SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The new film series Reel Talk, featuring independent works, will make its debut at South Orange Performing Arts Center on Sunday, March 15 at 11 a.m..

In anticipation of the eight-week series, TAPinto SOMA sat down with longtime Star-Ledger film critic Stephen Whitty to discuss the event at SOPAC. Here is Part 1 of TAP's interview with Whitty:

Q: Can you tell me a little about the Reel Talk Festival?

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A: The idea of Reel Talk is that it’s going to be a subscription series, and just like how you might have a subscription series for a theater season this is a movie season. And right now we’re going to be doing it, and the idea is that it’s going to be sort of a movie brunch where folks will come by and maybe have a cup of coffee or a pastry, see a movie that’s not yet in theaters or in release, and then afterwards we’ll have a discussion about it and whenever possible we’ll bring in somebody who’s involved with the movie; a producer, a director, maybe a performer, maybe an expert on the movie subject, and I’ll be there perhaps with other hosts as we go along, leading the discussion, involving the audience in questions and answers. And it’s fun, it’s kind of like a little mini symposium on a particular movie, and there’s going to be a wider array of films - we’re working on a number of titles now - but you can expect to see documentaries, foreign films, indie dramas, all sorts of films. If you go on the site you can see some of the films that are in consideration and also the pricing structure, which I don’t know off the top of my head, but you can get all that off the site.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved in the festival?
Well, it sounded like fun to me; I’ve been involved in festivals like this, where we bring in films that haven’t yet been released and introduce them to audiences. The audiences love it because they get to see a quality picture that’s sort of been picked for them. Studios like it too because it builds word of mouth, particularly among an upscale, intelligent audience, so they get the word of the movie out there. I’ve done it before with new movie series, I also have a lot of fun participating in this classic movie series that we run out of West Orange during the winter months in January, February: The West Orange Arts Circle. They run that, that’s a lot of fun, so I just wanted to participate in it because, honestly, for anyone who loves movies the second greatest joy after seeing the movie is talking about it afterwards and here’s a chance to do that with other people who are really interested in film and maybe are even involved in making films.

Q: What will your function be?
I’m going to be, I don’t know that I’m going to be hosting all of them, some other people might be involved, but I’ll introduce the film, give a little bit of context about it, and then depending on who the guest is afterwards, I’ll talk about the movie, I’ll ask people in the audience what they felt about the movie, questions they had, opinions they’d like to express, what they thought didn’t work, what they thought worked, any questions they have about the people involved, the movie, and with any luck we’ll also have a nice guest there who is involved in the picture, who can answer their questions, and then he or she and I will have our own Q & A going back and forth with the audience participating.

Q: This event will take place over the course of eight Sundays and you will be leading discussion afterwards. I’ve noticed in your reviews you really like to focus on themes and motifs of the movies you see. What would you say, with discussion, are your go-to elements to discuss after viewing a film?

A: I think there are just so many things that we can talk about with a certain movie, depending on the film. First of all, I have to say, primarily, I’ve always been really interested in character and plot and in the more literary aspects of the film; the film has a story - this is a fascinating thing, and certainly we’ll be talking about things that the film is saying or seems to be trying to say or suggests as you said in terms of themes and motifs and putting it in some sort of context, but I also love talking about performance, about how actors manage to create a character on screen, and so many things that go into making a film, whether it’s cinematography, the editing, the soundtrack. All of those are really interesting to talk about and to feel and to see how they all come together because I think that’s one of the great things about movies is that they’re really not a single art. They encompass performance, they encompass writing, they encompass photography, music, and even movement really if you think about not just musicals but any action film it all has to be choreographed and so those are just some of the things that I think we can talk about afterwards and how all those things come together in the service of one particular story or message.

TAPinto SOMA's interview with Stephen Whitty will continue with Part 2 on Sunday, Feb. 22.