How can city leaders encourage young storytellers and creators to grow into the next generation of artists. Does an arts-centric location have a responsibility to use its leaders to lead?

That’s just one of the questions Mike and Nancy posed to the two guests in this podcast.  We welcome Dr. Marci Mazzarotto and assistant professor Kristen Wedlock of Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ. Their wide-ranging conversation covers film, digital and writing insights for the next generation as well as the duo’s startup of the Bread and Roses Film Festival. Bread and Roses is the first woman-centric film festival and is taking place in October in Asbury Park. Take a listen.


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Marci: I’m Marcy Mazzarotto. I am an assistant professor and department chair at Georgian Court University and I am the founder and executive director of Bread and Roses Film Festival, which is a female centric film festival that will be taking place here in Asbury Park, New Jersey at the Showroom Cinema on October 7th.

Nancy: Let’s go back and talk a little bit about your professorship. You were teaching digital communications, is that true? Yes. Yes. And why don’t you explain a little bit about that for us. Is it an art, a craft, a tool?

Marci: It’s all of those things. So yeah, so I’m an assistant professor of digital communications and what that really means is I teach within the, the large umbrella of media and communication studies. I primarily teach, mass media, film production, film theory, writing about television, and we do also have journalism, public relations, and so we really want our students to have a very broad Perspective of what media and communications is to understand how to be not only content creators, but also understanding the theories behind like the industries that kind of create that content. In your teaching, what do you think your students come looking for from your course?

Marci: Ooh, that’s a good question. So oftentimes they may be coming looking for like a writing intensive credit, which they have to have for, to graduate, right?

Marci: Or they may say, Oh, this looks really interesting. It’s a film class, but they don’t really know because I’ll often get students like, well, I don’t know anything about film. And I’ll be like, you know more about film than you may think that you do. And so I think, for example, in a film class, they walk away really understanding how to analyze film. So not all of your students are necessarily. Looking to become Martin Scorsese, right?

Marci: Correct. Right, exactly. Not all of them. So I do have courses that may be predominantly communication majors and then others that are a mix.

Mike: Do they ever come in thinking film is art and leave with a different opinion or do they not even think film is art and or television is art and didn’t realize All that goes into it and how to look at it with a more critical eye.

Marci: So I do have students that do come in with, you know, that are like, I want to be a filmmaker.

Marci: I want to make films, you know, film is definitely art, but then they leave going, wow, now I have a deeper understanding of what this shot composition is. You know, what color means in film, you know, what are some of the Kind of emotional visualization cues that are happening on screen, whether it’s television or film.

Marci: Because even if they’re an accounting major, they’re still Always engaging with media, right? And maybe just social media and Tiktok, but also if they’re just with Tiktok, it’s understanding what, what do all those visuals mean? Which is why I always talk about the mass media elements of like the industry, right?

Mike: Everybody reads the headlines about The commerce point of view, okay, and they may read a review about a movie But the commerce point of it is, you know, barbie Barbenheimer, okay broke all records.

Marci: It is. And I think, yeah, the, the Barbenheimer phenomenon is, is really a great point to think about, you know, and, and, you know, Barbie. Being directed by, by Greta Gerwig.

Marci: It, you know, it’s, it is absolutely, you know, broke, you know, box office records for the, the, the largest opening of any female director in history. So yay Barbie. Right. And so I think that that’s really amazing to, to finally be in that space where you can do that. But, but that’s exactly what I want my students to be able to understand is these things are not disconnected is we can look at a film.

Marci: Like, you know, Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer, and then Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, very fundamentally different films, but they’re all part of a very large structure. So in that sense, they’re big studio movies and they share a lot in common,

Nancy: What are you doing outside your academic role that gives you your creative outlets?

Marci: So now I’m, I’m running, I’m leading this, this film festival. So, it really came about when on June 24th of 2022 when Roe v. Wade was overturned. I just had this, moment where I was like, women’s rights are just fundamentally in trouble.

