Over the past six years, the New Jersey Salon has been hosting networking events and screening works from local filmmakers. In the first couple of years, it was difficult for the Salon to gel, as it bounced around local coffee shops before finding a permanent home three years ago in the offices of Salon leader Allen Chou’s Passion River Productions, in Edison. And while turnout hasn’t always been great, there have been enough new faces and continued interest to keep the Salon moving forward. With the New Jersey Salon’s proximity to New York City, many of its members are already working in some aspect of the entertainment business. And despite these demanding day jobs, members come out to the Salon meetings with a desire to make their own movies and to talk to other filmmakers.
Still, talking about movies has never been a huge draw for the Salon. It has been difficult to live in the shadow of New York City and try to compete with all it has to offer. Through the years it has become obvious that what is unique about New Jersey’s filmmakers is their frustration at the lack of film production in their home state. It also became clear that Salon members possessed talent and experience, and craved more hands-on production opportunities.
With the creation of Exit 131 Productions last fall, the New Jersey Salon began shifting its primary focus from talking about movies to making them. The filmmaking collaborative is made up of Salon members and was created to give form and identity to the interests of production-oriented members. Now, the Salon is able to actively create both artistic and professional opportunities for its members.
Exit 131 Productions was founded as a cooperative in the truest sense of the word. It is an organization run by and for its members, who all share in its benefits. And members are proud, although challenged, by budgets that remain at zero. Each member helps keep production costs extremely low by donating their services, equipment, time, food, props, and other resources.
This production collaboration brings together both veteran and rookie filmmakers, and it serves the New Jersey Salon’s goal of providing educational workshops for new, emerging artists as well. In fact, mentoring rookie filmmakers is the only membership requirement at this time. And there arent any membership fees for the New Jersey AIVF Salon or Exit 131 Productions.
In under a year’s time, the buzz around Exit 131 has drawn New Jersey filmmakers out into the open. Starting with half a dozen Salon members at a brainstorming brunch, the group now boasts over forty active participants. Suddenly, busy filmmakers are finding time to attend multiple production meetings a month, as well as organizational, planning, and general Salon meetings.
The New Jersey Salon has been more active in the last six months than it was in its first six years of existence. Members are currently discussing ways to clarify the Salon’s mission and goals, and there is talk of establishing oversight, fundraising, membership, and publicity committees. After years of being a casually-run Salon with semi-consistent monthly meetings, the group is suddenly looking at long-range planning. A core group of members keep coming back to Salon meetings now because they are excited and they have already invested so much of themselves into the organization that it makes sense that they want to continue being involved.
It is easy to see concrete results from the combined volunteer efforts over this past year. The New Jersey Salon now boasts its own website, an active Yahoo discussion group, a casting database, a new logo, and other publicity materials. And on top of all of that, Exit 131 Productions has three DV shorts under its belt and shows no signs of slowing down production anytime soon. If all goes as planned, by the end of the year, the Salon will have a compilation DVD available and will host a screening.
As it has been in the past, the New Jersey Salon remains open to the public and committed to fostering a supportive artistic community. While actively promoting production in their home state, Exit 131 is by no means exclusive. In fact, the group is open to collaborating with writers from AIVF Salons across the country.