A warm and heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in the diverse slate of educational programming at the 2016 Montclair Film Festival, which reached thousands of area students and families!
MFF Emerging Filmmakers Showcase and Reception
The MFF’s Emerging Filmmakers Competition celebrates the work of filmmakers from our region in the 4th-12th grade. These films, adjudicated by a jury of local film professionals, represent a wide-range of styles and voices that showcase the diverse talents of young people who are using cinema to tell their stories. Categories include Narrative, Comedy, Documentary and Experimental films, and awards were given in each of these categories, as well as for films that make a social impact. This screening was open to the public and all ages were welcome as we celebrate these outstanding films!
Co-presented by Gelotti.
Young Voices: A Community 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 the festival’s Emerging Filmmaker Competition as a platform for discussion, this panel gave voice to the concerns of local youth and examined how our community can provide a safety net to support our children.
· John Mooney, Founding Editor and Education Writer of NJ Spotlight
· 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
Co-sponsored by Partners for Health Foundation.
The 2016 Junior Jury
The MFF’s 2016 Junior Jury program featured 14 students from 11 different area high schools who viewed six festival films before presenting the 2nd annual Junior Jury Prize at the MFF Filmmaker Award Ceremony on Saturday, May 7, at the Wellmont Theater.
This year’s jurors are Mariam Abukwaik (Montclair Kimberley Academy), Carla Bello (Verona High School), Zivia Berkowitz (Montclair High School), Emma Boatwright (James Caldwell High School), Angelo Capacyachi (Rutherford High School), Henry Christian (Montclair High School), Sam Dixon (Glen Ridge High School), Steven Freeman, Jr. (Newark Tech), Miranda Madrazo (Nutley High School), Jonathan Moore (Gill St. Bernards), Casey Naranjo (Indian Hills High School), Ryan O’Toole (Mount Olive High School), Rowan O’Dair (Montclair High School), and Judson Potenza (Montclair Kimberley Academy).
The MFF offered two free sensory-friendly screenings for children and families. With the lights up and the sound lowered, the theatrical experience of watching a film was made accessible for children and students with autism and other disabilities, allowing audiences the freedom to be themselves at the movies! This program was co-presented with SEPAC (Special Educational Parents Advisory Council) and featured a screening of AN AMERICAN TAIL and FAMILY SHORTS, featuring JOE’S VIOLIN and a Q&A with Director Kahane Cooperman and Producer Raphaela Neihausen.
Spotlight On Immigration
In November 2015, the Montclair Cooperative School, in conjunction with the MFF and Rutgers University’s Newest Americans Project, held an immigration event as part of a global initiative designed to spark conversation about this hot button topic. Students from the Montclair Co-op and Montclair High School screened the movie ELLIS, directed by the artist JR, followed by a powerful discussion led by prominent immigration experts and activists.
Inspired by the discussion Co-op art teacher Debbie Harner envisioned an Immigration Art Installation designed to visually represent who we are as a nation. Utilizing street art techniques such as stenciling and pasting, students from area high schools created imagery to represent their own immigration story and words that reflect the diversity of the American experience.
A public reception to celebrate the artists took place on Sunday, May 1, and the immigration conversation continued at screenings and events throughout the festival. Students’ art was on display in the Audible Lounge, located at 544 Bloomfield Avenue throughout the festival, and their work was sold via silent auction, with proceeds benefitting Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, which seeks to create lasting change by tackling the root causes of poverty and social injustice.
Students In The Cinema
In support of MFF’s Spotlight On Immigration, hundreds of students from Montclair High’s Global Studies, Center for Social Justice, and Women of the World programs, along with students from East Orange Campus High School and Montclair Immaculate Conception High School visited the MFF and attended free screenings of the film SONITA during school days. The screenings were co-presented by Shine Global and followed by a conversation with Erin Williams, Program Officer for International Women’s Health Coalition, and Shine Global co-founder and Executive Director, Susan MacLaury.
The MFF will announce its 2016 Summer Education Programs soon. For more information, please contact MFF Education Director Sue Hollenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before Saturday night’s Closing Night Film MISS SHARON JONES!, MFF16 announced the Festival’s Award winners in a ceremony at The Wellmont Theater.
“We are deeply honored by the fact that so many incredible filmmakers chose to share their work with the festival and our audiences. We thank every one of our filmmakers for their overwhelming generosity,” said MFF Executive Director Tom Hall. “These awards are the festival’s way of honoring work that challenges and inspires us, and we hope they offer further encouragement to the filmmakers to continue making great work.”
