By ANDREW GARDA
Tom Hall wasn’t sure what he would find when he walked into the Montclair Film offices at 505 Bloomfield Ave., the day after Ida passed through the area.
Montclair Film’s executive director had seen online video of the adjacent North Fullerton Avenue Parking Deck being flooded. Waters gushed into the garage, eventually reaching above cars and SUVs. He knew it wouldn’t be pretty.
“There were multiple feet [of water] which came in on the Fullerton Deck side, which is the concourse level, and then not as much on the main floor, but it got through the baseboards and the columns, and into the plywood underneath the flooring,” he said.
The water line in some parts of the concourse level of the building reached four feet.
That meant building material, along with a lot of drywall and sheetrock, would have to come out.
The organization was able to preserve much of the equipment from its in-house theater — the projector, screen, speakers, digital server and some other electronics — but many items stored in the concourse were destroyed. Laptops, cameras, sound equipment and hard drives were all lost.
“Everything that you would [use to] teach digital production was in our education center, in the basement,” Hall said. “So, all those things are basically a total loss. We’ll get with the insurance company on that, but I would need to get that either replaced or figured out. We’re just starting that process now.”
Hall said those who have signed up for the organization’s fall classes will see an email asking for patience as Montclair Film handles the fallout.
“The education programs we run out of this building will be the most impacted by that,” Hall said. “So we need alternative space [and to] rent a lot of equipment like laptops, cameras, sound equipment, hard drives.”
Hall said that isn’t insurmountable, especially as the classes don’t start until October.
“We’ve got time to sort of figure out how we’re going to do that,” Hall said. “We ran classes online for over a year. I know people are sort of ‘Zoomed’ out, but on the other hand, we are experienced in delivering high-quality online classes if we end up doing that. We’re just not there yet.”
Hall also said the two other major events Montclair Film has on the docket will not be affected by the damage.
The 10th annual Montclair Film Festival remains on schedule to take place from Oct. 21 to Oct. 30. Hall said the final preparations should be done in the next few weeks and details are expected to be announced by the end of this month.
Montclair Film also plans to reopen Clairidge Cinemas in October, as previously announced, as well. The nonprofit said in June it had signed a long-term agreement with current building owner Dick Grabowsky to operate the cinemas, which shut down in the pandemic as a Bow Tie Cinemas location and never reopened.
“The Clairidge was spared any real damage,” Hall said. “I think a little bit of water came into one of the theaters, but we had our construction in there working on renovating theaters already. So, they had already done remediation on that. So, there was no impact to our schedule for the Clairidge.”
In the meantime, the organization’s offices don’t have any phone or internet service — conduits for both were in the flooded basement — so Hall said Montclair Film staff will be working from home.
“The good news there is that we’ve been working remotely for 18 months and have a lot of experience as a team doing remote work,” he said. “We ran the 2020 Montclair Film Festival remotely as a team and we put that together and executed that.”
Hall said people have offered assistance to Montclair Film, as they have to many businesses and nonprofits affected by Ida. But he asks for patience: Offers of help are appreciated, but the group doesn’t know exactly what will be most needed.
“We need to get our arms around the problem, before we start asking for help to solve the problem,” Hall said. “We’re not sure in terms of the amount of damage, the costs of restoration, where that fits within our insurance policy.”
Hall said Montclair Film staffers are in that process now and don’t want to ask for money or other assistance when they may not need it.
For now, he said, the group is fortunate to be working with a remediation company that has been responsive and is helping the organization get a sense of what is needed.
“I think we will end up having an opportunity for people to help us,” Hall said. “Once we are on the other side of that, I think I’m very comfortable letting people know about where we are and whatever needs we might have. I think there’s a lot of need out there right now, so we appreciate the generosity.”