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Jan 21, 2020

The 18th Annual Garden State Film Festival Returns this March

By Lori Draz

Make your plans for the biggest weekend of independent film, fun, networking and more when the globally recognized Garden State Film Festival (GSFF), New Jersey’s Premier Independent Film Festival, returns to Asbury Park this March.

The fun begins Wednesday, March 25, and the festival includes special events each night. Thursday is the Meet the Filmmakers event that includes an edited presentation of trailers of many of the films, to help you make selecting your choices easier. Other events include an exclusive screening of the film “QT8: The First Eight,” a documentary about the first 21 years of Quentin Tarantino’s career that includes interviews with his frequent collaborators.

The opening ceremonies on Friday, March 27 include a gala cocktail reception, loaded with industry professionals, red carpet photos and the screening of the opening film, the family-friendly “Team Marco” by Julio Gambuto from Staten Island.

Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29 offer a schedule packed with films and additional panels with celebrities. There are choices for all tastes, inlcuding shorts, documentaries, comedies, children’s, feature-length film, thrillers, student films and “home-grown” films shot in New Jersey. You can watch movie after movie or mix in other events like the SAG-AFTRA panel for current and aspiring actors, the live reading of the winning screenplay, plus various industry related workshops. The festival’s Movie Music Competition showcases the award-winning musical compositions which will be played before the screenings. Add to that Tito’s Vodka events, after parties and lots more surprises.

The festival concludes with a black-tie Gala Awards Dinner at The Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel. All events are open to the public, though  black tie dinner is a separate ticket.

This five-day event brings a large number of producers, directors, actors, investors, distributors and industry talent to New Jersey, the birthplace of American filmmaking. The event has also been a big boon to the economy. Since its inception, the GSFF has brought more than $10 million dollars to local businesses.

“We were blown away by the 25,000 people who attended our 17th festival,” GSFF Board Chairman Eric Ascalon said. “We have an extraordinary event planned for everyone this year, so clear your schedule and be part of a weekend you will never forget.”

Equally excited is the staff of The Journal magazines who will help bring this well-regarded festival to fans from around the world. Owner/publisher Lou Mercatanti said, “Our readers have a deep love and connection to the arts. We are proud to be part of this exciting event and look forward to a remarkable weekend of films, seminars, parties and networking.”

GSFF Executive Director Lauren Concar Sheehy added, “Accept this as a formal invitation to be part of the largest film event in the state. We look forward to seeing familiar and new faces on the red carpet this year. We are thrilled to have so many respected leaders in the filmmaking industry including the legendary TV personality Jack Ford as this year’s GSFF honorary chair.”

Festival Founder Diane Raver said, “The GSFF will screen 235 films from 20 countries. We are proud of the work of our over 400 volunteers and to contribute to Asbury Park’s vitality through arts, commerce and culture. There is something for everyone. Come one, come all! It only happens once a year, and we don’t want you to miss it.”

There is free, ADA-accessible Jitney service all weekend so getting to screening locations is easy. Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 at the door (plus venue service charge) for a two-hour screening block, and $50 in advance and $55 at the door (plus venue service charge) for the event-long Passport Pass that includes unlimited screening and the Friday Night Gala cocktail party. The Journal will be offering readers a discount code for tickets for the multipass. Visit for tickets, screening schedules and tons of cool info.

GSFF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created to promote the art of filmmaking on all levels. This festival also provides creative arts education programs and creates a forum where local and international independent filmmakers can exhibit their work. Their outreach programs also support the U.S. Military, seniors, children and the underserved.

GSFF was the winner of the 2019 Spinnaker Arts & Culture Award from the Eastern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce and the 2017 Global Excellence Awards “Best Independent Film Festival – East Coast” by TMT News. For more information visit or email