a ridiculous hat with a brim, it doesn’t take much to be comedic.”

On perfecting his Minnesota accent for the role of Lou: “I never had to do that. I was born in Virginia. I love the technique of film acting. We had this amazing dialect coach, but even if he had to go, he would help out, certainly for the first episodes. He would always listen. Some actors don’t like that, but I felt if I don’t get it right on the first take… you don’t want to screw it up.”

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

On balancing his personal life with filming the series: “The show had to work with my life… two weeks here [Montclair] and two weeks there…”

About his theatrical career and going back to Broadway: “It’s the complete opposite lifestyle of being in films. I don’t look that far ahead. With a Broadway show, when I want to go back, I want it to be something great, and my resume speaks to that, so if I want to go back, I want to do a great musical. I did a reading a couple of weeks ago, but for a musical, they want a big commitment. When I do a show, I’m all in. That’s a long answer. I should have said, yes, I’m looking.”

About resume building and not just being in musicals: “I remember leaving a musical to do a play. My agents weren’t supportive of it. I remember early on, I don’t want to be the musical theater guy. It’s opportunities you are given. It’s not necessarily about the money that I get. It’s about getting people to see it so I get more opportunities. But then you give everything you’ve got for a role, and you say, well, that felt good for me.”

About his upcoming movie: “It’s THE FOUNDER with Michael Keaton. He was really one of the reasons I became an actor. I waited until about day four [of making the movie] to tell him that.”

About what the making of Angels in America meant to him: “I can say I would not have a film career without Angels in America. Mike Nichols called me. He had seen me in The Full Monty. It took Mike to see me. To a lot of people, that was the pinnacle of my career. To watch how Streep and Pacino worked was a gift but also a real lesson.”

About advice for young actors on interacting with directors: “I think I would tell young actors not to be afraid to talk to directors about how to cover a scene. I think the more knowledge you have about how a scene should be shot, that only comes from a conversation with the director. I think you need to be proactive.”

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Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

View more photos of our conversation with Patrick Wilson!

Written by MFF blogger Joyce Kaffel.

Margo Martindale Conversation

The incomparable Margo Martindale has been seen in countless notable films of the past two decades including MILLION DOLLAR BABY, DEAD MAN WALKING, NOBODY’S FOOL, LORENZO’S OIL, THE HOURS, PRACTICAL MAGIC, and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. Martindale’s work on The Americans most recently won her an 2015 Emmy for “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series,” and she received the “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series” Emmy in 2011 for her portrayal of ‘Mags Bennett’ on Justified. Margo recently wrapped the final season of CBS’ The Good Wife and begins shooting her new Amazon show Sneaky Pete this summer.

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Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Montclair Film Festival 2016 was absolutely delighted to talk with Margo last Sunday at the MKA Upper School about her extensive and distinguished career in acting. Moderated by television writer Jason Lynch, here are some wonderful highlights from the In Conversation series, presented by Audible.

“I waited all my life to get all this work, and I love every moment of it.”

On the Off-Broadway production of Steel Magnolias: “We didn’t know what we had landed in… we didn’t know it was a comedy until we got in front of an audience, and people went wild, and then everybody from Hollywood came to see it, and then I got in the movies. That’s really how it happened.”

“I remember [during LORENZO’S OIL] being so calm and thinking, ‘This is it!’ Not that I’d made it, but this is what I want.”

On working with Paul Newman on NOBODY’S FOOL: “I was so shy to sit at the table having lunch with Paul Newman that I took my lunch and sat at another table… We got to know each other on the re-shoots. And then I got to die in his arms on the next movie, so that was great.”

On Clint Eastwood: “He’s fabulous. Three shots and you’re out. He says, ‘Just do what you did, Margo.’ He wants to get to the golf course.”

“When MILLION DOLLARY BABY came out, and I got really nice notices, and I had just come off Cat [on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway] and for six months I didn’t get a job, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m not back to square one again, am I?’ Show business is not like any other business; you’re almost always back to square one. I think I finally stopped being back to square one after winning an Emmy.”

On getting cast in JUSTIFIED: “My agent called and said, ‘They want you to come and audition for this drug-lord woman in the hills of Kentucky,’ and I said, ‘Oh please, do I have to come and audition for that?’ But then I read it, and I said, ‘Anywhere I have to go, that’s the greatest part I’ve ever seen.'”

On Mags Bennett: “That part came to me easier than anything I’ve ever done. It was so simple for me. I didn’t have to reach to be anything but what I am. I didn’t have to change my voice. I could use all of my lower register. I didn’t have to put on airs of any kind. I could wear a big belt around my big belly and put hammers and things in my waist. It was the most free I’ve ever been. It wasn’t challenging. It was like flying. I hope in my life I get to do something that fits me so well again, but I’m not sure I will.”

“[Winning the Emmy in 2011] was like nothing I will ever get to see again because it was so new. It was fabulous, so fun, and I don’t think anything will ever feel as good as that felt.”

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

Photo by Neil Grabowsky / Montclair Film Festival

On Patrick Wilson: “Working with him I think is the most fun I’ve ever had. He is the funniest, most wonderful person.”

“We were coming home from the Emmys, and I won for The Americans. My husband always checks Wikipedia and stuff like that… [The Emmy] wasn’t on there yet, but it said that the past year and a half Margo Martindale spent in prison for armed robbery. My character on Bojack Horseman, Margo Martindale Character Actress, did go to prison for armed robbery… So we got that taken off real fast!”

On John Krasinski: “We did a Marshall’s commercial together while he was still in college. He was so adorable, I said to him, ‘I don’t have any money, but if I did, I would bet it all on you.’ He didn’t even have an agent. Then the next year I was doing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. John came to see me in it a couple of times. He said, ‘I got a job! I got a pilot, it’s called The Office!’ And I didn’t see him ever again until he called me and said, ‘Would you come do [THE HOLLARS]? I will always remember what you said to me.’ He directed it, Jim Strauss wrote it, and it’s just a perfect little sweet, not sappy movie that will be out August 12.”

Written by MFF blogger Amy Estes.