I'm sure there are still plenty of people who think that they have to go to New York City or Philadelphia for major arts events, but it's simply not true. In fact, that's the reason this Magazine was started in the first place. We know there are all of these cool things like the Filmmakers Symposium taking place throughout New Jersey and we want to point them out to you.
The Filmmakers Symposium was created and is still run by Chuck Rose. He started the series back in 1991 and while some of the locations have changed, the films have been shown at the AMC Loews Monmouth Mall in Eatontown and the AMC Loews Mountainside for the past decade or so. The idea behind the series came from Rose's own days as a film student at USC. A professor there, Arthur Knight, basically founded the format of showing the films with a principal member of the film in the theater participating with a Q&A discussion afterwards.
"One night we had as our guest Alfred Hitchcock, which just totally blew my mind," recalled Chuck Rose. "I just thought this is one of the coolest nights of my life. Many years later, I figured out that maybe I could do this in our area."
Rose and a group of highly trusted film buffs and members of the industry cherry pick their favorite films from film festivals around the world. The films are shown and then followed by a discussion with someone involved in the film (either the director, writer, actor, or producer). Sometimes the discussions involve several people from the film.
"I try to make it as much a learning experience as an entertainment experience," explained Rose. "People come for both or either so I always try to do both."
In the past two years, the Filmmakers Symposium premiered 71 films that later earned a total of 18 Oscar, 16 British Academy, 18 Spirit, and 17 European Film Award nominations.
The Filmmakers Symposium began its first Fall session in mid-September and will conclude the session around October 23rd. A second session begins in late October and runs from October 29th through December 3rd at Mountainside and from October 30th through December 4th at Monmouth Mall. A listing of confirmed films is available at the symposium's website www.privatescreenings.org
Rose brought the symposium idea to his native New Jersey and even though many of the people in the film industry live in Los Angeles, he has done very well in getting stars and well known artists to be part of the series. Some of the names include Oscar winners and nominees Danny Aiello, Alan Arkin, James Cromwell, Frank Darabont, Ethan Hawke, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, John Sayles, Marc Shaiman, Howard Shore and David Strathairn who have joined artists like Dylan Baker, Al Franken, Famke Janssen, Delroy Lindo, Derek Luke, David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Connie Nielsen and Kevin Smith as guest speakers.
"The artists really like the idea that the people who attend are super film buffs; they love movies and they will literally spread the word of mouth across the country about films they see there and like."
The symposium mainly shows independent films these days with a foreign film or documentary thrown in occasionally. Rose says that most of the films they go after these days are American independent films.
With over a thousand nights through the Symposium history, it's hard for Rose to choose his favorite highlights but he offered up two very special nights.
"I had this film that nobody had heard of and nobody had seen," recalled Rose. "It was literally the world premiere and I had the director there, the producer, and one of the stars. The film was The Shawshank Redemption and it just blew everybody's mind. That was just one of those surprise nights where nobody knew what an incredible night it was going to be and it turned out to be unforgettable.
"Another night that was unforgettabel was when I was able to get the film Amelie, which was later nominated for five Oscars. Directed by John-Pierre Jeunet, who's a great director. I figured I would try to get him to come to Eatontown, New Jersey. I'm always trying for these long shots, but every once in a while I get lucky so I keep doing it.
"I was absolutely sure he wasn't going to come, but I extended the invitation to all of the right places. Lo and behold that same night I was screening the film, Harvey Weinstein had flown John-Pierre Jeunet in from France for a special dinner honoring him in Manhattan. That afternoon, after he gets to Manhattan, he asks his publicist if anybody was going to see his movie or if there were any screenings going on. He was told about a screening in New Jersey at Chuck Rose's film class in Eatontown and he says, 'I want to go there!' So he blows off Harvey Weinstein who flew him in for this dinner and comes to my film class! It was just the most exciting and thrilling thing."
The cost for the series is $166 for each six-week session. Space is limited, so interested film buffs should sign up well in advance. For more information on the Filmmakers Symposium go to http://www.privatescreenings.org or call 1-800-531-9416
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.