When it comes to nurturing the next generation of New York filmmakers, Marcie Bloom believes in the personal touch.
The former co-president of Sony Pictures Classics launched her own mentoring program, the Marcie Bloom Fellowship in Film, in 2007. It admits just four aspiring filmmakers a year, who meet once a month in her Upper West Side apartment.
The chosen few, typically college seniors or grad students, mingle and bond with guest speakers from the cream of Gotham’s indie community, in an atmosphere that’s as much social as professional.
“It’s a networking service,” Bloom explains. “We bring our fellows into contact with people that they wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to meet, and certainly not in such a casual and intimate way.”
Bloom hosts the salons at her home for a simple reason — she’s been wheelchair-bound since a brain hemorrhage in 1996 left her partially paralyzed. The fellowship program is a way for her to give something back to the community she loves, but also to keep herself in touch.
Bloom co-founded SPC with Tom Bernard and Michael Barker in 1991. She lived on the festival circuit, forging relationships with many of the world’s great filmmakers, such as Pedro Almodovar, whose “Talk to Her” was partly inspired by her illness.
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The SPC website still lists her as co-president, at the insistence of Barker and Bernard, to recognize her importance to the company. The physical condition means she can no longer sustain a formal role, but she remains in contact, communicating by phone and email several times a day with her co-founders and her former assistant and now exec VP, Dylan Leiner.
“She’s incredibly engaged with all our films,” Leiner says. “She celebrates our successes with us and mourns our failures.”
Leiner’s sister suggested the idea of the fellowship, and he runs it jointly with Bloom. He was determined that her talents, relationships, knowledge and generosity should not be lost to the industry because of her physical incapacity. He also saw it as a way to keep her connected, and give her a fresh professional and intellectual purpose in her recovery.
The choice of speakers is tailored to the interests of the fellows, sometimes with tangible professional results. Shevaun Mizrahi, a photography student with ambitions to become a cinematographer, so impressed cinematographer Ed Lachman when he talked at a 2011 session that he hired her as his assistant.
Other guests include producers Anthony Bregman, Christine Vachon, Alicia Van Couvering and Peter Saraf, Tribeca topper Geoff Gilmore, actress Patricia Clarkson, actress-director Lee Grant, Film-Nation prexy Glen Basner, and writer-directors Ramin Bahrani, Oren Moverman, Ira Sachs, Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman.
Approximately 50 candidates a year apply to the program, often from schools such as Columbia, Yale and NYU, but Leiner and Bloom are keen to extend the reach. “We’re looking for young people interested in being part of the New York film industry,” Leiner says.
The program, which is associated with the Independent Feature Project, is still running on the $50,000 from its original fund-raiser in 2007. As Bloom says, the only cost is a few snacks once a month. “To me, it’s a model of how a little bit of money can really go a long way,” Leiner notes.
While the program is shaped around Bloom’s circumstances, it’s a model that would be easy to replicate. “If I could do it, you could too,” Bloom says.