By Rachael Moore
One of the most popular aspects of the annual MorristownGreen.com Film Festival is the popular vote.
And that’s sure to be true once again on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, when spectators will end the show by choosing their favorite entry.
Yet for years, “serious” local filmmakers have lobbied for special recognition of their own. And so, when prizes are handed out this weekend at the Hyatt Morristown, they will include a Critics’ Choice award for the first time.
The inaugural presentation is sponsored by Sustainable Morristown–because critical choices matter for a sustainable world. The winner, chosen for artistic merit, will go home with a stunning hand-crafted plaque from Glassworks Studio.
Another new category is the Diversity award, honoring the student filmmaker whose movie best promotes cultural understanding. It’s being presented by the Building Cross Cultural Communities Committee of the Morris County Human Relations Commission.
There are many worthy contenders for both prizes in the 2013 competition, which solicited short (under five-minute) documentaries. The festivities start at 6 pm Saturday with music by the SteppingSTONE Band. Admission is free; bring lawn chairs or beach blankets to the Hyatt’s Plaza Ballroom for an indoor beach party.
Although MorristownGreen.com’s critics cast their ballots at a private screening, catered by Chef Melody at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, they will learn the outcome along with the rest of the audience at the Hyatt.
“This much I can say: The voting was really close and several films were neck and neck,” said MG Editor Kevin Coughlin, who thanked his expert panel, the church and Chef Melody, adding: “The real winners are going to be our audience members. They are in for a great night of movies on Saturday.”
And Sustainable Morristown is a fitting sponsor for the first Critics Choice award, he said. “Morristown has been ahead of the curve on sustainability, thanks largely to the work of Paul Miller, his volunteers at Sustainable Morristown and the vision of the Mayor’s office. They’re always willing to explore new ideas, and I’m delighted they are part of this one,” Coughlin said.
The Sixth Annual MorristownGreen.com Film Festival
Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013
Hyatt Morristown, 6 pm
Admission: Free. Live music: SteppingSTONE Band
Home-grown short documentaries; vote for your favorite!
Bring lawn chair / beach blanket for indoor beach party
MEET THE JUDGES:
Chad Leinaweaver is the assistant director for the Morristown & Township Library. Previously, Chad worked in the Special Collections Division of the Newark Public Library, and before that was the director for the Library and Museum Collections for The New Jersey Historical Society.
Though his work does not involve making films, he runs programs at the library tied to film and this summer started the Midnight Movies at 7 occasional series that focuses on cult and B-movie films made infamous at many midnight movie houses.
Chad’s passion for film started in high school, where he made movies with his friends “purely for fun using video cameras of the time period, certainly nothing fancy, nor anything of any quality compared to the work coming out of Morristown High School,” he says.
Chad says he was impressed by the dedication, motivation and risk-taking of this year’s Festival contestants.
“They are much more motivated than we were 25-plus years ago. We never would have considered filming on location, or even attempted sophisticated editing or giving a try at developing more elaborate artwork backgrounds. That is great to see, and I think it is the first step to success.”
Some of the entries that stuck with him are 4,000 Miles, Talking to Cicadas, Fool’s Ball and Hello My Name Is.
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Christian Schuller, a graduate from the School of Communications at Marist College in Poughkeepsie N.Y., is a full-time producer, director and editor for Sefcik Productions. He has plenty of experience with the MorristownGreen.com Film Festival. His first documentary, Growtown Motown, was an award-winning piece about the Early Street Community Garden in Morristown.
More recently, Christian co-produced Sourlands, directed by Jared Flesher, about the fight for sustainability on New Jersey’s Sourland Mountain.
He is working on a new documentary about Nicaragua, shot on location with Peaceworks, a local nonprofit that works for progressive change.
“The projects they support touch on the full color spectrum,” Christian says. “They range from a village children’s chorus to sustainable agriculture practices to women’s rights to street-children support.”
The experience was very humbling for him, he says, noting that he shot about 50 hours of footage in 12 days. “I really felt the weight of the world on this trip. Going into it, my imagination ran wild and I had big plans for how I would capture the stories.”
Christian is seeking to raise funds to complete his documentary, to tell the story of the Nicaraguan people and how Peaceworks is helping. You can donate here.
As for this year’s MG Film Fest entries, Christian says he was impressed with the directors’ different styles. “Some films managed to take a seemingly broad subject and narrow it down into five minutes, without making it feel too rushed, while others played with more artistic expression.” These films included Full Moon, The Road to Freedom and Memory Lane.
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Christopher Henze is a film director in the New Jersey/New York area who has been involved in the film business for his whole life. His mother and father were his inspirations as a still-life photographer and a director. An actor at the age of 8, he “retired” to focus on filmmaking. At 15, he was the junior editor for the commercial editing house Splice is Nice.
Chris’s experience includes directing, writing and producing many short documentaries, music videos and commercials. Most recently, he directed music videos for the Canadian singer-songwriter Sierra Noble, even filming one in Morristown’s Cafe on the Green. He has directed two music videos for the band Low Mass Tones.
Before that, Chris worked with the co-producers of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, Jeff Gibbs and Kurt Engfehr. He has worked as the line-producer and editor as well as filmed and conducted interviews for Jeff’s film America’s Energy Future. He also worked on Kurt’s next documentary, about adoption, and was the sound editor for No Manifesto.
Now, Chris is in pre-production of his first feature-length documentary, which he aims to release in a year, and he has multiple movies in development.
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Jonathan Collins has a wide variety of film experience. Graduating with a Masters in Fine Arts from the UCLA School of Film, Television and Digital Media, Jonathan has worked for filmmaker Charles Guggenheim and has made some short movies on a 16mm camera.
But his passion was writing feature-length scripts, which he did for five years in Los Angeles. When he moved to New York, he developed a digital filmmaking curriculum at Bard High School Early College and taught movie and screenwriting for two years.
In 2006, he worked at the Electric Sheep Company, where he oversaw production of MTV’s Virtual Worlds, a transmedia experience that linked a television series to an expansive 3D social game world.
After becoming CEO of the Electric Sheep Company in 2009, he started developing more virtual-world properties on the company’s proprietary platform. Today, he is a consultant for brands and startups developing mobile entertainment-focused apps.
When viewing entries for this year’s MG Festival, he says, he was impressed by how “so many people from different backgrounds and age groups took the time to shoot and edit such a wide range of films.”
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Paul Miller is the coordinator of Mayor Tim Dougherty’s Office of Sustainability for the Town of Morristown. He serves as a trustee of Sustainable Morristown and is involved with many groups and activities that contribute to the quality of life in the Morristown area.
In the late 1970s, Paul discovered documentaries when a friend won national recognition for his film Cycling Keeps Me Off The Streets. In the early 1990s, he hosted a weekly cable television show in Chicago, where he interviewed Bill Kurtis. At the time, Kurtis was promoting his documentary film-production company and was a local/national news anchor.
Documentaries are a “vitally important and powerful tool to help educate great masses of people about critical causes that are important to the future of our planet,” Paul says.
But don’t take the critics’ word for it. Come to Saturday’s Festival and see if you agree with their choice–whatever it turns out to be!
Rachael Moore of Morris Township is majoring in communications at Adelphi University, where she will be a senior this fall.