Cliffhanger Film Festivals
The Cliffhanger Film Festivals are an annual series of spring and fall film festivals celebrating Fort Lee's role as the birthplace of the American motion picture industry and the first American film town. These popular film festivals have included:
- A tribute to the Barrymore family, for the films they made in Fort Lee and their role as residents of the Coytesville section of the borough;
- Early film star Pearl White, the symbol of the Fort Lee Film Commission, for her early “cliffhanger” movie serials shot on the New Jersey Palisades;
- A salute to Universal Studios which was born in the Coytesville section of Fort Lee in 1912 through the union of such Fort Lee studios as Champion and IMP;
- A celebration of the career of pioneer African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Micheaux made many of his silent and "talkie" films in Fort Lee, including The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920) and the first African-American talkie / musical The Exile (1931) shot at Metropolitan Studios in Fort Lee at the present day site of Constitution Park;
- An annual "Reel Jersey Girl" film festival to highlight such film pioneers as Alice Guy Blache', the first woman director in cinema history who built her Solax Studio here in Fort Lee in 1912 where she produced, wrote and directed hundreds of films before women in this nation had the right to vote. The Fort Lee Film Commission successfully lobbied for a 2011 Directors Guild of America honor for Alice; her inclusion into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2013 and a new marker for her grave site in Maryrest Cemetery in nearby Mahwah, NJ in 2012 for the centennial of her building of Solax Studio in Fort Lee.
Guests at Cliffhanger Film Festivals have included Academy Award winning actress / director Lee Grant, Academy Award winning actress Celeste Holm, Oscar Micheaux scholar Pearl Bowser, Academy Award winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Academy Award winning writer Budd Schulberg and Chris Costello, daughter of legendary New Jersey born Universal Studio comedian Lou Costello.
Movies & Music Under the Stars
2014 MOVIES & MUSIC UNDER THE STARS:
Runs each Saturday from July 5th through September 6th at 7pm at the outdoor stage / green of the Jack Alter Fort Lee Community Center at 1355 Inwood Terrace. Music runs from 7-8:30pm and films screen at sunset. Please bring blankets or lawn chairs. The programs are free and open to all. In case of rain, the programs will take place on the second floor of the Community Center.
2014 Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow High School Student Film Festival
Applications are available for the 2014 Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow Student Film Festival - visit http://www.jerseyfilmmakersoftomorrow.org to download a 2014 application. Entry deadline is July 1st, 2014 and film submission deadline is October 1st, 2014. Screenings of the films of selected finalists will occur in November of 2014. Top prize is $500 and 72 hours post production time at Sirk Digital Studio in New York City. For further info call the Fort Lee Film Commission at (201) 592-3663 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Barrymore Film Center - Fort Lee to have a 250-seat cinema and an attached Fort Lee Film Museum
As part of the new development project underway on Main Street near the George Washington Bridge, the Fort Lee Mayor and Council included in the developer's agreement the developer's building of a structure to house a one-screen, 250-seat multi-purpose theatre and an attached film museum, to be operated for the borough by the Fort Lee Film Commission. This project is expected to be completed by 2017. The cinema / film museum will be located on Main Street at the corner of Park Avenue, a location rich in cinema history as this was where, among others, cinema pioneers D.W. Griffith, Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle shot many of the scenes for some of the most popular early American films including the groundbreaking The Musketeers of Pig Alley, (1912) the first American gangster film (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy3EyDEY8Zw). One block east of this cinema / film museum, 18-year-old John Barrymore made his stage debut in 1900 at then Buckeheister's Hotel in the play A Man of the World directed by his father, Fort Lee (Coytesville) resident and acclaimed Broadway thespian Maurice Barrymore. This play was a fundraiser for the Coytesville Fire Department and the result was the building of the Fire House on Washington Avenue and the purchase of uniforms for the firefighters. John, his sister Ethel and brother Lionel all went on to make their first films in Fort Lee in the 1910's.
