What MAKES Sammy Run? – PAINT YOUR NEXT FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE GOLDEN!
Golden Memories from L to R:
Best Short-Short winner Sam Borowski (R in Olive suit) poses with eventual Best Director of a Short recipient, Daniel McQueary at his festival swan song of "ALFRED THINKS WE'RE ALIENS.
Bill Sorvino Sr. (L), Bill Sorvino Jr., legendary actor Paul Sorvino and Award-Winning and Oscar-Qualified filmmaker Sam Borowski all pose on the red carpet.
The "POLLINATION * " crew of co-writer Lisa Buffington, director, producer and co-writer Sam Borowski, actors Federico Castelluccio and Maria Rusolo, pose on the Red Carpet with their awards. In addition to the Award for Best Short-Short, Castelluccio was honored with a Spirit of New Jersey Award.
So I recently returned from this year’s installment of the wonderful GOLDEN DOOR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF JERSEY CITY, and I have to say it was an amazing experience. And, what’s funny about my experience this year, is that it read like a HOW TO for young filmmakers when embarking on their own festival experiences.
And for actors, as well.
Let me explain; no there is too much. Let me sum-up:
Just one year after having the Opening-Night feature film – “NIGHT CLUB” – I had the good fortune of screening the Opening-Night short in “ POLLINATION * ” starring the amazing Federico Castelluccio and the It Girl of Staten Island Cinema, Maria Rusolo.
And anytime you get to screen your film at the Landmark Loew’s Theatre inJersey Cityit’s an amazing, almost euphoric experience. And I can remember the experience for each and every film I have screened there. I cannot describe to you what it means to me as a film historian, film buff and especially as a filmmaker.
But, what was truly excellent is that MyInner Circlegot the MOST they could out of it. I had a suite at the Doubletree for the duration of the festival. And I was glad to spend some wonderfully creative and inspirational times at the hotel with fellow filmmakers Daniel McQueary and Rex Hudson, Lisa Buffington (a shining beacon of hope for every young filmmaker at this festival – she started out as my assistant and went on to co-write POLLINATION * with me, even earning her first producing credit. In addition, she is a published author and works as hard as anyone I know), my producing apprentice and brother, Nihad Shalabi, my acting student and friend, Anthony Pallino and of course, my dear friend and legendary actor, Paul Sorvino.
We used the time at the hotel to post our photos and create publicity on all the Social Networks out there, to network, bond and to just enjoy the company of like-minded people, where this industry is concerned. And, of course, to plan out the next day’s hectic schedule.
Was especially hectic – and rewarding – for me, as I had something practically every day of the festival. After kicking things off with “ POLLINATION * ” on Opening-Night, doing some interviews, including speaking with the wonderful folks on ForTalent, I spoke with many wonderful viewers about the movie and was glad to hear their support for our film. And to hear just how much each and every one of them enjoyed the film.
The next day, I was extremely proud to attend the final festival appearance of McQueary’s film. “ALFRED THINKS WE’RE ALIENS” was a huge hit with the crowd, especially with the hard critic, Shalabi, who gave it a thumbs up and a Perfect Five – out of 1-5 ratings! In fact, everyone in attendance gave it a5 inAudience Choice voting!Hudson’s visuals helped tell the story of Alfred, obsessed with alien life forms – even as he envisions his mother and sister as such – and went over very well with the audience in attendance.
It was wonderful to see various Indie Filmmakers at the festival supporting McQueary, one of the bright young stars in this business.
From there, we traveled downstairs from the Upper Screening Room in the Brightside Tavern to the actual restaurant downstairs for one of the most enjoyable meals we ever had. I can still remember the server telling us the burgers are “memorable.” Sounded like complete and utter bunk, until of course you taste them and realize you just had one of the best burgers in your life. I also had a pumpkin bisque that was ridiculously good.
This put us in the right frame of mind for an incredible Double-Feature and Red Carpet Event on Friday night, beginning with a special screening of Nancy Savoca’s recent Indie Picture,UNION SQUARE, starring Oscar-Winner Mira Sorvino and Emmy-Winner Tammy Blanchard.
Mira’s gotten incredible critical acclaim for her role as Lucy, a dysfunctional woman who stays with her sister for the first time in several years. And, I got the chance to reconnect withBronxfilmmaker Nancy Savoca, whom I met close to 11 years ago at a film festival, where she was doing a special screening of TRUE LOVE, a film she had made 12 years prior to that.
I was practically a child in the business back then – compared to what I am now – and we had a nice conversation, exchanged information, and I look forward to speaking with her more.
Then, on to one of the films I had been most anticipating at this festival, SURVIVING FAMILY. This dark tale of a young woman returning home to her dysfunctional family to wed her fiancé was an interesting mix of dark drama and comedy.
And it was a terrific directorial debut by Laura Thies, who seemed to be everybody’s sweetheart at this festival. And why not? She flew in all the way fromMunichto be at the GOLDEN DOOR.
Enjoyed the film, which was written and produced by Jersey City local and valued ForTalent member, Mara Lesemann, one of the most hard-working and passionate people you will find in the business, and which featured an engrossing performance by Sarah Wilson in the lead role. Wasn’t hard to guess thatWilsonwould go on to take home Best Actress in the festival.
