A few short years ago Maplewood native Rebecca Rojer was much like any other Columbia High School student. She attended classes, took tests and, perhaps most importantly, jumpstarting her career as an up-and-coming filmmaker. Rojer’s short film, “Ashley/Amber,” has been chosen as a main selection for the upcoming 16th annual New Jersey International Film Festival, and will have its U.S. premier on Friday, June 10.
“I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker for almost as long as I can remember,” Rojer told Baristanet. “As a kid I was impressed by how much a single film could transform one’s understanding of the world, and I was always intensely curious about, and somewhat jealous of, the people who were able to create movie-worlds and wield that sort of power.”
It was during her time at Columbia, though, that her curiosity became more than a simple interest.
“I really got started in high school, first in 9th grade TV Production and then taking film and animation with Boris Gavrilovic, who is better known as ‘Mr. G.’,” she said.
“CHS is a fascinating, dynamic community. So many places are so homogenous, including many colleges. But at least when I was there, CHS was confusing and chaotic and not always harmonious, but full of talent and passion and so many different groups of people. There are so many stories in there waiting to be told, and that’s really your job as a filmmaker: finding the stories that need to be told,” said Rojer, who graduated in 2005.
As a message to fellow aspiring New Jersey filmmakers Rojer said, “Make lots of movies, using whatever resources you have.”
“Ashley/Amber,” which began as Rojer’s senior thesis at Harvard College, tells the story of a young woman whose world is shattered when she finds out that her boyfriend was killed in Iraq. Out of distress, she becomes a one-time actress in a pornography film. That same day, she attends an anti-war rally where she gives a touching presentation that quickly goes viral. Before long, her two identities are connected.
The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. According to Rojer, she decided to submit “Ashley/Amber” after her thesis advisor encouraged her to do so and told her that the “film has politics and sex and Berlin likes those sorts of things.”
“I was really surprised when I got accepted and was totally unprepared. I had three weeks to scramble and finish post-production,” she said.
Though the film was positively received in Berlin, Rojer said she is happy for it to be making its way back to New Jersey.
“For some reason, I very much associate my dark sense of humor with New Jersey. And the film is very much a dark comedy,” she said. “So I trust NJ to laugh in places where Massachusetts, where I went to school, didn’t.”
The film will be screened June 10 at 7pm on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus in Voorhees Hall #105. Admission is $10 general admission with a discounted $9 rate for students and seniors.
For more information on “Ashley/Amber,” click here.