Film festival features award-winning filmmaker Max Fedore
BY KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
This year’s Johnstown Film Festival will feature a special event titled “Behind the Scenes with Max Fedore.”
The event, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7, will be held inside Johnstown Flood Museum’s Robert Waters Theater.
Last year, Fedore, a Johnstown native and graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, accepted a gold medal in the alternative category at the Student Academy Awards for his thesis film, “Opera of Cruelty.”
“It’s gratifying to see the success of so many of our student winners from the film festival, including Max,” said Shelley Johansson, director of marketing and communications at JAHA. “They have gone on to great things. Several are professional filmmakers or videographers, working on really high-profile projects, and several are film school students or graduates.”
Fedore said Johnstown Film Festival, which is being revived this year thanks to a partnership between Johnstown Area Heritage Association and Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, played a major role in his early days as a budding filmmaker.
“When I was young, the festival gave me my first deadline, inspiring my first film, and then it ultimately gave me an audience, and nothing is more important for an aspiring filmmaker than an audience,” he said.
A lot has happened since Fedore left Johnstown to pursue film in the Big Apple.
“My greatest achievement is my thesis film, ‘Opera of Cruelty,’” Fedore said. “The operatic nightmare was recognized by New York University with the First Prize at the 2017 First Run Film Festival as well as the Directing Award, the Achievement in Experimental Award, and 8 Craft Awards (for Sound Design, Production Design, Producing, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Lead Actress and Lead Actor.) The film went on to win the Gold Medal in the Alternative Category of the 2017 Student Academy Awards.
“With these awards also came the opportunity to travel twice to Los Angeles, once with New York University, and later for the Student Academy Awards ceremony. Both trips to L.A. featured meetings and events curated to help better understand the film industry and the next steps in my career.”
Though he’s always looking ahead — Fedore’s busy writing his next cinematic spectacle while residing in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood — "Behind the Scenes with Max Fedore” will give Fedore and his audience an opportunity to look back and discuss the films he created during his time at Tisch.
Those films are “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a single-shot music video in which a rejected man reaches the point where only music can express his struggle; “Hoe, Hoe, Hoe” a cinéma-vérité observation of artist Robert Skinner as he creates in his Long Island workshop and “Ascension,” an experimental art film that explores the nature of performance through three interconnected scenes: an interview, a live oboe concert and a futuristic cleansing ritual.
“Revisiting some of my films on the big screen with an audience again is exciting, but even more so is the opportunity to break them down and explain how and why they came to be,” Fedore said. “I am beyond excited that I was able to work with JAHA to create our Friday night event. I personally love behind-the-scenes stories and hearing about the journey of filmmakers and their work. So, I hope that I can offer some insight into the art of filmmaking by presenting my story.”
Fedore added that he’s excited to come home for a few days, especially because Johnstown is full of people who have supported him unconditionally.
“My community in Johnstown has always been supportive, showing up in person to my live performances through the years and then showing up by helping to fund my two student films, ‘Ascension’ and ‘Opera of Cruelty.’ I know for a fact I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the continuous support of my Johnstown community.”
Fedore added that he’s glad the Johnstown Film Festival is back from hiatus.
“The fact that a film festival exists in Johnstown, a city that rarely gets to see any independent or foreign films in the theaters, is just phenomenal,” he said. “Johnstown deserves an opportunity to see new and unique films and to experience them with an audience. For me, that collective experience makes the movie, and makes it cinema. To be part of the festival’s resurrection is an honor.”
Tickets for “Behind the Scenes with Max Fedore” are available for purchase in advance at JAHA’s Heritage Discover Center, located at 201 6th Avenue, or at the door. Patrons are encouraged to buy advance tickets, as space is limited to 76 (the number of seats in the theater).
All proceeds from this event are to benefit JAHA.