A New Safe Space For High School Students & Young Adults: 505 Films + Friends

There’s a new engaging, safe space in town for teens and young adults.

Montclair Film Festival’s new 505 Films + Friends club launches in January 2018 and offers young adults and high school students the opportunity to gather in a safe place and socialize through the viewing and discussion of films.

“It’s a social event that circles around film, but it’s also a place for young people to explore other people’s lives and their own lives using film as the center piece of it,” said Melissa Schaffer, one of the program’s founders and facilitators. “Some of the reasoning behind it is that high schools are really big… it can be hard to make connections and it can be even harder once you leave that school community…(this is an) opportunity to meet new faces and make new friends in a new setting.”

The club highlights two different age groups: young adults (ages 18-28) and high schoolers (ages 14-18). Each session will include a viewing of a sensory-friendly film, interactive conversations and activities led by Schaffer, a teaching artist, and Dr. David Steinke, a PhD and school psychologist.

“In my work… I just saw a real need for kids who struggle with social skills to have a place to go that was safe, engaging and inviting for them to kind of practice in those environments,” Steinke said. “We sat down and developed this idea of a film-based social opportunity for any kid, but specifically for kids who wanted to get together in a smaller, less intimidating space, learn about film, and also have opportunities to meet other kids and maybe make some connections they otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to make.”

The 505 Films + Friends club opens its doors to anyone but hopes to reach out to a variety of children, especially those who may have a disability, might be on the Autism spectrum, have ADHD, or are just shy and have trouble connecting socially, according to Steinke.

A typical class will begin with check-ins and socializing amongst the classmates in order to get to know each other. They will then be introduced to the film with a warm-up discussion focusing on themes, characters and cinematography techniques, before viewing the sensory-friendly film. Following the viewing, the students will take part in an interactive conversation and activities led by Schaffer and Steinke and will conclude with snacks and mingling amongst the students.

The club officially launches in January 2018 at the Investors Bank Film & Media Center at 505 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, but is hosting a high school sneak preview on Friday, Dec. 1 (4- p.m.) and a young adults sneak preview on Sunday, Dec. 3 (1:30-4:30 p.m.) for $20 a person.

The classes will run through five sessions every other week for 10 weeks for a charge of approximately $225, which includes movie licensing costs, renting expenses and snacks. However, the MFF is eligible to receive reimbursement from the NJ DDD for this club.

“We just really wanted to create a place where kids and young adults could be themselves, be accepted and kickback at the end of the week and let go of any pressure and stress and just have fun,” Schaffer said.

More information on how to register can be found on the club’s webpage at http://montclairfilm.org/education/505-film-friends/.

Photos: Neil Grabowsky

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