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Scorsese at the 2023 Montclair Film Festival

This past October, I had the incredible opportunity to be a student representative of Montclair Film at the Montclair Film Festival’s 2023 tribute to Martin Scorsese. Throughout my high school career, I have participated in several education programs and events run by Montclair Film and was thus chosen to act as an interviewer at the cocktail hour before Stephen Colbert interviewed Scorsese. Another high school student was to be a cameraman, and we were accompanied by my film teacher, Ryan Moore.

 

The event was to take place on October 27, and I was notified exactly a month prior. I remember the excitement I felt leaving English class to open my phone to an email inviting me to the event. I had heard about the Scorsese-Colbert talk but knew I was not able to attend due to the high price of the tickets. This was an issue no more, as I was now not only attending but attending as a distinguished guest. Immediately after my notification, I called my mother and told her of the news. She was just as excited as I was, as this was practically a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

 

After a month of waiting and dress shopping, the day of the event came. I was told there was a chance I would meet Scorsese, but I would be meeting Colbert and likely Governor Phil Murphy as well. I arrived at Montclair Film’s headquarters on Bloomfield Avenue, and Ryan drove the other student and me to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. On the drive there, we spoke of our favorite Scorsese films and the current state of the film industry. We parked in the designated parking garage and then entered the building. 

 

We walked up the stairs and were soon met with the entranceway to a nicely decorated room. I was to be set up right outside the entrance to the room, with a step-and-repeat banner behind me and a red carpet under me. I was given a name tag as well, which made me feel extra professional. I was introduced to various members of the Film Festival’s staff, and we shot some B-rolls of the cocktail party room. I helped the other students set up the camera and test the microphone, and we shot a test interview between myself and my film teacher. 

 

At around 7:00, people began filing in. I shot some interviews, and asked some basic questions such as “What was your first Montclair Film experience?”; “Have you seen any films at the festival this year?”; and “What is your favorite Martin Scorsese film?”. I got many answers to the latter question that were not films made by Scorsese, ironically enough. Many of these people coming into the party were employees of a given company that was a large donor to Montclair Film, but some of them were distinguished guests or personal donors. I met Audible founder Don Katz, as well as many employees of Audible. Eventually, I ate dinner; a variety of different cuisines served in what I could best describe as formal buffet style. When I returned to the step-and-repeat banner, my film teacher told me that Colbert was reportedly on his way and that I should ask him, “Why are arts non-profit organizations like Montclair Film so important?”, and “What advice would you give for a young person trying to break into the entertainment industry?” 

 

As soon as he finished telling me this, I saw a familiar head in the distance, surrounded by an entourage; Stephen Colbert. He approached quickly and was significantly taller than I expected him to be. He asked me my name, complimented my dress, and we shook hands. I then asked him the two questions I was told to, and he gave me lengthy and valuable answers. I thanked him, then went on to interview his wife. 

 

After I had interviewed the Colberts, we were all ushered into the cocktail party room. One of the important staff members of the festival made a speech and mentioned myself and the other student, then both of the Colberts made speeches. Just as soon as we were ushered into the room, we were ushered out and down the hall. I thought that this could very well be the moment I met Scorsese!

 

But it was not. Turns out I was guided down this hall to take pictures with Colbert. This was fun and quick, but I was then informed Scorsese was running late so he would not make it to the gala. We then exited the room and went back down the hall to help break down our equipment. This was perhaps the most dazed I felt the whole evening, as I passed a bewildered-looking Governor Murphy, as well as actors Patrick Wilson and Dagmara Dominczyk. I helped pack up the camera, microphone, and red carpet. We then donned our clip-on name tags and walked through the lobby of NJPAC to our seats, feeling important (a product of the name tags).

 

I was told that our seats were “the most nosebleed-y nosebleeds can be,” but they surprised both myself and my film teacher, as they were in the center of the first row of the mezzanine. We had perhaps the best view of the stage in the entire theater. 

 

Colbert and Scorsese’s talk was insightful and interesting. Scorsese spoke of his new film, and his previous films, and uncovered details of his upcoming projects; one being a book adaptation, and one being another project alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. They spoke on faith, storytelling, and filmmaking and its impact as a medium. It was quite inspiring for someone who wishes to write and direct my films. 

 

The opportunity to interview people at and attend this prestigious event was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am eternally grateful to Montclair Film and all they have done for my film education and enrichment. This was a truly enlightening experience, and I felt like I got a look into the film industry, as well as insight from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.



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