Marci: But when that happened, I was like, what, you know, it’s almost like everything came swirling around me and all of the work that I do as an academic, as a researcher, as a professor in it, you know, in and out of the classroom, I was working on a finishing up my MFA.

Marci: in film and television production. So I was in the, in the midst of completing my documentary short, which dealt with, which talked about the Sisters of Mercy and starting Georgian Court College many, many years ago. And and that’s where I, you know, it just, everything kept pointing out to like what my life ends up being is so much of like how to empower women and how to empower underrepresented voices and really that element of social justice. And so that’s where the idea for the film festival came about.

Mike: and is that, is that, Kristen, is that how, were you along the same thought process when she tapped your shoulder and said, Hey, what are you doing in your spare time?

Kristen: Yes, so Mar Marcy and I do a lot of research together. So we were looking at how popular culture can help to break down stereotypes and ideologies and we were using that in the classroom.

Kristen: And so this just felt like a natural progression from there. And Marcy also knew that I was working on a a collective called Precipice Collective. I’m the co founder of that. It’s a writing collective

Kristen: so finding small press ways to get people’s voices across. And so we thought this would be a good way if we’re going to elevate women’s voices. Let’s bring the precipice. Let’s bring it in. And so we’re going to be part of the financial sponsor for the event. We’re working And Georgian Court has donated money as well to, to get this going.

Mike: Oh, so you’re the nonprofit part of the festival. Ah, I get it. Okay.

Nancy: Kristen, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the Bread and Roses Film Festival mission as it’s stated on Film Freeway, which is where your summary lies.

Kristen: So for Bread and Roses Film Festival, we wanted to create a platform for women who were not just in front of the camera, but also behind it, who were making decisions, who had a lot of power and agency in the production of the film.

Kristen: So they were going to be the writers. They were going to be working on the crew. They were going to be behind the camera. They were going to be funding it. They were going to be putting their own money into it. In order to support their message. And so that became really important. That we didn’t want to just see women on the camera through the male lens.

Nancy: This is a first. I don’t think there’s any other film festival that’s doing this right now. Is there?

Marci: There is not. As far as I know, this is the very first female centric film festival in the history of New Jersey.

Mike: What made you decide that this festival needed to be in Asbury Park?

Marci: So Asbury Park, I mean, this is where, this is my home, this is where I live.

Marci: I, I love Asbury and Asbury’s a very, has a wonderful history. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the history, specifically of… The visual, like, Asbury Park on screen, so, because we all think of Asbury Park and what, you know, around the world what comes up, Bruce Springsteen. Music, right. And music, right?

Marci: So, you know, in, in my travels around the world, I, I usually will come across somebody who knows Asbury, but they know Asbury for the music.

Marci: , but there are visual artists here and there is a history of us being on the Sopranos and us being on, you know, City by the Sea. Not, not the best visual of Asbury Park, even though it’s, it’s not meant to be taking place here because it takes place in New York. But there, you know, and, and you can just look at all of the, this really amazing history we used to have so many theaters here.

Marci: So for me, it’s important, not only as a resident of Asbury, but also as a filmmaker, as an academic, as an artist to have it in a space that is, I think, really. Welcoming and inviting to filmmakers and also a destination it’s in, you know, we’re, we’re being very conscientious about having it in a female owned cinema.

Marci: We’re having an, you know, an opening reception in a female owned. Art gallery and so a lot of that is just about celebrating women behind the scenes as well as in front. And and I think Asbury is just the perfect place for that. People want to be here. People want to come here.

Marci: So we’re also building a brand, right? And we’re also building a name and we want people to know that what we’re doing is legitimate. And that’s why it’s a hundred percent curated by a panel of judges, all female judges. And and being an Asbury is just, it makes perfect sense. And I think that, you know, for me as a visual artist, I would love to see a lot more visual.

