Last week I had the opportunity to chat with writer, actor and director, Robert Fontaine Jr about all of the rumors of his involvement in Newburgh. I was pleasantly surprised to find him very charming, personable and willing to share all of his future ideas and plans for Newburgh.
Fontaine and his wife found Newburgh like many others, visiting Beacon, and then crossing over the bridge to discover Newburgh. They were also diverted through the City when there was construction on 9W. He was looking for a location where he could shoot a movie that could look like Brooklyn but, without all the bureaucracy. They were also looking for a get-away destination and had been searching in other parts of the Hudson Valley.
Driving through the City, they soon fell in love with Newburgh and became friends with Newburghers. They looked at tons of properties, all in distress but, they wanted to get a property where he could start his next project. Eventually he settled on a two story carriage house that is only 1,100 square feet. He loves working on the house himself and has done repairs like fixing the ceilings and more. While doing repair work they found 130 year old wood that was used to make a barn front door. Fontaine loves his great yard, and said that maybe even some day he could turn the carriage house into a cafe.
Negative Newburgh publicity has not shunned Fontaine. On the contrary, he says that the neighborhood is not as bad as people think and fortunately they have had no problems. The neighbors have been great and he has even had some young people help him out with various projects.
Born in Brooklyn, Fontaine sees many similarities between Newburgh and Brooklyn. He remembers the bad Brooklyn neighborhoods and has seen how everything has been bought up and restored. He wants to share Brooklyn’s success secrets with Mayor Kennedy. One point he brought out was that NYC as a whole saw change because of tax rebates and cooperation made with businesses. From what neighbors tell him, it seems that Newburgh is seeing a turn around quicker in these recent years than ever before.
Since film is Fontaine’s specialty, he is focused on bringing his work to Newburgh. He would like to produce his next project in Newburgh, perhaps with the local sound stage and local talent. After that, he sees doing one or maybe two projects a year in the City and then putting money back into the community. The films would be in the $1 million and under range. Fontaine would love to see a film festival in Newburgh. He thinks that could be possible in the next 3-4 years. A film festival plus regular films being made in Newburgh would be a huge boost to the local economy. In the coming weeks he will be meeting with Mayor Kennedy about a Newburgh Film Commission that would market Newburgh to the film industry. He says the plans are in motion but that they are waiting for the money to be operational.
Everyone in Newburgh has their forte. People are bringing positive attention to Newburgh in various forms whether it be art, industry or a blog. The key, to Fontaine, is that everyone must work toward the same goal at the same pace. He thinks in another 5 years revitalization will start happening full swing. I’m probably not the only who hopes he’s right.