Narrative Feature Competition Jury Prize
UNDER THE SHADOW, directed by Babak Anvari
Narrative Feature Competition Special Jury Prize for Direction
Sophia Takal for ALWAYS SHINE
Bruce Sinofsky Prize in the Documentary Feature
CAMERAPERSON, directed by Kirsten Johnson
Documentary Competition Special Jury Prize for Narrative Innovation
TOWER, directed by Keith Maitland
Audience Award Winners
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, directed by Taika Waititi (Narrative Feature)
NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Documentary Feature)
SONITA, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (World Cinema)
JOE’S VIOLIN, directed by Kahane Cooperman (Short Film)
Future/Now Prize, honoring emerging low-budget American independent filmmaking
THE FITS, directed by Anna Rose Holmer
Future/Now Special Jury Prize
Kris Avedisian for his performance in DONALD CRIED
New Jersey Films Award, honoring films made by New Jersey artists
THE WRONG LIGHT, directed by Josie Swantek Heitz and Dave Adams
New Jersey Films Special Jury Prize for Archival Storytelling
SILICON COWBOYS, directed by Jason Cohen
David Carr Award for Truth in Non-Fiction Filmmaking, which honors a film that utilizes journalistic techniques to explore important contemporary subjects
WEINER, directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
MFF Junior Jury prize, given by a 13-member jury comprised of area high school students
GLEASON, directed by Clay Tweel
MFF Junior Jury Special Jury Prize for Social Justice
SONITA, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
Congratulations to the 2016 winners of The Montclair Film Festival Awards!
Last night’s MFF16 Filmmaker Award Ceremony capped our 10-day festival, which featured Richard Curtis, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Laura Linney, Barbara Kopple, Rob Reiner, Margo Martindale, Patrick Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Princess Shaw and more.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Written by MFF blogger Karen Backstein.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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 FUNERAL, we 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.”
“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.”
Written by MFF blogger John Yurko.
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 Fargo. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LITTLE CHILDREN, WATCHMEN, INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING are among his film credits.
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.”
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.”
Written by MFF blogger Joyce Kaffel.
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.
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.”
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.
Since its founding in 2005, the nonprofit organization COSA claimed to be a refuge for at-risk and trafficked girls in Northern Thailand. Led by the charismatic Mickey Choothesa, the sanctuary became known as a rare and safe opportunity for young girls to get an education. In an attempt to capture this heroic story, filmmakers Josie Swantek Heitz and Dave Adams traveled to interview the families and girls who were saved by COSA. But the more questions they asked, the less they knew about what was really going on. Produced by Montclair residents and the team behind the Oscar-winning INOCENTE, THE WRONG LIGHT is the fascinating and troubling account of their quest to find answers. What really happened to these girls? And who is Mickey?
Co-Director and Director of Photography Dave Adams talked to Montclair Film Festival 2016 collectively on behalf of himself and Director/Producer Josie Swantek Heitz about their engrossing and daring documentary film.
How do you describe THE WRONG LIGHT in your own words?
Dave: The film starts as story about girls who have been sold into the sex trade by their parents and rescued by a charismatic former war photographer, Mickey Choothesa. We soon realize that his stories aren’t lining up. Two girls, Fon and Eye, he claimed to have rescued are confronted with his version of their past and fight to reclaim their true identities. What we uncovered over the course of our filming is that Mickey is deceiving all of us—the public, his donors, the girls he claims to protect, and the media circulating stories of his supposed exploits. News outlets such as Vice and PRI used Mickey as a source for their stories as we were investigating his shelter. I think there are elements of a film like SPOTLIGHT as the narrative moves forward and it becomes an investigation. I hope at the end of the film viewers will feel a strong bond with the girls and a call to action to spread the word and find out who Mickey really is.
What drew you to this particular story? Why did you tell this story the way that you did?
Dave: We were approached by Shine Global to make a film with a unique take on sex trafficking in Thailand. The film takes you on the same journey we experienced while making the film. You slowly get to know our characters Fon, Eye and Mickey. Eventually everything you think you know flips. By the midway point of the film you will be in our shoes, not knowing what to believe and who to trust. We wanted to stay true to our experiences and eventually had to break the fourth wall with our cameras because we became part of the film’s narrative.