Marci: art stuff in Asbury,

Mike: well, it’s interesting you bring, because that ties in exactly what we’re doing. I mean, we talked about the filmmakers meetup the other night. Part of the goal of Asbury Park Arts Council is to promote, advocate, and support the arts, but one of the genres that we feel is, has been underrepresented.

Mike: Either by male or female, doesn’t matter, gender, is filmmaking. I think there’s a lot of room to grow in the filmmaking genre. And… Apparently by the, by the results of our filmmakers meetup and the emails I’ve received, there’s, there’s a thirst for that, and everyone who came to the meeting the other night said, hallelujah, somebody’s starting to pay attention to us.

Mike: We love art, okay, in all its painted and canvassed forms. We love it. I mean, it’s the reason we started the showroom. I mean, it really is. There was no film. So we didn’t know if that was because people just didn’t want to go to the movies or that But nobody started a movie theater,

Nancy: so. It was our experiment. Yeah. And after 12 years we found a loyal audience of people who we didn’t even realize how loyal they were until after we closed and left the showroom.

Nancy: So while we’re, while you’re doing it, it’s really hard to assess, you know, the value in, in a community. But we didn’t realize the impact it had on the town and and people have glowingly said things like that to us

Nancy: so with Arts Rule now, we’re looking at what makes a city art centric. And is Asbury Park really art centric, or is that a perception that has just been, you know inflated by the Bruce Springsteen image and the old time music that used to be here. So, is there a, a community here? And so far we’re finding, we’re finding that people want to see a cross section of art.

Nancy: There has to be community behind it. And everybody we’ve talked to has given us different input as to why. Asbury is or could be considered art centric.

Mike: What, yeah, what do you, Kristen, what do you think makes, I mean you’re the writer, okay, what do you think makes a city art centric?

Kristen: There have been many iterations of Asbury. So what is the one right now, if we focus all of our energy in Asbury on? The commerce or the commercial on building up new, new places along the shore front. And then we leave behind the art centric part of it. What will happen to, to, to Asbury as a whole, right?

Kristen: Mm-hmm. . If we invest in the art part of it, then what will, what, how will that also change and shape the way people perceive the need or the necessity for all of that extra building along the shore and the commercial part of it so that art and commerce again? Yeah, so Asbury Park.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, that’s the tug, right?

Mike: That’s, that’s the issue, is that without the developers, what would we have? But the developers are here because of the art, okay? So how does that, how does that mix?

Nancy: I noticed on your film freeway form, you said, added bonus if the film is fully produced in the state of New Jersey. What does that mean?

Marci: So I think, you know, first I, I want to thank you both for actually starting the showroom cinema because that’s when I moved. So I moved here from California in 2018. So you, so I definitely have the kind of the outsider.

Marci: Perspective and I’ve, you know, and I’ve met wonderful people here and there’s such a wonderful community and Asbury, which is one of the reasons why I stay here and I love it here and why you know, I want This film festival to be here. And so for me, it was like a like, Oh, where’s, where’s the film?

Marci: Where’s the cinema? And so I, I too have many wonderful memories at both of your theaters. So it’s like, did you make this in New Jersey? And for us, because we are you know, a New Jersey film festival, you know, it’s, it’s just something to ask being like, Hey, because there’s, there’s also, we can also program things that are specific to New Jersey.

Marci: And some things that they’re proud that it’s filmed entirely in New Jersey, meaning that they produced it here, they filmed it here, their crews from here and things like that.

Marci: Because when we’re wedged in between Philadelphia and especially New York City, Were often not really thought of as its own entity. And that was my other reason of being like, no, we’re located in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Well, what about the Jersey identity, which is so strong when it comes to, you know Music, but then when we look at, well, the film industry started in Fort Lee, right?

Mike: There’s a lot of us toiling away on the undersides of that, that, that provide the foundation that we’re trying to elevate. And I’m sure you, Kristen, come from the same thought process.

Kristen: Yeah, so we want our architectures and our infrastructures and our representation to kind of all be Housed in a, in a good, happy community, a good space for that to happen, for things to be vibrant. Exactly.