But, I really enjoyed seeing the passion and spirit in Thies, who is heading back to Germany as I write this, where I believe she already is in the early stages of another project. Is it too American to say, “You go girl?”
Funny, but I still remember taking a picture with Thies, where I said I wanted to get one with my people and her – as they all enjoyed meeting her – and she said, “Yes, and my people!” And, with that something like 15 or 20 people, including Lesemann and her wonderful husband, Carlo Fiorletta, dashed on to the carpet for an unforgettable – and large – group photo!
After a very late after-party, we were unable to sleep in on Saturday, as I had my producing seminar, “PRODUCING RESULTS: HOW TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY … ON ANY BUDGET,” in the early afternoon. It followed John Dapolito’s acting seminar, and I was happy to see a packed house at City Hall.
And, that the crowd not only included many newbies, but also some familiar faces such as Rusolo, Shalabi, McQueary, Hudson, Thies, Lesemann and Fiorletta and my newest intern, Kimberly Hogue with her parents. And, as I said, many others I did not recognize.
Most of all, it was attended by Festival President, and now my good friend, Bill Sorvino, who really went out of his way to say some nice things about me, my career and my methods at the end of it. He and his wife Michele Diserio Sorvino put on an amazing festival and it really showed. Seeing both of them as well as Bill’s mother Roberta sitting through my fast-moving seminar meant a great deal to me.
From there, we went on to dine in an amazing downtown café – before heading to another screening of Scott Storm’s award-winning documentary, “WE RUN SH*T.” (Yes, that’s the title, and you can imagine for yourself the pronunciation, which made for an hysterical conversation with Paul Sorvino. ;) )
Scott’s Q&A with himself, James DiFiore and “E-Class” was a fun moment for me, as I watched the culmination of a long and successful project for all three. Ironic, since the film documents an unsuccessful business dealing, and I say it here – it’s a must see.
From there, back to the hotel, where I had another fun exchange with my good friend and senior member of the Sorvino Acting Family, Paul.
Afterward, it was time to head out for the Saturday Night Party sponsored by Aramark at the Cityside Bistro on70 Greene Street, and it was one of the BEST Film Festival parties I ever attended. Maybe the best – hard to say, because I’ve been to so many, but this one was special. The company, the food, the free drinks, Paul Sorvino singing “Solo Mio,” but also telling his personal connection to that song. The fact that it was packed and yet there were still plenty of seats and standing room to enjoy the occasion.
Maureen and Craig Goletz, Bill and Michele Sorvino should all be commended. This party showed how far the festival has come in such a short amount of time, and why people are talking about it in the same breath as Tribeca.
I’d have to think about it, but Saturday might have been my favorite day at the festival. Although, on Sunday, the action continued beginning with an interesting short block that featured Rusolo’s “MA IN HER KERCHIEF,” which was up for something like five awards?
By the time we got to the Awards Gala, you could sense the excitement in the air. Winning Best Short-Short, while placing second in the Best Director of a Short-Short and Audience Choice Award categories, was awesome for “ POLLINATION *.”
And, watching Michael Wolfe win five awards for his feature film, “MAYBE TOMORROW,” including Best Feature and Best Director, certainly brought back memories of my five “NIGHT CLUB,” wins last year. And, it was both fun and exciting to present Wolfe with his Best Director Award on stage.
Not to mention getting my Best Short-Short Award from Paul Sorvino, my good friend with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with three times. Here’s hoping for at least three more. ;)
But perhaps my favorite two moments of the ceremony began with watching the shock and awe in my good friend McQueary when he heard his name called for Best Director of a Short. I still see him sitting there with his head slumped in his hands, holding back the emotion, as best he could. He truly was shocked and grateful all at the same time.
Hearing his wonderfully inspirational speech filled with gratitude for what God had just done for him, well I still get choked up over it. No one was more deserving, grateful – or surprised – than Daniel was.
The second was watching my new friend Laura Thies accept the very first Alice Guy-Blache Women in Cinema Award for her aforementioned directorial debut of SURVIVING FAMILY.
“I feel so deeply honored to be the very first recipient ever of the ‘Women in Film – Alice Guy-Blache’ award!!” Thies said. “Feel like I kind of wrote history tonight;) “
That’s because she did. And, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. Heck, she had everyone in the Landmark Loew’s rooting for her, even Rusolo, who was up for the same award.
But, this festival was a bundle of good feelings, positive energy, tremendous networking … and some excellent Indie Film! All that, and I finally remembered – after several years and three projects – to get Paul Sorvino to sign my copy of GOODFELLA’S. Like a true friend, he actually worried that he was not writing something special enough.
But, everything about this festival was special. So special that I hope this enormous BLOG made you feel as if you were right there with me. And, no, I cannot say enough about Bill and Michele Sorvino or their efforts.
But, the moral of this story is that it was not only an amazing experience, but as previously stated, it read like a HOW TO for young filmmakers when embarking on their own festival experiences.
And, for actors, as well.
Now go, and make all your future festival experiences and career endeavors as Golden as this one was for myself and My Inner Circle.
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