By GWEN OREL
We caught up to Bob Feinberg, Founder and chairman of Montclair Film, while he was out walking his Cavapoo dog Maeby (named for a character in “Arrested Development”) on a Saturday morning. Feinberg works as Vice President/General Counsel at PBS.
This project has grown exponentially. What keeps you going?
The Film Festival and the other things we’re doing year-round have been so universally embraced by our audiences in Montclair and beyond Montclair that it’s sort of self-perpetuating. I don’t think we could stop now if we wanted to. Not that we want to. One of the first problems we had is that the one-off events we had were selling off so quickly and people got frustrated by that so we launched a membership program so people could have early access to tickets or events. Our membership now has I think 3-4,000 members. People have been so responsive to what you’re doing.
But you personally? You have a demanding day job.
I do have a demanding day job and more than that a demanding commute back and forth
to New York City. I’m very gratified to be able to give something back to this community. I love Montclair. My kids grew up here. It’s gratifying to contribute to the community and build something. I was present at the creation.
Now that you have a billboard near the Lincoln Tunnel and coverage in the New York Times and NPR, do you still have a place in your heart for the locals?
I think the hometown edge is really a core to the festival itself. There are festivals where people go to sell their films to distributors, and festivals out there in some beautiful destinations like Telluride or Park City, Utah. Montclair is not a marketplace. And although I think Montclair’s lovely, I don’t think we’re in the same ballpark as Park City, Utah or Telluride. But I think what’s special about this place really is the community and the embrace that filmmakers get from this community when they bring their films here. It’s a very personal thing. I remember a few years ago when Lake Bell brought her film “In a World” here. I had seen it at Sundance, and was floored. I remember she was at the MKA auditorium and the first thing she did was start running it so the sound was right and the music was right and it struck me it was like showing off her child. It is a real personal thing for filmmakers.
We love to host these folks, whether they’re starting off or Academy Award-winners, and we have both of those types.
You mentioned that you were going to be at the Tribeca Film Festival tomorrow.
Did you go to film festivals before you were the founder and now are chairman of Montclair Film?
I originally went to film festivals in connection with my day job at Channel 13. Actually, the first time I went to Sundance we were out skiing with our kids and by happenstance I discovered Taylor Swift was going to be at a premiere of a film about Rory Kennedy. My daughter Lily, who was 11, was a huge Taylor Swift fan. We left the mountain, we found the theater, of course we couldn’t get tickets, but we stood outside with a bunch of other young girls and their parents. As you know, Sundance was largely created by Robert Redford. So we waited outside and a big black SUV pulls up and out pops Robert Redford and his entourage. It means nothing to them. Then Rory Kennedy comes out of another SUV with her mother Ethel and again these girls were totally uninterested.
Then a huge white SUV arrived and Taylor Swift arrived and these kids went insane. That was really my first film festival experience. Then I started going for Channel 13. It was really being in Park City and going to Sundance that was my inspiration for the Montclair Film Festival. Everywhere you look there are Sundance banners and signs and I just thought, “Wow, this would be so cool to do in Montclair.”