Mike: And sustainable. Have you, have you spoken to anybody at the film commission about your festival?

Marci: Not yet. Not yet. So we’re, we have like a list of all the people that we’re reaching out to, but that is on the list, yeah. We’re trying to get. Get the word out. So, you know, with Arts Rule and with Asbury Park Arts Council, so wanting to kind of really get the Asbury Park community involved and just for them to know that we’re here And to, to support in whatever way, you know, whether they can volunteer or donate money, sponsor, whatever the case may be because, you know, it does, it does take a village to, to run a festival and I think the goal is ultimately like, Really wanting to truly elevate women’s voices right and to do that we want to be able to create really amazing Programming for an audience to see and also have an audience to you know sell out the theater But ultimately the goal would also to be to establish bread and roses as its own nonprofit in New Jersey at some point Both of you are obviously multi talented creatives. How do you think cities like Asbury Park could encourage young filmmakers to grow and evolve here?

Kristen: You’re already creating opportunities and spaces, right? With your film challenge, right? AP in three, so three minute films in three weeks. So holding those spaces and those opportunities for people who might not have thought, oh, I’ll invest in my own project now. They’re like, okay, there’s some, there’s a place for me to not only share this work, but also meet other people and collaborate and connect.

Kristen: So the more networking opportunities that are possible, people will see, ah, it’s not just me on my own. I’m not the single starving artist, but I have a whole community of fellows who are going to support this work from, from beginning to end. So, anything that we can do to make spaces more communal, more opening, more sense of belonging and welcoming.

Kristen: Marcy had mentioned a lot that the films that we’re encouraging or inviting we want to see diversity, equity, and inclusion in the whole process of creating the film and in the representation. And having spaces like that requires cultivating belonging, cultivating inclusivity. And so what can Asbury Park do to do that?

Kristen: That’s what we’re trying to do by starting the film festival.

Mike: When you watch all these filmmakers talking with each other and from, in your case, it’ll be hopefully from all different parts of the country, different parts of the world, if they, if they can, if they can come together. I think it’s, I think it’s great and it’s definitely a hallmark to be added to Asbury’s artistic endeavors.

Mike: Do you think Asbury’s reputation of… Art’s centricity is more perception or reality, either or both of you can talk.

Marci: So I’m not sure that the people that come to Asbury come because of a really rich. Art scene, because when you think of an art scene, that would mean performance and theater and film and sculpture and visual arts. As well as music, right? So I think that that developing that further is, is really a great thing.

Mike: That’s why we’re doing things to at least take it into our own hands and we applaud people other people who are doing it to to Scratch the surface and show that yes, it still can be done okay, but it takes a lot of effort and it does take money and funding and support and We need that from top down Because the bottom up are the people that are doing it

Nancy: How has being a video producer, or working in video and film, informed your teaching?

Marci: I think for, so for me, I love video. But I think for me, you know, the, the visual, the, I love movement. And I tell my students, Hey, you know, understanding tech is good, but you have to have a good idea.

Marci: It’s really about the story. Because if you can’t understand the audio, you can’t do anything, right? So you gotta have good audio. It doesn’t matter if you’re a filmmaker, grab your phone. Take images and be out there practicing, practicing, practicing and just doing it.

Mike: You know, you, you talk about AI, Kristen in the writing area, okay, there are hundreds of people out on strike at the moment because of their claim to have their jobs.

Mike: Lifted by AI. Where do you see AI fitting in what you’re doing?

Kristen: Well creatively we can we can have a dialogue with AI Chad GPT and I had a whole conversation. I was like if I know my students are going to use this to write their paper I better Play with it first and figure out how it, how it works.

Kristen: So I think with ChatGPT, the more information that we are feeding into some of these AI units, they, they’re absorbing it. They’re learning too. It’s a learning system. So whatever we’re feeding in, that’s what it’s going to pump back. If we want to change what the representation or the images or the canon is, of film or dance or music or you know, writing, then we have to teach the AI what we expect it to produce in the future.

