Hollywood on the Navesink

0
1184
Port Monmouth Elementary School, located on Main Street in Port Monmouth, was one of the Middletown school district’s dozen elementary schools and home to 194 stu- dents, when it shut down.
Port Monmouth Elementary School, located on Main Street in Port Monmouth, was one of the Middletown school district’s dozen elementary schools and home to 194 students, when it shut down. Photo by Sunayana Prabhu

By The Two River Times Team

MIDDLETOWN – It’s lights, camera, action for a Port Monmouth Elementary School that has sat dormant since a March 2020 Middletown Township Board of Education vote shuttered the nearly century-old facility.

Situated near the intersection of Route 35 and Main Street in Port Monmouth, a May 11 board of education vote approved a two-plus month lease agreement with Navesink River Productions. The organization will use the building and grounds as a production office headquarters for the forthcoming feature-length film “Miranda’s Victim.”

In an exclusive with The Two River Times, Navesink River Productions founder George Kolber revealed that the project will begin filming at the end of May in various locations around Middletown, Red Bank and the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University.

Kolber described the Port Monmouth Elementary School location as a centralized base camp that will allow Navesink River Productions access to the top local talent to assist with the project.

The former Port Monmouth Elementary School, empty since March 2020, is now serving as a base camp for Navesink River Productions during filming for the fea- ture-length movie “Miranda’s Victim.”
The former Port Monmouth Elementary School, empty since March 2020, is now serving as a base camp for Navesink River Productions during filming for the feature-length movie “Miranda’s Victim.” Photo by Sunayana Prabhu

“We insisted on having a lot of our interns come from local programs, so we engaged the film department at Monmouth University, as well as local theater companies, to find extras and background actors and technicians. We wanted to have an emphasis on working with local talent, and we have a lot of production policies in place to make sure it happens,” said Kolber, who serves on the Monmouth University Board of Trustees.

According to Kolber, who developed the “Miranda’s Victim” screenplay, the film will depict the crimes of Ernesto Miranda, who in 1963 was convicted of kidnap and rape, felony transgressions that yielded a two-decade prison sentence.

The ruling was famously thrown out by the United States Supreme Court when it determined Miranda’s confession was obtained by authorities without the presence of an attorney. The case established what is known as the “Miranda Ruling,” and allowed for a retrial in 1967, in which the State of Arizona built its argument on newly introduced evidence and witness testimony.

The case also led to the creation of Miranda rights, a legally mandated warning delivered by authorities to criminal suspects in police custody, or in custodial interrogation, to advise about their right to silence, their right to refuse to answer questions or provide information to law enforcement officials and their right to legal counsel.

Kolber said the film also serves to chronicle the experience of the 18-year-old victim, “who is steadfastly determined to put her attacker in jail while trying to get on with her life.”

When completed, the film will be somewhat of a period piece, focusing on events between 1963 and 1976. Kolber expressed his gratitude to the previously mentioned municipalities for providing a unique landscape to film, as well as the Red Bank Elks Club, Count Basie Center for the Arts and the Antique Motoring Club of Monmouth County, which will help the production team maintain historical accuracy.

With his choice of filming locations, Kolber said keeping the project in the Two River community felt like the right decision, and the continuation of an industry trend he has seen developing across New Jersey.

“We’re starting to see New Jersey become the mecca of filmmaking, as far as I’m concerned. There are rumors of Netflix coming to Fort Monmouth; there’s filming going on in Princeton right now for (the Christopher Nolan film) “Oppenheimer”; Jennifer Lawrence was just seen filming scenes on another project in South Amboy. New Jersey is becoming the mecca. That’s why we’re staying here to tell a story that took place 2,000 miles away,” Kolber said. As for the future of Port Monmouth Elementary School beyond July, that is yet to be decided. In January, the Middletown Township Committee and Board of Education contracted Louisville, Kentucky firm Pinnacle Indoor Sports to conduct a feasibility study on transforming the property into a multipurpose recreation area. Updates on the study are still to come.

This article originally appeared in the May 19-25, 2022 print edition of The Two River Times.