EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Zack Morrison's (EBHS Class of 2010) short film Pieces of Belmar will be featured at this fall's New Jersey Film Festival at Rutgers University on October 9. Pieces of Belmar tells the story of a family dislocated by Hurricane Sandy to a small room at a shore motel on Christmas Day. "It is visually focused and emotionally-driven," says writer/director Morrison. "It is a story that was always there in my notebook...not just a Sandy story, but one of healing and recovery in general." Morrison based the narrative on stories close to home of friends affected by the Superstorm, combining some details to drive an original tale that "people could relate to."
Morrison, a graduate of the Rutgers Journalism program who credits his early experience at East Brunswick High School's variety of video course offerings with introducing him to hands-on work with film, is currently enrolled in the M.F.A. program in film at Columbia Unversity. Having begun work on Pieces of Belmar while an undergraduate, Morrison was able to shoot the film, the script of which he submitted as part of his admissions portfolio to Columbia, last winter in various locations down the shore.
"The Jersey Shore is a magical, special part of summer, very much part of the culture of the entire state," says Morrison who tells a story that had engaged him since the storm ravaged the New Jersey coast in October, 2012. He "adjusted the tone to make it relatable to people outside of New Jersey," while retaining the personal experience of those closest to the events.
A winner of the Rutgers 2012 "New Lens Student Film Festival" for his documentary Knights, Tigers, and Cannons. Oh My! ( a short film about the Rutgers/Princeton Cannon "War, ) Morrison calls the NJ Film Festival, under the direction of Professsor Al Nigrin, "home." His work at the Film Festival prepared him, he says, for the program at Columbia in which he will "build a portfolio and gain business savvy" in his pursuit of a film career.
Morrison advises EBHS and Churchill students to "take all the classes because the programs are phenomenal" and to gain as much hands-on experience with cinematic technology as possible. Morrison got his start shooting EBHS basketball games for EBTV and made his first short film in his Humanities class. He says that students should just "Do it. Anybody can go to Best Buy, get a camera for $100, and just shoot."
The filmmaker's current project is an anti-bullying film entitled Captain Cyborg about a hyperactive kid who transforms himself into his super hero alter-ego as he learns tostand up for himself. With the help of Jeff Davis and the East Brunswick Summer Theater Camp, Morrison shot the film in late July at Warnsdorfer School, using EB students to play small roles. "They had a good time and had a real film experience, " says Morrison.