Kristen: So it could be a collaborative thing. It doesn’t have to be it doesn’t have to be an end all. I understand if you’re a technical writer. You’re gonna have, gonna have some problems with the AI, if you’re a teacher, you’re gonna feel the plagiarism edge with the AI. But if we keep looking at AI in a punitive way, we can miss out on some tremendous opportunities for just treating it like another learning system that we can collaborate and engage with.

Kristen: I think that it is going to move us to another space, and we don’t know what that space looks like yet, and that’s why it’s scary. So if people keep honing their craft and finding creative ways to work not just within the system, but outside and figure out what the bigger system is, they can break that down just as they’ve broken down barriers, walls, and power structures in the past.

Nancy: Going back to film in every film there’s this intersection of art and craft. What makes a film art?

Marci: When I look at a film that kind of rises above and beyond, it really goes not only in terms of the story, like, what story are you, are you telling you know, and then how are you telling that story?

Marci: . How does it stand the test of time, right? Citizen Kane is art. And part of the reason it’s art is because it’s a story that is decades and decades old that still resonates, scarily so resonates.

Nancy: You see the students you have in class. We’re, we’re, how can we help? How can we, as the generation that’s fading now. Handing all this off to them. Right. How, how can we encourage cities like Asbury Park to, to make, make ways for them to, to grow into. Help them achieve. what they have talent for, but don’t have the craft yet.

Kristen: I think they need radical hope. This current generation, they were born right after 9 11. Then they came, if they lived in New Jersey, they went through Hurricane Sandy right when they were transitioning into high school. Then they went to college, and they were stuck in a pandemic. They have been told that they have all these dystopian images around them.

Kristen: We can’t mire them down with our anxieties and fears. because they need to have the hope in order to address some of this stuff because the hope will bring them the motivation and then they need education to provide the clarity and to contextualize what some of these critical issues are.

Kristen: So they need to awaken to what’s happening around them. But if you ask another human being to help you with something, they’ll probably also give you an opportunity to not just try it out, get feedback, share it somewhere, meet another person working on something similar.

Kristen: When we have people around us, they can connect. And I think that’s what’s going to stoke some of the hope, build some of the networks that we need for people to support each other on a craft level and on a personal level to, to do this.

Kristen: When you’re making a film or making a book, that hero’s journey that’s happening on your screen or between your pages is also happening to you. And so it happens happening to your characters and your story, but it’s also happening to you in the process And so I think that means a lot of support so any organizations that are working to get young people spaces to do that access to education And cultivating some hope for them.

Kristen: I think we’ll be in a good place.

Marci: I feel hopeful. Yeah, I mean, I agree with that. I think that’s, that’s beautiful, Kristen. And I think that, you know, providing things like APN3, a challenge and, and offering them spaces to volunteer, to create, to be empowered, you know, we fundamentally as human beings, we want to have a purpose and we want to be autonomous.

Marci: And I think allowing students just humans in general from a very young age to be able to be like, no, you can do that.

Marci: We must connect with people. And I tell my students also, like, I am still friends with the, the individuals that I went to film school with way back, way back in the day. When I go back to California, I go and meet with them. You know, I even have some of them that are on the panel of judges for. This film festival, you know, for bread and roses.

Marci: And so I always encourage my students. Connect. Connect with people, ask them, what are, what are you up to? What are you doing? What are you writing? What are you making? Right? And that’s how you develop those friendships. We definitely learned that when the world shut down of how much we desire to be around other people and how people are just creative, so I think these things can also help empower them and give them that sense of hope that they, they have a voice and that they can use that voice and that we want to hear that voice.

Mike: On that note, Marcy, Kristen, we wish you.

Mike: All the best of luck with Bread and Roses. We will be there to support you in any way we can. And thank you so much for coming on our little journey

Marci: here. Thank you so much for having us. Thank you.