Thom Powers, co-director with his wife, Raphaela Neihausen, of the Montclair Film Festival that was held from May 1 to 6, reflected Monday on the cinematic event and the response of the community.
Powers, still trying to catch his breath following a whirlwind week, took some time to answer five questions from Montclair Patch on the festival's impact.
The overwhelming message is that he and his well-organized team plan to be back with another film festival in May 2013.
Q) So, from where you sit, how was the film festival and the community's response to it?
A) On all counts, it exceeded our expectations. By our nature, we tried to be cautious with the targets we fixed. But the fact we sold out about 20 shows days before the festival even began was very striking to us. Besides the numbers, the warmth of the community and the responses have been great. When I was dropping my son off at daycare this morning, people I didn't know were telling me they saw a film and had a good time.
Q) How did the Montclair business community respond to the festival?
A) My attention was just so focused on the festival. It wasn't like I was walking around local businesses all that much. But in general I think we were gratified by the support of the local business community ... certainly in Upper Montclair. We saw a lot of our posters in the windows. It's the nature of any first year event that there are a lot of people that are going to be a little late to catch on. And that's through no fault of anyone's. I was hearing from a lot of people that they wished they'd bought a ticket because now events were sold out. One thing we're talking about is expanding our inventory of seats next year in some way to bring more people in.
[Luther Flurry, interim director of the Montclair Center Business Improvement District, said that: "The film festival was a wonderful event run in an impressive, professional manner. MFF has won plaudits from everyone who worked with them. The Montclair Center businesses I have talked to ran film festival specials and were pleased by both the foot traffic and sales MFF brought to the district. These businesses reported many new, happy customers last weekend. We are eager to see what MFF 2013 will have in store for us!"]
Q) Do you believe the festival drew a lot of people from outside Montclair?
A) We're still studying the numbers. I certainly think we were drawing from parts of northern New Jersey besides Montclair. Our goal in this first year was to focus on throwing a great festival and we felt we'd be able to succeed by focusing on the local community. Now that we've proven to ourselves and to the local community that this is a signficant event, we're going to look towards marketing it more to people out of town. It's hard to market something that has never existed before.
Q) How can people get involved for next year?
A) People can go to the website and become a member and sign up to be on the mailing list. Stay tuned for future news and announcements. We are going to have some summer events taking place ... the same kinds of outdoors events we've done in the past. Those will be coming back. And, as those kick into gear, we will be ratcheting up our membership drive and making a pitch for new members.
Q) Did anything surprise you this year? Parking issues? Trouble spots? Anything?
A) I think the overwhelming feeling I have today is how well things went. When you are showing 49 different films and you have 50 guests coming through ... and with each one of those films there are several different formats to consider and all sorts of technical things that can change ... things can go wrong. It's not like when a theater has one film it's running five times a day. It's pretty common in a festival environment to have a few big errors or mistakes. And we didn't have that, touch wood. We had our usual assortments of little bumps but nothing that didn't get straightened out fairly quickly. We certainly had films that were instant sellouts and others that took a while longer. But every filmmaker was very gratified I think. There was no filmmaker who walked away disappointed.
So, in short, if you missed out this year, stay tuned for the second annual Montclair Film Festival in May 2013. And, if you were dying to get your hands on one of the festival's cool t-shirts, which sold out quickly, Powers said they hope to do a re-print.