MFF: Montclair kids say “Action!”
By ERIN ROLL
The Montclair Film Festival includes a chance for young filmmakers in New Jersey and beyond to shine.
Each year, the festival offers the Emerging Filmmakers competition for students in fourth grade through their senior year of high school.
The competition has three levels: “Cinemaniacs,” for grades four through six, “Storytellers,” for grades seven through nine, and “Visionaries,” for grades 10 through 12.
“We got a lot of great submissions ... really a range of submissions,” said Sue Hollenberg, the education director for the festival.
The majority of the 90 entries were in the Visionaries division, she said.
The festival announced this year’s winners in April. Of the 18 winning entries, five were from students at schools in Montclair.
Besides the entrants, a panel of 15 local students served as the junior jury for the contest.
“Personal Space” brought home the grand prize for narrative film. Aidan Champeau, the film’s director, was part of a team of Montclair High School students. The rest of the crew included Lucia Ledesma, Jake Weinberg, Lilli Herrick, Jacob Manthy, Petra Fox and Jake Diamond.
Champeau, 16, is a sophomore at MHS. He has entered in the Emerging Filmmaker competition before, and has also worked with most of the other team members before.
“It’s basically a conversation between two people,” Champeau said of the film. “It’s probably the nicest thing I’ve ever made.” His film preferences tend to go more toward horror and dark comedy.
Getting the film made and submitted on time was a bit of a challenge, he recalled, because he and the team were working on another, longer film project as well.
And then there was the subject matter. “Are they going to like this movie that takes place in a car?” he wondered.
The filming didn’t go off completely without a hitch: the crew had set up filming at Mills Reservation, only to have the police arrive and tell them that they were not allowed to film there. So the rest of the shoot had to be completed in someone’s driveway.
Lily Jones, 15, is a freshman at Montclair Kimberley Academy. Her film, “The Indubitable Molly Davis,” won the special jury prize for comedy, sharing that honor with “Planet of the Dogs” by MHS student Owen Plofker. “We filmed it all in like two weekends,” Jones recalled during a phone interview.
In the film, Molly Davis wants to adopt a dog from a high-kill shelter. She sets out flyers around town advertising her services as a babysitter. A wealthy family hires her to be a sitter — for their pug.
The film is based a little bit on Jones’s own family life: the starring pug is the Joneses’ own dog.
Jones has entered the festival before. She has done a lot of stop-motion animation, she said, but the live actors of “The Indubitable Molly Davis” represented a new direction for her. The idea for the movie came to her when she took the film festival’s screenwriting class earlier this year.
She wasn’t expecting to be on-camera, so when she had to step in as one of the actors at the last moment, she didn’t have much time to memorize her lines. “I ended up having to re-shoot it, weeks later, after all the snow had melted,” she recalled.
Lily isn’t the only member of the Jones family with a film about animals in the Montclair Film Festival; her father, Wesley Jones, has his own short film, “Cat Killer,” in the main festival.
When asked what she hoped people took away from the film, Jones said that she especially hoped it would make people think about the situation with high-kill animal shelters.
Emerging Filmmaker Competition
Saturday, April 29, 11 a.m.
5 Seymour St.