South Orange Filmmaker Sparks Music, Note by Note
A local filmmaker has access to Juilliard music instruction and its impact on kids who, in their own words, "come from nothing."
Ben Niles tells stories with music. The South Orange resident and independent filmmaker is at work on "Some Kind of Spark," a film that tells the story of seven inner-city kids who learn music at Juilliard.
Niles, whose recent film "Note By Note" has played in over 40 cities domestically and 25 countries abroad, plus a national airing on PBS for a three-year cycle, is using Kickstarter.com to support the final phases of his work. Funding must be complete by late this week.
Throughout the film, "Spark" follows students from audition through the challenge of high-level musical instruction. Viewers meet Pete Destill, a nine-year-old boy who fled Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010 and now learning the flute; Leisley de Plaza, whose parents from Ecuador have made every sacrifice to allow her to study the piano; and Leisley’s teacher, Major Scurlock, who “came from the projects,” and found the piano at 15, among others.
The film is of particular relevance locally says friend Camille Carter, also a resident. "Ben Niles is able to tell stories about music in a unique way," she explains. "And we know that music is vital to South Orange and Maplewood."
She notes that Niles has two children in the South Orange - Maplewood schools, and is a part of the community. "And this community takes arts seriously. We are diverse culturally and artistically."
Niles and his team have been invited to pitch the film at three prestigious film markets and festivals, Independent Feature Project (IFP), The Paley Center’s DOCFEST and The Camden International Film Festival’s Pitch Competition. Spark was also selected as Film of the Week on IndieWire.
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