2019 MFF: national reputation, local goals
By GWEN OREL
With the Montclair Film Festival scheduled to kick off tonight, May 3, we caught up to Bob Feinberg, founder and chairman of the Montclair Film Festival, as he was picking up his car. He had a fender bender just before he and his wife left to visit his son James in Europe, and left his car to be worked on while he was away.
What are your dreams for the future of Montclair Film Festival?
I want the festival to continue to grow. I would like it to grow back to upper Montclair, where it used to have a footprint [at the now-closed Bellevue Theatre]. I’m serious about
that, but also like to see it continue to bring lots of different audiences, lots of different kinds of films.
I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently working with our education people. We’ve started talking with Montclair Public Schools, and we’re hoping we’ll have a more significant role to play in Montclair public schools, from there would like to expand to bring offerings to other school districts in New Jersey. Education is very important to me.
We opened our building two years ago, and we’re already bursting at the seams in terms of classes and screenings year round. The building has been transformational for the film festival. I would love to expand that footprint somehow.
Do you see MFF as a local or a national event?
I think we are in a very good place as a well regarded regional film festival. Montclair, as much as I love Montclair, it’s not a posh ski resort or NYC. The film festival itself has never meant to be a marketplace where people can bring their films and do distribution deals like they do at Toronto or Sundance. Our approach is more about giving filmmakers access to audiences that are sophisticated and diverse and will give their films an enthusiastic reception.
I go to a lot of film festivals around the country, and more and more, people talk about Montclair as a real thing.
Last January, Evie Colbert and I did a presentation at Art House Convergence, a conference for people who run film festivals and art-house movie theaters. We do both, we run MFF, and at Cinema505 we have an art-house movie theater that runs year round.
There were hundreds of people from all over the country, people who run film festivals, renovated artisanal movie houses, and MFF was right in the thick of it.
It seems like it’s been going on forever but it’s only the eighth festival. I’m already starting to think about what we’re going to do to celebrate the 10th.
Most people I talk to in film festival world, when they hear we’re only doing our eighth festival, yet they know us as a player, they’re amazed.
With so much growth, are you still connected to Montclair, or more
focused on bringing people to Montclair?
Our educational programs are bringing people together, including the scholarships we offer, for people who may not have the wherewithal to pay tuition. And we have convenings, whether story slams, or improv classes, or Montclair Film and Friends, for people of all abilities.
The community was key to launching in the first place. That’s why it’s grown.
How many festivals are there in Montclair now [laughs]? A lot of time, I see people who were part of the early group at MFF now helping other festivals get off the ground.
I just heard about bounce festival that’s coming.
If the community hadn’t been as supportive as it’s been, there wouldn’t have been a second MFF.
Somebody’s honking at me. New Jersey drivers. I think I will get on the Parkway.
I would like to assemble all the local filmmakers and get them to talk about what they’re working on. People who live here are part of the audiences, and part of the talent that is the driving force behind festival and education too.
People come from 20 states, five foreign countries, every county in New Jersey. It’s great fun, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to let all these audiences know what’s going on in Montclair, New Jersey.
Every year after the film festival, people come up to me and say “Congratulations, it was really great!” And when I ask, “Did you get to see anything?” people say sheepishly that they didn’t get to see anything, they were too busy.
I want everybody in Montclair to come to something during the film festival. I will keep working until that happens.