Thousands Attend Garden State Film Fest

By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI

It was an event that brought 26,000 people to Asbury Park over five days for a celebration of movie making.

Celebrities, honorees, film industry execs and movie fans came to the Garden State Film Festival to visit historic venues throughout the city to watch, shorts, comedies and full length films.

The opening gala and cocktail party brought Governor Phil Murphy and Secretary of State Tahesha Way to help launch the festival and honor the recently restored New Jersey Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program.

The festival included networking opportunities, industry workshops, informative panel discussions, open talent casting call, live screenplay reading, star-studded red carpet gala and entertaining parties.

In all over 245 films from more than 20 countries around the world were screened at the festival.

The Awards Gala Dinner on Sunday evening recognized honorees and festival winners were announced. This was also the first year GSFF recognized actors with awards.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvia Sylvia-Cioffi hosted a block of shorts at the Senior Center.

“It was really awesome,” she said. “It was the first time the festival did a west side venue. We had a good crowd.”

Sylvia-Cioffi said like all blocks, there was a question and answer session with the filmmakers following the films.

“It was a very lively discussion, they are amazingly talented,” she said. “They talked about what inspired them to make their films.”

She also said the senior center provided a suitable venue with organizers putting up black out curtains on the windows to hide the daylight.

“Festival coordinators thought of everything,” Sylvia-Cioffi said.

The Sunday afternoon screening block of two shorts and two full length films at the Asbury Hotel brought out many with weekend passes including Andrew and MaryLou Wason of Asbury Park.

After watching “Olympia” a sweet romantic film, set in Chicago, about a young woman working to overcome the death of her mother  Andrew Wason said he enjoyed it.

“It seemed very well done, it was professional and it was a good story,” he said.

Wason’s wife MaryLou said the couple, who has lived in the city for a year and a half had weekend passes and had seen movies at The Paramount, Asbury Lanes and other venues.

“We’re pretty exhausted from all these things,” she said. “It’s been great, all the events, we went to something every day.”

MaryLou and Andrew said they are enjoying being Asbury Park residents.

“It’s fantastic,” they said.

MaryLou said they also attended the panel discussion about the “Sopranos” with TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, authors of the newly released book, “The Sopranos Sessions.”

Also shown was “The Bird Catcher” a film from Norway which garnered five awards, including best actress for Sarah-Sofie Boussnina and best supporting actor for Jacob Cedergren, along with one for its producer Lisa G. Black who won the Exceptional Women in Film award.

Bradley Beach resident Carol Wander, a self professed movie lover, said she was most taken with the Q & A sessions after each block.

“The behind the scenes aspect…it was the opportunity to have insight into the inner workings of movie making,” she said.

Wander attended a variety of screenings and praised the organization of the event saying it was easy getting around to all the venues.

“It was a chance to view an eclectic mix of styles and content from talented film makers,” Wander said.

Executive Director of the GSFF Lauren Concar said this year was festival’s the best year yet.

“Audience members kept coming up to us and thanking us  for having the festival,” she said.

She said many first time festival goers expressed their delight but also some who have come all 17 years.

“They said this year was the best; we’re still in shock,” she said.

Concar said it was exciting to see so many people shopping and dining in the city during the entire weekend.

She said next year’s festival dates in Asbury Park are already in the books.

“We already have our dates, it’ll be the same time, the end of March,” she said.

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