The Monmouth Film Festival’s opening night is this Friday, August 10th at the Two River Theater.

We sat down with Nick Marchese, Founder of the Monmouth Film Festival for a Q&A.

TAP: Nick, you’ve been in the film industry now for almost ten years as a writer, producer, director, editor and actor.  Tell us how you got started and why

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Marchese: I was always into performing.  What got me started was the Holmdel Theater Company where I was fascinated with the directors and how they brought out the emotion from the actors.  I got an agent, started going to the city, doing gigs.  I was young and didn’t realize how difficult it was, thinking I was going to soon be on the Disney Channel.  But that was not the case! 

I then thought if they’re not going to put me in movies, then I’m going to start making movies.  The first ones were horrid, more than basic.  I started putting together crews and realized how much time and effort goes into making a movie. 

In my college, Montclair State, I wrote a feature film called “My Brother’s Girlfriend” which was my first big one, premiering in the Manhattan Film Festival and after that, I went out to L.A.  for other festivals. 

TAP: You founded the Monmouth Film Festival back in April of 2016.  What gave you the idea and how did you put it all together?

Marchese: I came back to New Jersey and thought “Where are all the film festivals that actually speaks to New Jersey and represents the best it has to offer?”  I had produced my own films and events and figured it was a longer version of that.  The original message was that this is a film festival by film makers for filmmakers.  It was a group of filmmakers, writers and editors and we got together bringing in top quality films from across the country to Red Bank. 

TAP: What are the biggest challenges of bringing together all the components to produce a successful show?

Marchese:  We are a non-profit, with an incredible Board of Directors who are all volunteers.  At our first meeting we’d say, “Budget aside, what do we want to do this year?”  And then we discuss what we want to try different with our budget.  

The biggest challenge is time.  The day after the festival ends, I take a few hours off and then get back to work planning for next year’s event.  The difficult part is filtering down the best film schedule, and this year we had over a thousand submissions.

TAP: How do you preview and select the films to be shown at the Festival? 

Marchese:  We’ve got a team that reviews films which starts in late December, early January.  It’s a filtering down decision process.  We get thousands of film submissions which includes short films, trailers, documentaries, screen plays, TV pilots, web series and feature films. 

These films come from major festivals, distribution companies, directly from film makers and a large amount of our films come from a “call-for-submissions.”   

First the films get rapidly screened and evaluated for quality and MFF expectations and then flagged with either: a red (placed on the back burner), yellow (technically good, i.e., good legs? story? characters?)  or green flag, which means you’re in.   

Our team reviews and rates these films according to an approved rubric of categories and we get the number down to a manageable two hundred films.  We ask “How’s the story?  The technical aspect?  Was it interesting?  Sound design, Editing?” 

And when get to that to a manageable amount.  That’s when Ken Turner, Director of Programming and Nicholas Casisti, Director of Submissions come in to determine what fits into what category and what makes sense for the MFF program.

TAP: The third annual Film Festival will be held at the Two River Theater from Friday thru Sunday, August 10th – 12th.  What have you learned from the previous festivals and what new and exciting things can the public expect this year?

Marchese: We like to say that we are bringing the industry into Red Bank, and there are a lot of industry people that live in the area.  Our mission is to inspire, and provide a unique experience for everyone. 

For aspiring filmmakers we have a ninety-minute workshop called “The Industry Panel” with representatives from film and animation studios including Nickelodeon this year.  They will discuss the industry and take and answer questions directly from the film makers such as “I made a film, what do I do with it”?  It’s the exchange of information and helping people out that are just getting started and that’s the inspiring part. 

The experience part is that you may love going to the movies, and you’ll see top quality films that you may not see in the movie theater months from now or may never see as it may go directly on-line. 

Also, a lot of famous actors do these small independent films which is not “indie-film” making; art stuff where you don’t know what the heck is going on.  It means that it’s made outside the studio system.  Theses films are typically made between $5m to $20k.

The Industry Panel and other several workshops we will be having are all free to the public.  This is part of our education mission as a non-profit so we want people to come out.  And then while they’re there, grab a ticket and see a short block of films or feature film.

TAP: What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Marchese: What I’ve learned through this process is that it’s not only the big names you recognize, but the people who do this every day, producing films and working with studios.  And I’m thrilled now to be communicating with these studios and I’m helping other people get somewhere.

Christopher Adornato, the Director of Education for the MFF stopped by and we spoke with him.  Chris is also the Motion Graphics Art Director for Solari Creative which offers services such as design, animation, motion graphics and video.  

Adornato said that, “One of the things that make the MFF so unique is there is an opportunity for everyone: for the person who wants to see some good films, the filmmaker, the student in college or high school trying to get into film.  

We provide opportunity in every aspect for the love of film.  And that’s why I love being with the Monmouth Film Festival because it’s a great opportunity for everybody.”

Be sure to check out the video trailers of some of the movies that will be shown!

Grab some of your compadres and do something interesting this weekend – attend the Monmouth Film Festival!

To oder tickets, click here.

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