With films come revelations

The Black Bear Film Festival opens new worlds to movie watchers, inspires another generation of filmmakers

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  • Salon attendees do a deep dive into the meaning behind the films they admire, and how they are created (Photo by Anya Tikka)

  • Elegance, and refreshment, under the tent (Photo by Anya Tikka)

  • Celebrity line-up with Milford Mayor Sean Strub, second from left (Photo by Anya Tikka)

  • Michael Ventresco with festival organizers (Photo by Anya Tikka)

  • Film-lover Roberta Bramhall attends from Morris County, N.J. (Photo by Anya Tikka)

  • The silent auction (Photo by Anya Tikka)

By Anya Tikka

— Milford's annual film festival not only shows great movies, it inspires would-be filmmakers to get in the game.

At last weekend's Black Bear Film Festival, a salon was held on short films that were mostly made by high school students at Sussex County Tech. The school has been offering a four-year course covering all aspects of film making for seven years now.

The course is taught by Michael Ventresco, who worked for 35 years in New York City, including with Martin Scorsese and Disney films.

“I’ve graduated three classes,” Ventresco said. “I show them what to do and how to do it.”

The course includes everything from planning to script writing to post production, special effects. animation, and image-verifying, Ventresco explained. He said many graduates of the program have gone on to prestigious art and film schools, including the Pratt Institute, and to promising careers in the industry, including with HBO and Warner Bros.

The salon was filled with supporters, friends and family of the filmmakers, who watched the entertaining and original short films from beginning to end.

Insight into our worldOne of the festival-goers came from Morris County in New Jersey. Retired English teacher Roberta Bramhall has been attending the festival for several years. She learns so much from the films she sees. She recalled films from previous festivals that left an impression on her, including one on the plight of Orca whales and the effects of fracking and Lyme disease.

“I enjoy the drive and the picturesque small town in fall,” the film-lover said while taking a break in the tent sipping tea. She had already been to see "Tab Hunter Confidential," about pressures of leading a double life a gay actor. It made her realize for the first time just how tough life was in Hollywood, back in the days before being gay was accepted. And "A Good Day to Die" was a deep film, she said. She was also excited to see ancient skills, like sharpening knives and scissors, depicted in "Living Treasures of the Yucatan" — skills workers in the Yucatan still practice today.

“It brought back my childhood days,” she said.

This year, The Black Bear Film Festival also welcomed Olivia Fisher as a new intern. She graduated from the Sussex County Community College, and will continue her studies there. "An internship is invaluable in this field, and I believe Olivia will take full advantage of the opportunity," said Bob Keiber, the festival's executive director.

The festival has also established a film scholarship at Sussex County Community College, as well as an educational program as part of their Greater Pike Community Foundation grant award.

Mixing it upThe 17th Black Bear Film Festival followed the same format as in previous years, starting with a gala kick-off, with dinner, music, and awards, followed by a film on the main stage at the Milford Theatre on Friday night, and continuous full-length films there on Saturday and Sunday. The short film salon also took place both Saturday and Sunday, this year in two locations, the Episcopal Church and the Pike County Library.

Under Keiber's guidance, Hollywood actors and producers were featured in the film line-up. In addition to Tab Hunter were actors John Doman and Carleton Carpenter, producer Tom Fontana, and director Larry Kramer.

An auction of the traditional painted bears, the gala, and the refreshments service took place under a tent at the back of Hotel Fauchere, one of the event sponsors.

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