The Montclair Film Festival has returned for the 11th year, kicking off with the premiere of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, followed by the opening night reception. The week-long festival is presented by Montclair Film, a non-profit founded by Bob Feinberg that is run by a board of trustees, an advisory board, other staff, and volunteers. The Montclair Girl was lucky enough to get a front row ticket behind the scenes of the annual festival through the lens of the President, Evelyn Colbert (and wife of Stephen Colbert), who chatted with us on the red carpet. Read on for more from Montclair Film Festival President Evelyn Colbert — plus a surprise chat with Stephen Colbert.
Coming Back Strong
This year’s festival is making a comeback after returning last year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. MFF 2021 had 50% fewer films than this year due to Montclair Film taking extra safety precautions.
“We’re back now to our regular schedule and I think it’s different in that we have enormous talent coming. The fact that we have Daniel Craig and Brendan Fraser and Eddie Redmayne is super exciting for us,” President of Montclair Film Festival, Evelyn Colbert, told The Montclair Girl exclusively. “Netflix has been extraordinarily generous and helpful to us and to be able to show The Good Nurse and The Whale and tonight’s film Glass Onion — those are really big films and a lot of our films are much talked about.”
Evelyn, who’s married to TV host Stephen Colbert, said she was “really happy” that they moved the festival to October — October 21st to October 30th — because of films wanting to campaign for an Oscar nomination. “We found October was so helpful for us in terms of pictures that are [pushing for an] Academy [award], so it’s a great time slot for us. They’re already out doing press for these movies.”
^ Evelyn Colbert and Stephen Colbert at Wellmont Theater on Friday, October 21st
Putting In the Magic
So how did Montclair Film round up some of the biggest stars? Well, Evie jokes, that it wasn’t just her — it was the programming team that started scouting films last year and working their magic.
“It is a year long process. Our programming team goes to Sundance and they go to a lot of film festivals. I’d say about half of our festival is curated, which means we seek the films. The other half comes through submissions — we get a lot of submissions,” Evelyn shared.
Part of the submissions come from the film studios themselves like Netflix, which has a strong presence at this year’s festival. “We really work hard to support NJ filmmakers and local filmmakers and we have a lot of independent films so that’s kind of the balance we have to figure out… We kind of work hard to make sure there’s something for everybody,” the Charleston, South Carolina native added.
^ Evelyn introducing the premiere of Glass Onion
Over the years, Montclair Film Festival has had appearances from other stars like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mindy Kaling, Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Gilbert Gottfried, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Evie remarked, “I’m happy to say and proud to say that Montclair Film has gotten a reputation that we treat people well and we have great receptive audiences — and so, it’s a fun time and I think we talked [the celebrities] into it, so to speak.”
A Word With Stephen Colbert
While speaking with Mrs. Colbert, Stephen Colbert made a surprise appearance during The Montclair Girl’s interview to greet his wife. The two of them have been married since October 1993 and have three children: Madeline, Peter, and John. Apart from hosting The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Mr. Colbert serves on the advisory board of the MFF and will be moderating various Q&As throughout the festival.
When asked whom he’s most excited to speak to, Stephen quipped, “All of them! I mean look what I get to choose from — Daniel Craig and Eddie Redmayne and Brendan Fraser. You can’t ask me to pick between those three guys.”
^ Stephen’s talk with Daniel Craig will take place on Friday, October 28th at NJPAC
(Photo credit: Montclair Film’s Facebook)
He added, “What I really love in terms of my participation is the long form interviews I do with people. To be able to do an hour and 45 minutes with Daniel Craig, to be able to do an hour with Brendan [Fraser] after the film, and to moderate the conversation between the audience who has just seen the film and the artist is just great. I mean I like my day job, but those are 10-15 minute interviews.”
His wife chimed in, “I always tease him that we’re helping him out. Like last year, he talked to Dionne Warwick. We get guests for him, we’re giving him help.”
Putting Montclair on The Map
Evelyn and Stephen live in the suburbs of Montclair and can’t help but notice a difference the Montclair Film Festival has made on the community and the economy. Stephen said it’s been “great for the local community — I’ve seen the stats,” while Evelyn agreed and added, “We actually have a friend who made a film here in the spring or summer. All of his talent loved the town. They felt like it was a wonderful place to work.”
New Jersey will soon be home to film studios. Netflix recently won a bid for mega-parcel at the Forth Monmouth military base and Lionsgate and Great Point Studios will be opening a $125M facility in Newark’s South Ward. “[New Jersey] is a place where I think filmmakers and talent will be working more and more. That’s going to have a huge impact not to just Montclair, but all of NJ,” Evie continued.
(Photo credit: Montclair Film’s Facebook)
Evelyn also shared that a few of her friends who are real estate agents have boasted about the town’s annual film festival to prospective home buyers. “I think it’s actually why we started the idea 12 years ago — [it] was to give the community a shot in the arm economically.”
Just while chatting with The Montclair Girl, the Colberts were welcomed by many people who came from the festival the year prior. “It’s the same people all over. We see so many people come back from year to year,” Stephen said.
Keep Up With Montclair Film
The non-profit also operates The Clairidge Theater, which is an independent art house cinema that has showings all-year round. Evie told MG that the committee does take a breather after each MFF but it’s around-the-clock hours these next few months.
“That’s a huge undertaking in itself is running a movie theater. We also have educational programs that we run all year long and we’ll ramp those up once the festival wraps. Our classes will start for the fall, so there’s a lot to do,” Evelyn shared. “We take a little bit of a break in terms of what the festival next year will be, but the staff doesn’t get much of a break unfortunately. Yeah, it’s a lot of work.”
To purchase tickets for this year’s Montclair Film Festival, visit https://montclairfilm.org/festival-information/tickets/.