PLAINFIELD, NJ — The countdown to the 2nd Annual Queen City Film Festival is on, kicking off on Friday at the newly renovated Plainfield Cultural Arts Center located at 724 Park Ave. The two-day event will feature a diverse array of 52 films from seven countries in seven genres, including short film, documentary, feature length, digital series, horror, music video and animation, some of which were filmed in and around town.
This year, organizers have expanded the festivities to include exclusive panels featuring industry insiders whose work currently grabs the attention of organizations like the Emmy Awards and HBO.
The festival continues on Saturday, Oct. 26 with all-day screenings at the Cinemark Theatres in Watchung, located at the intersection of Route 22 and Terrill Rd.
TAPinto Plainfield caught up with Festival Director Lamar Mackson of Nonstop Show Group, a local Plainfield production company, to hear how things are going.
TAP: So we are less than 48 hours away from show time, how are you feeling and how are ticket sales?
LM: I feel great! Our planning and preparation is coming together, and we have worked really hard to create a great experience for audiences as well as filmmakers. Through our partnerships we have offered several free events, so we don't have to focus on ticket sales as much, but we anticipate an amazing turnout due to the response we have received.
TAP: What last-minute preparations are underway?
LM: We have done several walkthroughs of both locations over the past couple of weeks for various reasons, but the final tech walk at Cinemark includes Audiovisual, Interior Design, and Festival Operations that will also be installed at the PACE Center starting Thursday.
TAP: How has the reception been as you have been marketing the event? Community response and support appear to have been very positive.
LM: From our partnership with the City of Plainfield and Plainfield Public Schools, to interest from filmmakers from all over the world in screening their work, our marketing strategy has been very grassroots and direct to the targeted audience. I am very happy with how the response has been so far.
TAP: Are you expecting to draw from communities outside of Plainfield?
LM: We received films from all over the world. Though our entries from Japan and England will not have representation this year, there are filmmakers and interested festival goers and supporters coming in from as far as California and Florida, and as near as New York and Philadelphia. We have received inquiries about lodging, airport distance, transportation options and dining. Our website has a section dedicated to assist out-of-town visitors with just getting here and a brief history of the city.
TAP: You have partnered with many entities — the Board of Education and Plainfield High School, the City of Plainfield, and Cinemark — how has it been collaborating with others?
LM: This event is about collaboration and our mission at our newly formed nonprofit, Queen City Film & Television Workshop, is to provide free training for students interested in Film and Television Production as a career. We also will provide access to equipment, professionals in the business, college advisement and career guidance and placement. None of this would be possible without our partnerships.
TAP: How is the Queen City Film Festival different from other film festivals?
LM: This festival was founded by filmmakers. We started this festival to showcase films that I produced in Plainfield. I just finished shooting a film in Plainfield a few months ago that is scheduled for release in 2020. I can currently and directly relate to the struggle of all filmmakers merely seeking an opportunity to connect with audiences. The difference with our festival is the empathy we feel for struggling filmmakers. The desire to honor our own with acknowledgement of their achievement remains at the forefront, and to provide ongoing professional support and development opportunities in a long-term sense for New Jersey filmmakers and students interested in those fields.
TAP: If someone can only dedicate a few hours to the festival, what would you recommend they see?
LM: It depends on their taste. We have something for everyone — Animation, Horror, Drama, Documentary, Digital Series, and Music Video. Filmmakers are coming to talk about their films and the process of making them. We have one Emmy nominated director and a two-time Emmy winner who will meet people and encourage young people to dream big; it's an award show for top achievers, an opening night reception, Late night After Party and more. Once you’re in, you're hooked!
TAP: For someone who has not attended a film festival, how does this differ from just "going to the movies"?
LM: You actually get to meet the filmmakers and ask them, "What were you thinking when...?"
TAP: Tickets can be purchased online on Eventbrite. What about last-minute purchases, can tickets be purchased at the door?
LM: We will have several POS stations for walkups, although we encourage everyone to purchase tickets beforehand. Festival attendees who purchase a day pass will receive a gift bag chock-full of Queen City Film Fest gear.
TAP: Is there anything else you would like the community to know about this event?
LM: This event is about building the community and providing the residents a new form of pride in the town in which they live. It is also about inviting the world to see this wonderful city as a backdrop to be used in film, and that the Queen City can compete with film-rich towns like Montclair and Jersey City. It's also about attracting new people to visit and consider this a great place to hang out, but mostly it's about good movies good people and good times!
A complete schedule of each day’s events, and information on tickets and passes to screenings can be found at www.qcffnj.com. You can also follow the action on social media @queencityfilmfestnj on Instagram and Facebook.
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