I've had the pleasure of attending The Garden State Film Festival two years in a row now. GSFF is held in Asbury, NJ. They celebrate the craft of independent film making and champion stories created within the Garden State. They screen 200+ independent films over the course of 4 days in the early spring. It was founded in 2002 by Diane Raver and Robert Pastorelli.
During the pandemic, my partner Bret Lada, one of his college buds Dustin Fountain and I began dabbling in making short films. One of them was so so but the next one, Scrambled, turned out to be an absolute delight following Trevor Daley who after a one night stand races to save his relationship. I was first camera woman, and I played Trevor's girlfriend coming to surprise him during quarantine. The film had a modest festival run, and it inspired Bret and Dustin to write their first feature that we would produce together; The Andy Baker Tape.
ABT is a found footage thriller following food blogger, Jeff Blake, and he's newly found half brother, Andy Baker. Bret loves to say, "It's Planes, Trains and Automobiles meets The Blair Witch Project." I am credited as a coproducer. This title can fall under many hats, but for me it meant jumping on last minute as 3rd camera woman, blocking out the final action scenes of the film, assisting with festival submissions, marketing the film, throwing in a dollar or two, and I also gave voice to the 911 operator. Basically, I was another creator on the team making sure this product was the best it could be.
Back to GSFF! This fest had Andy written all over it. We filmed 95% of the film in Jersey, celebrate NJ food culture, and highlight the ongoing debate between the names "Pork Roll" or "Taylor Ham." We were not exactly punctual with our submission, but our passionate plea made friends of Executive Director, Lauren Concar Sheehy, and Vice-Chair (and fellow filmmaker whose run of Victim No' 7 would closely follow ours), Heather O'Scanlon. The Andy Baker Tape premiered on March, 27th at The Garden State Film Festival. We felt so embraced by this community of NJ filmmakers, and we were awarded Best Homegrown Feature. This weekend was not only a great honor to attend, but a tremendous relief as it was our first big in-person event during the pandemic. It was overwhelming to be in the same room as these great local artists after a year of guerrilla film making in isolation.
This year The Garden State Film Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary. I went stag as my film partner in crime is planting his boots on the ground in LA. I took the New Jersey Transit out early Sunday morning, the final day of the fest, to support Victoria Meade and John Caliendo who created a stunning short piece of film noir, Always for the First Time written by Stephen Gracia. The film is loosely based on the first meeting of surrealist writer Andre Breton and surrealist artist Elisa Latte Elena Bindhoff Enet. John and Vicky starred and directed themselves. They've been partners I believe for a decade, so the chemistry was off the charts between these two captivating characters they crafted. The romantic world they created was one I just wanted to swim in.
After their immensely successful screening, I scuttled over to watch my favorite humorous horror short probably of all time, Soy Un Vampiro. The story follows a little girl whose parents won't clarify that they are in the middle of quarantine during a pandemic. Because of their strange behavior, the little girl is convinced she is a vampire, and left to the devices of her imagination. This film feels like a delicious marriage of Amelie and Beetlejuice. The film's creator, Sofia Garza-Barba, chose festivals that paralleled The Andy Baker Tape. The greatest thing you get out of a festival run is a new enthusiastic network of likeminded artists (for instance, I met Paige Sciarrino who was screening her short film The Blue Light Stays On at GSFF, and she later cast me in her film Where The Light Enters, AND she connected me with Stefanie Field of Stefanie Talent and Entertainment). Sofia is one of our many new friends we made touring our film, and I was over the moon that Soy Un Vampiro took home Best Narrative Short at The Garden State Film Festival.
The deadline for the 21st annual Garden State Film Festival is November 1st of this year. I can't recommend this festival enough to fellow filmmakers (and film lovers).