When filming with Mickey before actually discovering his lie, did you detect any level of deception?
Dave: Mickey was a great storyteller and charismatic. His stories of war, photography, Thailand’s corruption and saving kids from brothels were unbelievable. At first, any inconsistencies in his stories we attributed to his massive workload of running an organization, saving children and having a family in another continent. We loved to hang out with him and thought he was a great guy. As the truth started to be revealed, his heroism crumbled in our minds and we were forced to pretend everything was okay. It was a delicate dance of pressing him for answers without playing our hand. We were constantly worried he might be on to us and shut down our filming.
How was filming with Mickey and the girls in your documentary different than your past projects?
Dave: This was my first feature documentary. I’ve worked on longer form TV in the past, but for most of my career I have worked in short form doc and branded content for the web. Establishing a relationship with your subjects is key in any documentary, but especially during a project that requires you to film for such an extended period of time. It required all of the subjects to be on board with us as we became part of their lives for months.
How did your relationships with the girls in the film change over the course of filming?
Dave: We became closer as the filming moved along, as is to be expected, but after the events of Chinese New Year depicted in the film we all had to work together to figure out what was really going on with Mickey. When the girls secretly record a major scene is when we traded places and they became filmmakers and collaborators. Without their openness we wouldn’t have been able to get very far with our investigation.
Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Dave: When we started this film I thought every scene was going to be beautifully shot on the Red Epic in 4k resolution. That quickly changed as the story evolved. We were using anything we could get our hands on in some situations. Whether it was an iPhone to record audio, a 5d to record an important conversation or Skype recorder for a major interview we were forced to utilize tools we never imagined would have a place in the film. Documentary is about being true to the story and not trying to force it into any preconceived notions that you start with. Let story and characters evolve naturally and you never know what you’ll discover.
What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?
Dave: Always ask the extra question. Be curious. Don’t assume what you are hearing or reading is true. Find out for yourself.
Directors Josie Swantek Heitz and Dave Adams will attend the screenings below.
Interview by MFF blogger Christopher Dixon.
Montclair Film Festival was pleased to host a free community conversation, Our Nation’s Heroes Return: What’s Next?, last Sunday at the Audible Lounge. The panel discussion focused on services for veterans and followed the screening of Tom Donahue’s THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, a documentary about the plight of veterans after returning home from war.
The moderator was Marcy Felsenfeld, Senior Program Officer at the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. Panelists included:
- Tom Donahue, director of THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE
- J. Michael Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer of Community Hope (veteran)
- Tim Arora, Clinical Social Work Intern at Family Connections-Operation Veterans to Social Workers (veteran)
- Terrell McCain, Program Manager of Vet2Vet National Call Program at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (veteran)
- Karen Sacks, Esq., Executive Director of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
Here are some highlights from this timely and very important conversation.
“Nearly 6 million Americans have served in the military since the 9/11 attacks.”
“The film THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE shows that many veterans believe there is a stigma attached to those who seek mental services for those suffering from PTSD and other war-related stresses. There is often a fear that no one else knows what I am going through.”
“One major issue for many veterans stems from getting a negative or dishonorable discharge. There are six different ways to be discharged and veteran benefits can be diminished based on the more negative discharge levels. Veterans need help from lawyers and legal experts to change the status of those negative discharges so their access to benefits can be improved.”
“It’s important to create a gateway of veterans available to provide services and speak to other veterans in need. Only veterans understand exactly what other veterans are going through. Now it’s crucial to train veterans to provide the counseling services for other veterans.”
“This has been the first war when a very large percentage of the soldiers have been from the National Guard.”
“Many of our veterans need legal help due to a suspension of their driver’s license. They may have gone overseas with some unpaid parking tickets or other violations. They return to find their licenses suspended. They cannot begin their job hunting without a driver’s license, and help with reinstating their licenses is a service they often need.”
“Unique services need to be provided to the large number of female veterans today. Their needs can be different, since studies suggest around 78% of female soldiers were sexually harassed and 24% were sexually assaulted during active duty.”
“Family members of veterans face some challenges getting services they need for their vet and for other family members. They need to encourage their veteran to reach out to get services and not worry about the stigma attached to seeking some help. Family members themselves can call helplines to get tips and guidance.”
