Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Feb 08, 2023

The Garden State Film Festival Returns for the 21st Year

By Lori Draz

The Garden State Film Festival (GSFF), New Jersey’s premier independent film festival, celebrates 21 years this March. This year, the festival returns to an in-person-only event where you can see 235 films from 23 countries in nine venues plus parties, professional panels, events, special honors and more.  

The GSFF provides novice and aspiring filmmakers, actors and others interested in careers in the film business the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals. “It is amazing to share the joy with the creators of this visual art, along with film lovers from all over the world,” said Lauren Concar Sheehy, GSFF executive director. “You will be thrilled with the total festival experience.”

The festival kicks off Thursday, March 23 at the Asbury Hotel with a not-to-be-missed “Meet the Filmmakers” cocktail party and a screening of selected trailers of the upcoming films.  

Friday, March 24 is the Gala Cocktail Reception with the red-carpet premiere of the highly anticipated film, “The Baker.” Then on Saturday and Sunday, it’s movie time at locations all over town with Filmmaker Talk Back following each film screening and an afterparty to top it all off. You’ll see an incredible variety of films including feature and short-length dramas, thrillers, comedies, documentaries, student films, foreign films, videos, web series, music, and the works of many area producers, writers, actors, musicians and technical crew. The festival concludes with a black-tie optional Awards Dinner at the English Manor in Ocean. 

There are also industry expert panels, workshops, master classes and networking events and a special panel with noted cinematographer Ron Vidor.

Rock and roll fans will look forward to the anticipated screening of “Heart & Soul,” a documentary by music legend Kenny Vance who will be in attendance to share this film about the early artists who defined early rock. 

There will also be a screening of “One Light,” the original song and video written by me, Lori Draz, and produced with the GSFF. The music video/film was shown after Superstorm Sandy and will be re-screened on Sunday, following a film from Monmouth County Clerk Christine Hanlon.  

This year’s honorees include Honorary Chair, Monmouth County Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone. Other honorees include Dr. Jennifer Turner, executive vice president of TriStar Television for Sony Pictures Television, who will receive the Exceptional Women in Film award. Filmmakers will also meet the remarkable cinematographer Ron Vidor who will receive the Lifetime Achievement in Cinematography award. Receiving the Lifetime Achievement for Photography is New Jersey’s own Don B. Kravitz, famous for his celebrity portraits in Rolling Stone Magazine, USA Today, New York Post, New York Daily News as well as on billboards and buses. Singer, songwriter, music producer and actor Kenny Vance is receiving the Spirit of New Jersey award. Vance and his group Kenny Vance and The Planotones, express the heart and soul of music. Also honored will be NJ Natural Gas in recognition of its Annual Conserve to Preserve Kids and Conservation Video Contest. The Educator of the Year is filmmaker and educator Jody Lazarski.

The Garden State Film Festival offers a variety of ticket packages from the full festival Parkway Pass for $95 that gives you full access (Black Tie Dinner not included), day and screening and event passes. To learn more, visit