Director Neil Burger discusses craft at WAMFest

Director Neil Burger, left, and singer-songwriter/novelist Wesley Stace discuss filmmaking at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Madison campus on Wednesday.


Director Neil Burger, left, and singer-songwriter/novelist Wesley Stace discuss filmmaking at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Madison campus on Wednesday.

“Limitless” is the title of the 2011 movie that was screened and discussed on the first day of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s fifth annual WAMFest, Wednesday. And it is also a word that describes the festival’s approach to programming.

The festival’s name is derived from “Words and Music,” and Wesley Stace, who has a foot in both words (he writes novels under that name, and makes music as John Wesley Harding), serves as its genial host. Most of its offerings, over the years, have had something to do with the ways in which the worlds of words and music intersect. But not all of them.

The “Limitless” screening, for instance, was followed by a discussion between director Neil Burger and Stace about the process of creating films from works of literature. “Limitless,” which stars Bradley Cooper as a man who stumbles upon a pill that allows him to unlock the full potential of his mind, is based on a novel, “The Dark Fields,” and Burger also talked about other films of his, including this year’s “Divergent,” that are based on novels or stories.

He talked about the ways in which “Limitless” varies from “The Dark Fields,” and why he didn’t use parts of the “Divergent” novel. There’s a part of the novel, for instance, where the main character sees some people die, but makes the decision that she has to block it out of her mind, and just go on. Reading the passage, you understand why she does what she does, but onscreen, without the kind of interior monologue is a natural part of a novel, she would have just seemed heartless.

Burger also fielded questions from FDU students about acting, directing and the reasons he won’t be directing the “Divergent” sequel, “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” Mainly, he said, the producers wanted such a quick turnaround between the two movies that he felt he couldn’t do them both justice if he took on both projects.


Beowulf Sheehan


WAMFest continues today at 4 p.m., when Neil Gaiman, the author of comic book series “The Sandman” as well as the novels “Stardust,” “American Gods” and “Coraline,” appears in a conversation titled “The Illuminated Word” that will be “live drawn” by pen-and-ink artist Michael Arthur.

Tomorrow at 2 p.m., Arthur and Stefan Bucher, creator of the online series Daily Monster, will join each other for a conversation titled “The Art of Illumination.” And tomorrow at 6 p.m., the festival will present the world premiere of “Memory Palace: Music Meets the Page,” a collaboration by novelist Salman Rushdie, poet J. Mae Barizo, composer Paul Cantelon and the American String Quartet.

The festival takes place on FDU’s Madison campus, and all events are free, though some require advance registration. For information, visit

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