“We need a new approach. Instead of the current way—vets returning home and avoiding services due to a stigma—why can’t we start a movement where all vets coming home get services right away? All vets experience normal reactions after dealing with the abnormal realities of war.”
“Homelessness for veterans continues to be a challenge. Fortunately, rates of homelessness have declined over the last five years. Unfortunately, for the veteran who is homeless, it is difficult to focus on anything but where you will sleep at night. Community of Hope is providing services to these vets in 13 counties in NJ and 8 counties in PA.”
Written by MFF blogger Nancy VanArsdale.
BOOGER RED is part drama, part shaggy dog investigation, part nonfiction examination of an infamous case involving small-town swingers, foster care profiteers, and allegations of child sexual abuse that sent shockwaves through a Texas town. Onur Tukel plays a newspaper reporter named Onur Tukel who travels to East Texas to uncover the truth behind the notorious criminal case, but when the facts force him to confront his own past, his revelations lead him to measures that may change the course of his life, and those of the people involved with the case, forever.
Director Berndt Mader spoke with Montclair Film Festival 2016 about his intriguing film and fascinating creative process behind it.
How do you describe BOOGER RED in your own words?
Berndt: This is a little tricky. I describe BOOGER RED as a hybrid narrative/documentary. It’s mostly a narrative film, but with documentary components. In the film we have a fictional reporter who is investigating an actual criminal case that happened in real life. And as a reporter would do, he seeks out the actual people involved and asks them about the case. Those individuals are the real-life defendants, attorneys and people involved in the case. So fiction meets non-fiction in our film, which we think is a new way of telling a true crime story like ours.
What made you want to tell this particular story?
Berndt: I read Michael Hall’s Texas Monthly article that detailed this story of the Mineola Swinger’s Club trials that happened in east Texas in 2010. It was all surreal and seemed stranger than fiction. There were characters with names like Booger Red, a real honest-to-God swingers club operating in the heart of the Bible belt of east Texas, wild accusations of witches on broomsticks, silly pills, canine murders and flying chickens. There was also a foster mother claiming that her foster kids were trained in a “sex kindergarten” at Booger Red’s trailer. It was all just so outrageous, wild and surreal that I just had to look into it further. And the more we dug, the more questions we had about whether this had actually happened at all. Maybe it was too strange to be real, and that’s what the film investigates. It was all just fascinating to me, so I decided to proceed with the film.
Now, why we decided to tell this story in this way is another question—to blend fiction and non-fiction. Originally, we were planning on doing a straight documentary of this story. But, as we started reaching out to the actual people involved, it became clear very early that no one from the prosecution’s side of the case would talk to us. Documentaries are often about access to your characters, and here one entire side of the story wouldn’t give us access. So, we decided to develop the fictional reporter character, who at least would give us the opportunity to show our own struggle in getting that side of the story. In creating the fictional reporter, we were able to dramatize scenes to at least show the roadblocks we hit in trying to get the prosecution’s side of the story, if we couldn’t get them to actually be in the film.
What kind of research on criminal justice and the case itself did you have to do in order to accurately represent the events occurring in the film?
Berndt: Lots and lots. As background research my co-writer, Johnny McAllister, and I travelled several times to east Texas. We of course talked to the defendants and attorneys involved, but we also acquired pages and pages of “discovery” from the case that we sifted through. We read hundreds and hundreds of pages of testimony to discover how all the pieces of this story fit together. Some of it made sense and had a logic to it, but much of it raised questions about whether there was enough evidence, if any, to prosecute this case.
Do you feel the final product of BOOGER RED achieved your original vision for it?
Berndt: Man, I hope so. I think, because of the documentary elements, we didn’t fully know how this was going to shake out. But yes, in general, I think we were pretty successful in executing the film the way we envisioned it. It was tough for sure—pursuing the hybrid angle—but we think it turned out very much like we envisioned it. There was originally more to the fictional side of the story. But, in the edit, we realized that he documentary parts—the real people telling their real life stories—was hard for the fictional elements to compete with. There was just so much weight to their true stories, that too many narrative devices or subplots felt less compelling in contrast. So, we pulled back on the fictional elements quite a bit, allowing the documentary moments to shine through a bit more and carry a large load in the storytelling.
What were you looking for in an actor during the casting process?
