Film types jump at chance to connect

Networking group: Local filmmakers put out call to 'pull together'

 

JOHN GRIFFIN

The Gazette - Montreal

 

Saturday, February 04, 2006. POP CULTURE section

 

PHOTO CREDIT: PIERRE OBENDRAUF, THE GAZETTE

Ezra Soiferman and Val Lonergan are behind the Montreal Film Group, an organization aiming to bring filmmakers together.

 

There's a reason why friends call local filmmaker Ezra Soiferman the Sultan of Schmooze. He's really good at it.

Stung by the end of a relationship that was to have relocated him to New York City last fall, the director of offbeat documentaries like Tree Weeks and Man Of Grease coped by getting creative with his contact list. The Montreal Film Group is the result. 

Soiferman and MFG co-director Val Lonergan met to talk about the brand-new organization earlier this week at Shaika Cafe, the seriously comforting N.D.G. resto, bar and de facto alternative community centre that would house the first MFG confab the next night.

"Our mission is to bring together like-minded Montreal film and TV folks who are eager to be part of a thriving - and growing - community," they said over sparkling water. "To do this, we promote networking and learning through a stimulating slate of events.

"It's only existed a couple of months in its current form," Lonergan explained. "Back in the summer of 2004 a bunch of local film people got together in bars and cafes to figure out a way for filmmakers to collaborate and make life in this difficult profession easier. It seemed like everyone was working in their own little bubble. We figured we should try and pull together."

Like many good ideas, it hit the back burner while its creators went about making the rent. Soiferman, ever mindful of "learning from your losses," took the N.Y.C. setback as a sign he should recommit to that earlier idea. With Lonergan on board to do the hardcore organizing, the MFG was officially launched Jan. 17.

Membership demographics run from film and TV producers, writers, directors, editors, animators, composers, actors, crew members, agents, news reporters and set designers to recent film school grads, and, it's reported, lawyers and critics.

"We create monthly opportunities to meet new people that go beyond the traditional cocktail-party setting and vary in size and purpose," they said. "There will be how-to nights, live interviews with industry personalities, small dinner parties and more."

There were 40 members before the launch. Tuesday night's Shaika network mosh attracted more than 250, and membership was expected to pass the 300 mark by week's end.

"It's out of control," Soiferman explained, engaging his full-schmooze setting. "The feedback has been consistently supportive. People think it's such a great idea and say we really needed this. Sometimes you forget you've made the right moves until people tell you."

In an earlier email, Soiferman elaborated on those moves. "We have a considerable collection of useful links to share and often receive job openings to post. We like to promote local film screenings. We're currently securing industry sponsors who will offer discounts and other advantages to our members. We keep the group up to date by periodic email newsletters and through our website."

Membership, by the way, is free.

"There's no reason we can't access government, private investors or venture capitalists, or serve as our own funding organization, offering grants," Soiferman said at Shaika, dreaming large.

Back on terra firma, he remembered, "Both Val and I are active filmmakers, and we won't be giving up our day jobs for this. We have no big set plan. It will go the way it goes."

And the Shaika bash?

"A hit. A complete success. A grand slam," Soiferman wrote way too early the next morning.

"Everyone was there, from directors to writers, to make-up, to actors, to stunt men! I was flabbergasted by the turnout and the response. It is a true sign of the need for such a thing, and a step in the right direction for our city, not just our city's film and TV scene."

jgriffin@thegazette.canwest.com

 The Gazette (Montreal) 2006

 

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