Local actor Liz Samuel can now add screenwriter and film producer to her credits with the Montclair Film Festival (MFF) premiere of MOMTRESS, a short film wholly made in Montclair. Inspired by last year’s MFF NJ Shorts screening, Samuel decided to take the leap into writing, producing, and acting in her own short film instead of waiting for the perfect role to appear.
Samuel’s film reflects her own experience trying to juggle an acting career with raising a family. Trips into New York City for auditions and film shoots end up sandwiched between school hours and activities, all the while memorizing lines and trying to remain “present” for her family. With a spouse who often travels, it becomes a “crazy balance” dependent on smooth commutes and appointments fitting neatly into place. Most Montclair residents know those expectations doesn’t always resolve themselves easily, even for the most well-organized commuters.
As a long-time actor, Liz Samuel knew a lot about what to expect from her first writing/producing experience, but the amount of time it took to edit the short film surprised her. What began as an expected six-week editing session took almost three months. It all came down to the details, Samuel explained, “We had so many edits to the project to get the right moments, the right music, the right tone, the right feel.”
Momtress is a true Montclair film. Samuel’s son in the film is Montclair local Leo Cohen-Vigder. Leo also appeared in his sister Talia’s Kidz Shortz film at MFF a few years ago. All the Momtress voiceovers are Montclair actors: Geraldine Leer, Claudine O’Hayon and Amy Scott. And the entire film is shot in and around Samuel’s house in Upper Montclair and using Montclair businesses for both indoor and outdoor locations. Even the director, Jeremiah Kipp, although not from Montclair, shot another film in Montclair a few months prior to MOMTRESS, so he was familiar with the area. Momtress is wholly Montclair!
This first film from Liz Samuel was born out of sadness. In the summer of 2015, Samuel’s mother passed away and she experienced a deep, profound sadness without her mother’s love, support and daily friendship. During a period of no new projects, Samuel was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic to move forward with ideas bubbling inside, and to channel the creativity into action. Samuels explains, “As soon as I started typing, I knew the stories were coming right out of me and into the world. After 9 months of grieving, I was giving birth to something new.”
MOMTRESS is screening at on Sunday, April 30th at 2 PM with The Montclair Film Festival as part of the sold-out Montclair Shorts section. It includes five short films with Montclair roots. As a Liz Samuel bonus, she is also featured in fellow Montclair Shorts film THE BAKE SALE, from local filmmaker Susan Skoog. As with all sold-out screenings, film lovers who want to try their luck can try for stand-by tickets the day of the film.