Berndt: I was looking for a maniac, and low and behold found him in Onur Tukel!! No, Onur is amazing. He’s the most curious person I know. He’s always asking questions and poking around to discover things about those around him. So I felt he would be a perfect journalist. Also, he’s really disarming in a way that I knew we need with the weight of the subject matter in the film. Not that he would turn his journalistic interviews into a laugh session, but he is able to bring a bit of levity that puts people at ease. I think that was really helpful in getting very open and natural answers out of the actual real defendants he interviews in the film.
As a seasoned director, do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Berndt: I think the most important things for me are to follow your interests and to surround yourself with talented people. Filmmaking is a long, arduous process, so you better be genuinely interested in what you’re pursuing or you can easily burn out. Filmmaking is also a very collaborative effort, so surrounding yourself with talented people elevates any project.
What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?
Berndt: Outrage. I’ve been most impressed and inspired by how outraged our audiences have been. They can’t believe that the justice system could so grossly fail people. And I think that’s an appropriate response in this case and so many others where the system breaks down—not from honest mistakes, but from a deliberate disregard for the facts and purposeful circumvention of justice.
What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?
I’m looking forward to hanging out with the legendary director of the festival, Tom Hall. We have many mutual friends but have never met in person. I hear he’s an amazing person. And I’m looking forward to having our lead actor, Onur Tukel, join me in Montclair. We always have a little too much fun together.
Director Berndt Mader and lead actor Onur Tukel will attend the screenings below.
Interview by MFF blogger Rachel Feinberg.
The Montclair Film Festival kicked off its fifth anniversary on Friday, April 29 with the remarkable documentary film LIFE, ANIMATED. Directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams and based on the best-selling book, Life Animated: a story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism by Ron Suskind, the film tells the story of Suskind’s son Owen, an autistic child whose affinity for Disney films becomes the key to opening up his world.
MFF Founder and Chairman Bob Feinberg welcomed a packed house and talked about the amazing growth and success MFF has had since its inception before introducing Board President Evie Colbert who announced MFF’s Capital Campaign for our new home at 505 Bloomfield Avenue. Executive Director Tom Hall then thanked everyone who makes the festival, running through May 8th, a success including hundreds of amazing volunteers before bringing out Williams and Executive Producer Julie Goldman. After pointing out that April was Autism Awareness Month, Williams announced that the Wellmont Theater was the largest screening of the film so far and happily took a photo of the crowd.
Following the film, Montclair resident Stephen Colbert took the stage with the Suskind family—Ron, his wife Cornelia, Owen, and Owen’s brother Walt—as well as with Williams, Executive Producer Julie Goldman, and special guest Gilbert Gottfried, who made an appearance in the film. Here are a few highlights from their conversation.
Williams: “Ron and I go way back. We worked together on Nightline 15 years ago . . . and I’ve actually been sort of making films about the Suskind family. I did about Owen for about a month. I did a film about Cornelia . . . ”
Colbert to Owen: “How did you like the film?” Owen: “I love it a lot!”
Owen about the Disney films: “When I was little, I lived within these animated characters . . . and now they live in me.”
Gottfried: “I just want to say that the reason this film was so important to me is I never knew that there were Jews in comedy. When did this happen? . . . I really hope that one day we’ll see Jews in accounting.”
Colbert: “Has this type of therapy been used in other schools?” Ron Suskind: “Yes. Since the book came out. We used to call it Disney therapy, but there were licensing issues so we decided to call it affinity therapy . . . It’s actually kind of beautiful to watch. People are doing this therapy around the world now.”
Gottfried: “Everything I know about autism I learned from Jenny McCarthy.”
Owen Suskind’s final words to the audience: “I feel a lot of love in the room tonight from the people who came.”
With that heartwarming statement, the downstairs of the Wellmont transformed into party central to celebrate a brilliant opening night and the start of Montclair Film Festival 2016. The crowd—which included visitors from several states and even outside the country—continued the discussion with the Suskind family and Roger Ross Williams, as well as other celebrity attendees like comedian Robert Smigel.
At the bar, craft beer from the New Jersey Beer Company flowed, along with wine and cocktails. The Festival’s official caterer, Events by Joni, fed the hungry crowd with delicious bites, as well as a variety of beautiful pastries from the Little Daisy Bake Shop. The happy buzz of excited chatter kept going and going—as party revelers toasted to another incredible MFF opening night!
Click here for more awesome photos of opening night, courtesy of Neil Grabowsky, Montclair Film Festival.
For more about LIFE, ANIMATED, visit the film’s web site.