Rahway filmmaker selected for Garden State Film Festival

ASBURY PARK, NJ — New Jersey’s Premier Independent Film Festival is celebrating its 22nd Anniversary from March 21 to 24. The internationally recognized Garden State Film Festival celebrates the independent film genre by bringing a carefully curated and enriching selection of original works from locally produced filmmakers as well as from around the world.

“The upcoming 2024 Festival returns to experience 200 films from over 14 countries over four days in eight venues hosting parties, professional panels, events, special honors and more,” said Lauren Concar Sheehy, the festival’s executive director.

The Garden State Film Festival offers several categories for films and filmmakers of all kinds. Among the selection include feature length and short films, documentaries, comedies, children’s, thrillers, pilots, student films and “home-grown” films shot in New Jersey. The Garden State Film Festival has announced that the film “Chocolate Milk,” directed by Rahway resident Latisha Di Venuto, will screen at this year’s festival.

“We are extremely proud to present ‘Chocolate Milk’ as a part of our 22nd annual Film Festival and to share this work with our global audience,” said Concar Sheehy.

“Chocolate Milk” will screen on Saturday, March 23, at 6:15 p.m., at Asbury Hotel, Asbury Hall, Asbury Park.

The film’s subject is: A young girl challenges her parents to drink chocolate milk every day for a year in hopes of bringing them closer together.

You may contact the filmmaker by emailing them at [email protected].

“Since New Jersey has seen record production numbers in recent years, thanks in no small part to Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s competitive financial incentives and the film-friendly environment created here in the state, including the efforts of the NJ Motion Picture & Television Commission, we’re seeing an increase in the number of projects that qualify for this category. It is wonderful to see our filmmakers live where they work, and to fulfill their creative dreams,” said Concar Sheehy. “And since New Jersey offers so many different kinds of locations and settings; mountains, beaches, cities, farms and more, we see Jersey appearing in so many different kinds of films.”

The entire GSFF program of this year’s selections will be presented in multiple venues in the Asbury Park area, with special events and screenings each night. A full day of screenings will also be presented at The Cranford Theater in Cranford, on Saturday, March 23, starting at noon, with the last screening ending at 10:15 p.m.

The film schedule indicates which films have subtitles available for universal-access for the hearing impaired. Free on the website is the GSFF “Cinema for the Ears” series, for those with visual impairment. More than 440 students will be attending the sold-out 2024 statewide field trip, which will be introduced to vocations by UARTS Karl Staven, as well as New Jersey’s place in the birth of film. The schedule can be checked out at www.gsff.org for showtimes and to see which films are screening at which venue.

Following 2023’s successful event, this year’s 22nd anniversary celebration will include world premieres, celebrities, industry panels, parties and networking, along with entertainment for all. Catch the not-to-be-missed panel, “Filmmaking is booming in New Jersey! Find out why that’s good for you,” with special guest speakers on Saturday, March 23, at 9:30 a.m., in the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel Johnny and June Room.

Founder Diane Raver said, “The GSFF is action-packed and there is something for everyone! Come one, come all. It only happens once a year and we don’t want you to miss it.”

Asbury Park highlights include the famous red-carpet Gala on Friday, March 22, at the Asbury Lanes. This event includes a cash bar cocktail reception and light fare with industry professionals, red carpet photos and a film screening starring Matthew Modine, John Cleese, Fiona Glascott, Derek Jacobi and Stuart Townsend in the feature drama “The Martini Shot” – a filmmaking reference to the last shot of a film shoot. Tickets to this event are limited and are available on the website www.gsff.org/tickets.

Saturday, March 23, and Sunday, March 24, offer a schedule packed with films for every viewer, plus industry related workshops. Winners of the festival’s Movie Music Competition will have their musical compositions played before the live screenings. All events are open to the public.

This year’s winning Feature Length Screenplay Competition winner will be announced soon. The reading of the winning screenplay by professional actors will take place on Sunday, March 24, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in the Oval Room on the second floor. The GSFF screenplay table read is presented by partner Project Write Now. A ticket is required and available at www.gsff.org.

The weekend culminates with the Garden State Film Festival Awards Dinner event on Sunday evening, March 24, where this year’s honorees will be recognized and festival winners announced. The GSFF honorary chairperson is Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach. Kovach embarked on her fourth term as mayor of Clinton and, in 2019, she was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy and received Senate confirmation as a member of the NJ Motion Picture and Television Commission, where she assists productions navigating local NJ government. The GSFF Exceptional Women In Film recipient is Carla Raij, who is a co-producer and unit production manager that worked with Steven Spielberg on Amblin Entertainment’s “The Fabelmans” and Educator of the Year recipient David Diianni of FilmAcademy360. Diianni is an active member of The Student Television Network, New Jersey Educational Computing Cooperative and presenter at the Producers Guild of America. The 2024 MVP is photographer Tom Zapcic, who spends his time covering nonprofit events and shoots for publications such as Industry Magazine, Community, The Journal and more.

The Garden State Film Festival offers a variety of ticket packages. The best deal is the Parkway Pass for $100. Pass includes Access to Meet the FilmMakers event, Gala Reception, all film screenings and panels. This special combo must be purchased in advance online only while supplies last. The Friday Gala Cocktail Party and Screening is for $55, the Saturday Day Pass is $40 and the Sunday Day Pass is $30. If you want to go to one Film Screening event, it is just $18. The Panel Discussion is $18. The festival concludes with a black-tie-optional Awards Dinner for $150, which includes cocktails (cash bar), followed by a sit-down dinner, where this year’s best is acknowledged with presentations of awards to winning filmmakers and high-profile honorees in attendance. For tickets and more information about this film and other programs, visit www.gsff.org.