The Barrymore Film Center and Fort Lee Film Museum will be the home to annual film festivals, retrospectives, and the screening of new independent films, as well as live stage programs which will include the students of the Fort Lee High School Drama Department and Film Program and their instructor, Ms. Jodi Etra.
Film & Stills Restoration/Preservation
The Fort Lee Film Commission actively raises funds to preserve films made in Fort Lee and works with filmmakers who support promotion of Fort Lee's role as birthplace of the American film industry.
In 2004, the Fort Lee Film Commission restored the only existing print of the 1912 film Robin Hood, produced at Eclair Studio in Fort Lee (present day site of Constitution Park on the Linwood Avenue side). This film, sent to the Commission by the late film collector Al Dettlaff of Wisconsin, has ben restored and screened at the annual Pordenone Film Festival in Italy, the largest silent film festival in the world, as well as in Hollywood, the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Most recently, the Commission has worked with Los Angeles based filmmaker Pamela Green on her documentary on cinema pioneer Alice Guy Blache', Be Natural, which is currently in production. The Commission has also worked with and assisted film historian and archivist Paul Gierucki most recently on his restoration of the 1916 Fort Lee produced film The Waiter's Ball, starring and directed by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and the 1912 early Mack Sennett Keystone Studio film A Grocery Clerk's Romance, shot on the grounds of Rambo's Saloon. This restored The Waiter's Ball film will have its premiere on September 28, 2014 at 7pm at the landmark Loews Theatre in Jersey City as the closing night program at the 2014 Golden Door International Film Festival. The Red Hook Ramblers will play live to the film.
Another arena of the Commission's work is the restoration of still photos. A cache of photos from the 1910's have come out of the old Rambo's Saloon building on First Street in the Coytesville section of Fort Lee. The building is presently owned by the Fort Lee Housing Authority and formerly owned by the late Gloria Limone. Stills and actual movie costumes and props have been found in the building since the Housing Authority purchased it in 2013 at the urging of the Fort Lee Film Commission. The Fort Lee Film Commission is working with interns from Seton Hall University and Rutgers University to document and archive this material in the Fort Lee Museum in preparation for its display in the future Barrymore Film Centerand Fort Lee Film Museum.
The Fort Lee Film Commission is also in receipt of scrapbooks of silent film star Gail Kane which were donated to the Commission by Kane's grandson. Gail Kane both made films and operated her own production studio in Fort Lee.
The Commission has worked with the Fort Lee Public Library and its director and film scholar Rita Altamora to digitize the library’s collection of over 1000 stills of Fort Lee-related film/studio history. These stills will eventually be made available to the public through web sites and the Library database.
The FLFC, a non-profit organization, raises money for its restoration efforts through direct donations and through the sale of t-shirts and historic reproductions, at such venues as the annual Feast of St. Rocco in August and the Movies & Music Under the Stars summer film series. Funds are also used to obtain historic artifacts that are on display at the Fort Lee Museum, home of the Fort Lee Historical Society, a key supporter of the work of the FLFC. Items on display include an original Pathé silent film crank camera which is fully operational (a similar camera sold at the same time is displayed in the lobby of MGM Studios in Hollywood); original glass slides; movie posters; and photos.
The FLFC Newsletter: Metropolis
The Commission also produces a quarterly newsletter, Metropolis. This newsletter is distributed throughout Fort Lee and to film industry/studio officials throughout the United States. Universal Studios’ archive in Universal City maintains Metropolis on file to commemorate its connection to Fort Lee as the location of its first studio, as well as the location of its first film (Hiawatha, shot on location in Coytesville in 1909, was IMP’s first film production, and IMP founder Carl Laemmle later consolidated IMP with other studios to form Universal in 1912). Universal Studios sponsored the Cliffhanger 2001 Fall Film Festival held in October at the Fort Lee Historic Park auditorium. Fort Lee Film Commission liaison Tom Meyers has been invited to the Universal archive in Los Angeles to view their archive of historic photos and research additional information on Fort Lee’s role in the history of the oldest and largest studio in operation today.