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The comedic short Knights of New Jersey will be opening the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 28, 2017!


By Al Nigrin

originally published: 02/01/2017

The comedic short Knights of New Jersey will be opening the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 28, 2017!

The comedic short Knights of New Jersey will be opening the New Jersey Film Festival on Saturday, January 28, 2017!

Here is a brief interview with Michael Hadley, Director of Knights of New Jersey:

Nigrin:  Your film Knights of New Jersey is a comedic, behind-the-scenes look at a troupe of Renaissance Faire actors and the passions, aspirations, and petty humiliations that arise as they attempt to bring their vision to life. Please tell us more about your film and why you decided to make  it.

Hadley: The initial idea came about after a visit some years ago with my kids to “Medieval Times,” the Renaissance battle/dinner theatre show here in New Jersey—and around the country. I started to wonder what it would be like to work there—what’s the daily grind like?  I began working on a feature film screenplay that explored the idea but over time, I realized that a Renaissance Faire was perhaps an even better setting, in that it allowed for a wide variety of thematic and comedic strands to be interwoven—interactions with customers, with cosplayers and other fans. As well, from a production and logistical standpoint, it was easier to execute. I’m also a big fan of Ren Faire and have been to a number of them over the years, so it was definitely a location that was close to my heart

Nigrin:  Your film is not a documentary but it documents what Renaissance Faires are like. Was this something you consciously wanted to do?



 
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Hadley: Yes, definitely.  While it’s a scripted narrative, we tried to give it a realistic, behind-the-scenes style. The jousts, music numbers and performances all happen off-screen in our world. Instead, our focus is the behind-the-scenes politics, romances and intrigues that are part and parcel of any workplace—or indeed, any place humans congregate. And it is that contrast between the idealized, glamorous public performances that the public sees and the daily grind the performers experience that we wanted to explore.

Nigrin:  The three lead actors really do a great job of sucking you into the story and this world which is between contemporary and renaissance times. Can you tell us more about how you found them and how you came about casting them in lead roles?

Hadley: We were tremendously fortunate with our entire cast, especially the work done by Kurt Smith (Sir Robert), Benny Elledge (Squire Tom) and Mackenzie Lansing (Mother of Dragons). Our approach to casting was two-fold.  We worked with Sandra Spano, a long time Rennie who has deep contacts within the NJ Ren Fair community.  We also worked with NYC-based Casting Director Destiny Lilly. Producer Mike Scully had worked with Destiny in the past on a number of commercials and recommended her for Knights.  We held casting calls and then call backs. Casting is always a really difficult process—do the actors have the right chops? How do they interact?  How do they take direction?  Can they bring something unexpected to the character?  We’ve won a number festival awards so far for Knights but I think the one I’m most proud of is the Best Ensemble award at the recent Brooklyn Web Fest. And that’s really a tribute to Destiny’s work and the talent of our fantastic cast.

Nigrin:  Where did you shoot your film? Is it all shot in New Jersey?

Hadley: 90% shot in NJ. Our challenge was that we shot in late October, well past the prime Ren Faire season, and we needed to find a suitable behind-the-scenes location. Most Ren Faires feature a castle, so that was the focus of our search. Fortunately, there are in fact two castles within a five mile radius of my home in Montclair, NJ: Lambert Castle in Paterson and Kips Castle in Verona. Both the Essex and Passaic county parks departments were extremely helpful in granting us permission to film at these wonderful locations. The key to making it work was in selecting the right angles and having a constant flow of extras moving through the frame. In addition, we shot some terrific footage at the New York Renaissance Faire and the Wrightstown Village Faire in PA.In the edit room, we tried to create a seamless flow between the b-roll and our scripted footage and I think it worked out very well.

This past summer, we shot a follow-on installment at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire in Bordentown, which was a terrific experience.  

Nigrin:  Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can rely to our readers?



 
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Hadley: When we first started sharing the script, we were concerned about getting the buy-in from the Ren Faire community. Obviously, we wanted them to like it and enjoy it. And on a practical level, we needed their talent and resources to bring Knights to life. Fortunately, their embrace was swift, warm and welcoming. 

And while there’s an obvious affinity for Rennies, cosplayers, Larpers, and genre and fantasy fans, the audiences that have seen the film have been very broad—and they’ve really enjoyed it as well. I think it’s because we’ve tried to create characters that are funny, flawed and human—in other words, just like you and me. While the context is unique, the fact that they are trying to build a community, have fun, find romance, achieve and succeed—these are the things all of us dealing with in our own lives.

Here is the trailer for Knights of New Jersey:  

***********************************************************

The Northlander will be preceded by the short Knights of New Jersey. Here is more info on these films and the screening:

Knights of New Jersey - Michael Hadley (Montclair, New Jersey)

Knights of New Jersey is a comedic, behind-the-scenes look at a troupe of Renaissance Faire actors and the passions, aspirations, and petty humiliations that arise as they attempt to bring their vision to life.  In the unique, make-believe world of the Faire, Game of Thrones cosplay fans, Steampunk divas, and weekend Wizards mingle with Mundanes—aka normal people.  The Faire may well be the only kingdom in New Jersey where virtues like courage and honor are real. 2016; 22 min. With an introduction and Q+A session by Director Michael Hadley!

The Northlander - Benjamin Ross Hayden (Calgary, Canada)

It is the year 2961, a time after humanity, when nature has reclaimed the land. A hunter named Cygnus is called to voyage across the treacherous landscape to defend his people. He provides for the Last Arc, a once-nomadic band of survivors in need of food and water. Nova, the matriarch of the band, guides Cygnus with her visions, as he ventures out to find a seed of hope.  A solution must be found before a group of outlandish Heretics descend upon them all. 2016; 97 min.

Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.


Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University


71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey


$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends


Information: (848) 932-8482;
www.njfilmfest.com

Jimmy John’s of New Brunswick will be providing free food prior to all New Jersey Film Festival Screenings!

 




Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.


 
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