MFF: Students take spotlight in Emerging Filmmaker Competition
Emerging Filmmaker Competition
Saturday, April 28, 2:45 p.m.
Montclair Kimberley Academy, Upper School Campus, 6 Lloyd Road
Gelotti will provide EFC ticket holders with a coupon for one free junior size scoop of ice cream or Italian ice at the screening.
By ERIN ROLL
Every year, the Montclair Film Festival gives young filmmakers from New Jersey and New York a chance to shine through the Emerging Filmmaker Competition.
This year, the annual contest awarded prizes to 18 individual filmmakers and teams, consisting of 29 students in total.
There are two divisions in the contest: Storytellers, for students in grades six through eight, and Visionaries, for students in grades nine through 12. In previous years, the contest had a third category: Cinemaniacs, for students in fourth grade through sixth grade.
Five films won awards in the Storytellers division, including three from students in the Montclair schools.
Lucy Osterberg, a sixth-grader at Renaissance, made a three-minute documentary about women who had participated in the first Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Her film took the Grand Prize in the Documentary category. Osterberg interviewed women on the anniversary of the first march and asked them about their experiences. “When I went to the Women’s March on Washington, I felt very passionate for something for the first time in my life,” she said.
This was Osterberg’s first competition. She had taken a screenwriting class and an editing class at Montclair Film.
The film got its start when Ostenberg was watching the Oscars ceremony with her mother, and Natalie Portman, during the presentation for best director, said “Here are all the male nominees for best director.”
“That is when my mom and I talked about me becoming a filmmaker, to change the directing world,” Osterberg said.
She had some assistance for the outside shots from her older brother George, a freshman at Montclair High School.
Matthew Abate, an eighth-grader at Buzz Aldrin, won the Social Impact Award with his film “The Last American Breakfast.” It follows a family having breakfast one morning, with details slowly emerging that the father of the family is facing deportation.
“I was trying to express how absurd I found the president’s comments about immigration and DACA to be. I hope people see how they have their own assumptions about race and ethnicity, maybe. I think when you don’t know initially what this family is talking about over breakfast, most people won’t naturally assume it’s an immigration issue,” Abate said.
Max Myers, an eighth grader at Buzz Aldrin, submitted the film, “Consider This Question.” It won in the Narrative competition.
The film consists of a long series of aerial shots of locations around Montclair, including Buzz Aldrin, the Upper Montclair business district and Montclair State University. As the film plays, a speech by Alan Watts plays over the images, and it asks the listener to ponder the question of what would they most love to do with their life if money were not a concern.
"I really liked it because of the message he sends, and not only that but his tone in which he delivered it. His tone was unlike other motivational speakers who would yell at you and tell you this is how you need to live your life. But the way he said it, he knew how to make your life better, but if you didn't take his advice, he couldn't care less because it wouldn't affect him, it would only affect yourself. That really made sense to me and motivated me to do what I wanted, and not do it for the money," Myers said.
He shot the film using a DJI Phantom 4 drone, and his family helped to drive him to the different shooting locations around town.
Thirteen films won in the high school or Visionaries Division.
William Blackman and Owen Plofker won the Grand Prize Narrative for “Do Not Disturb.”
The film follows a group of friends attending a dinner, with the caveat they are not allowed to use their phones at any point. And as the meal progresses and the friends cheerfully talk, the phones - tucked away in a basket in another room - start to flash as the students’ parents start to text in with frantic messages about a series of very strange events unfolding.
Both Blackman and Plofker are members of the film club at Montclair High School. The original plan was for the film club to submit a film, but the plans fell through, Blackman said.
The deadline for getting the films submitted was midnight on a Saturday. Blackman and Plofker started the process on a Thursday.
“For three days that’s pretty much all we did,” Blackman said of the filming process. Instead of creating a traditional linear narrative, the duo decided to use a more conceptual three-minute film composed of a series of different shots.
Plofker was in charge of the special effects, while Blackman handled some of the shoot directing and other on-set duties.
Blackman said the film was submitted “in true high schooler fashion,” one hour before the deadline.
“This year’s films were excellent,” said Sue Hollenberg, the film festival’s education director. “We had so many wonderful films in the Visionaries Narrative category that it was really hard to choose. It was also exciting to see how many of the documentaries dealt with complex social and emotional issues.”