From Jersey, With Love

Two years ago, I traveled to Nigeria to do a short documentary on my friend Dena’s organization The Nigerian School Project.

With Dena, I visited the public schools she built on an island of 350,000 people that is not labeled on maps. It has no running water or electricity.

Now, we are growing the film, “From Jersey, With Love” into a full length doc.

In order to complete it, we plan to bring a crew to film the island’s first high school graduation in June.

Last summer, I stayed on the island to get to know the students, teachers and the community better. And, I had the privilege to co-teach the students with a young Nigerian woman who Dena had sponsored through college.

The community embraced us. And, the relationships I built In Nigeria are a source of joy for me and an inspiration for the film.

In a couple of months we are going to start a Kickstarter (crowdfunding) campaign to fund the upcoming filming in Nigeria for the graduation and to capture stronger interview footage.

Please share our project, “From Jersey, With Love.”

Much Gratitude,



MFF Behind the Screen: The “Stevphens”! & Notes on Show Biz

Colbert/Carell Photos by Neil Grabowsky (Check out his site: The Jersey Nerds)
Text and Behind the Scene Photos by K. Cecchini

Anticipation for the 2015 season for the Montclair Film Festival started building this weekend with the Stevphens! -Colbert & Carell – and the Behind the Screen: Media Careers 101 seminars.

To add to the excitement, the festival is really grown & sexy now; it will span 10 days starting on the first of May which will now be bookended by 2 intense weekends of events.

On Friday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, hilarity ensued with the two Stevphens in conversation at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Thanks to MFF photo team leader Neil Grabowsky’s talent, Tonight at Dawn has fantastic shots of Colbert & Carell from the night to share with you.

Photo by Neil Grabowsky


Photo by Neil Grabowsky
Photo by Neil Grabowsky
Photo by Neil Grabowsky


Following the kickoff, I covered Behind the Screen for the team Saturday on the Montclair State University campus; the media savvy seminars were chock full of advice from the pros of show biz:

Sakina Jaffrey of House of Cards on Acting: 


Sakina Jaffreys, Actress - House of Cards
Sakina Jaffreys, Actress – House of Cards


1-If you find that the role you are trying out for suffers from ethnic stereotypes, focus on getting the role and then, as a member of the cast, you will likely have more room to make script suggestions.

2-In order to assume a character that seems to diverge greatly from your own personality, try to relate to something in the role’s characteristics. For instance, when the actress first approached her role on House of Cards, Linda Vasquez, Jaffrey had difficulty relating as she is much more social than Vasquez. Recognizing that the character’s source of power was her intellect, Jaffrey prepared by reading books on topics that Vasquez would be well versed on.

Jill Sands, Sakina Jaffreys, and MFF Co-Founder, Bob Feinberg
Jill Sands, Sakina Jaffreys, and MFF Co-Founder, Bob Feinberg

Michael Slovis of Breaking Bad on Directing:

Directors Michael Slovis (Breaking Bad) & Laura Belfrey (Criminal Minds)
Directors Michael Slovis (Breaking Bad) & Laura Belfrey (Criminal Minds)

1- “It’s not my fault, but it is my problem,” Slovis shared the mantra of episodic television directors. Once the director figures out how to interpret the script aesthetically, “you have to figure out how you are going to do it in the time you have,” even when the allotted time is impeded upon by anything from accidents to Hurricane Sandy.

2- “Be aware” that when you have to film a fight that the choreographers usually develop the sequence from a specific viewpoint in relation to the camera. As a director, Slovis will always observe the choreography from that point of view; there are ways to hide a kick, etc. and “in TV, you have to use what works”.

3- “Our job as director is to be the audience…to put the camera in the place you expect it to be or you don’t expect it to be but it still works on a visceral level.”

Laura Belfrey of Criminal Minds on Directing:

1-“Speed is everything and the key thing about doing episodic television is being prepared and being ready to change in a heartbeat.”

Tom Hall of MFF on Getting into Film Festivals:

1-Make a good film.

2-Look up which festivals play films similar to yours and submit to them.

3-Follow up your submission by contacting the festival to make yourself stand out from the stacks of DVD’s and Vimeo links.

4-Follow the submission guidelines but online links are generally preferred to DVD’s.

Jessica Wolfson on Documentaries:

1- Get talent releases when you are filming whether by paper or their acknowledgement on camera. It is difficult to go back and find people for their permission.

2- Seek out a lawyer to form a LLC to protect your personal assets in the event that there are legal complications.

Paul Lovelace on Documentaries: 

1-When you’re not sure how to order a documentary, start by putting the material into a logical order – such as chronological- and then play with the footage from that spot; a theme is likely to emerge.


Documentary Filmmakers Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson with MFF Executive Director Tom Hall
Documentary Filmmakers Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson with MFF Executive Director Tom Hall

To view more photos and information on the Montclair Film Festival, click here for the site and the Flickr stream.






Bringing the Oscar Home

Montclair Film Festival-Pre-Oscar Party-Photo: Kimberly Cecchini
Montclair Film Festival-Pre-Oscar Party-Photo: Kimberly Cecchini

Text & Photos by Kmberly Cecchini

The Montclair Film Festival just held its annual Pre-Oscar Party on Saturday and it was  not just a nod to the industry because the industry is now taking note of Montclair; three of the festival’s films were nominated for an Oscar and one laid claim to the prize.  The winner was last year’s opening night film with Darlene Love, Twenty Feet From Stardom, which documented the careers of back up singers.

Heightening anticipation and raising funds for the upcoming fourth year for the festival, the party appeared to be a huge success.  The venue was packed and lively with well dressed folks.  Partygoers surrounded the stage for a spirited performance from the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and shortly afterwards, an animated group crowded onto the dance floor.

As one of the event photographers for the evening, it was exciting to be amidst the pre-festival buzz.  The 4th Annual Montclair Film Festival will be held from April 28-May 4, 2014.  For more information, visit and to view more photos from all of the festival’s photographers, visit the Montclair Film Festival’s Flickr.

Montclair Film Festival-2013-Ice-T-Photo: Kimberly Cecchini
Montclair Film Festival-2013-Ice-T-Photo: Kimberly Cecchini