October 21st, 2013 | FUREVER | West Long Branch, NJ
I set out early from Brooklyn in my rental car to get to my final stop of the tour: West Long Branch, NJ. I haven’t spent much time in Jersey (I’m from Seattle originally), so I was particularly excited to find that my destination was close to Asbury Park, which I’ve been curious about for years. I was thrilled to get to spend a few hours there before heading to Monmouth, though I’m ashamed to admit that as I inched closer, I listened to Greetings from Asbury Park. With the windows down.
What a fascinating place. Its deterioration and redevelopment is reminiscent of the plight of Coney Island, unfortunately, (you should all go watch my friend Amy’s amazing doc ZIPPER for more on that). I found but three people enjoying October’s sunny beach, and spoke to numerous locals on the boardwalk—everyone was remarkably friendly. I can’t wait to go back.
I headed to Monmouth to speak to Professor Andrew Demirjian’s film class. He has a great group of students who were remarkably inquisitive about the equipment we used and about the specifics of filmmaking—particularly distribution strategies (our distributors are PBS and FilmBuff). We also talked a lot about Kickstarter and seed funding in general. It was a great session.
That evening’s screening took place in the Pollak Theatre and the turnout, which included both students and locals, was fantastic. The Q&A was interesting; a psychologist, who teaches a course on death and dying, as well as a grief counselor, accompanied me. My favorite part was when a student asked us what our personal beliefs were about whether animals have souls. I’m totally non-religious and, as that wasn’t the case with my peers, it was an especially interesting moment that yielded disparate (but passionate) responses.
Just before the Q&A I wandered off to check out Wilson Hall, currently the admissions building, which Andrew had pointed out. Its fascinating story (which you can read here) includes these highlights: Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 summer home / former residence of Woolworth president Hubert Templeton Parson (especially fitting, as I teach NYU courses in the Woolworth building in NYC) / served as the setting for the film version of the musical “Annie” in 1980! I was obsessed with that film as a child and can still recite nearly every word.
My night ended in the best possible way! I’d discovered that one of my favorite filmmakers, Pete Sillen, lives in the area. While I’d never met him, I’d seen him speak once at a screening of some of his short films. He’s responsible for the totally brilliant: I am Secretly an Important Man, Speed Racer: Welcome to the world of Vic Chesnutt, Grand Luncheonette, Branson: Musicland USA, and Old Joy (its cinematography), among others. I emailed him a few days before my trip and was thrilled to hear he’d come to the screening and hang out for drinks after. We had a great time talking about filmmaking, Jersey, and his family/pets. Before heading back, he gave me a little James Garfield death tour.
Many thanks go to Andrew, his wonderful students, the inimitable Pete Sillen, and my new friends in Asbury Park. A perfect end to a magical tour! Also, massive thanks go to Kimberly Steinle-Super, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts for being so accommodating and generous. I had an absolute blast doing On Screen / In Person!