Jul 01, 2017

An Intimate Evening with Kevin Smith Benefits FilmOneFest

By Ryan Edelson

Actor and filmmaker Kevin Smith, a local native, returned to the cozy Jersey Shore town of Atlantic Highlands for a special Q&A event to benefit the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council (AHAC) and their upcoming FilmOneFest.

The event occurred at Atlantic Cinemas, 82 First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands, on Sunday, May 21. The venue was extremely intimate and the room was packed, with every seat taken. Attendees listened to Mr. Smith, who was joined by some high school friends, talk about growing up on the shore and how things are both different and similar 35+ years later. He is a natural comedian who does not hold back when expressing his opinions or telling his story, making him the man – and inspiring the creative work – that his followers admire today.

Born in Red Bank, raised in Highlands, and having spent his early years in Highlands and attending Henry Hudson Regional School, Mr. Smith is a native to the event’s location, which made the night feel even more personal. Known for directing and writing “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Jersey Girl,” he is clearly known for making people laugh and smile. He is also known for having other talents and has composed five books, produced TV commercials and even created shorts for TV.

If you’ve ever walked down Broad Street in Red Bank, you’ve probably passed Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash comic book store, owned by Kevin Smith. If not, you may have seen it on your television while watching AMC’s unscripted reality series, “Comic Book Men,” which is currently in its sixth season. The store is the setting for the show. In addition, Mr. Smith has been podcasting for 10 years. His “Smodcasts” have transformed into a network of multiple podcasts, with thousands of regular listeners. He has also guest-directed episodes of TV’s “The Flash” and “Supergirl.”

Aside from the Q&A on May 21, there was also a silent auction for a nonspeaking background role for one scene in a Kevin Smith Film or in “Comic Book Men.” The winner was Arunendra Banerjee of Holmdel. Four autographed posters were also given away.

The Atlantic Highlands Arts Council expressed their appreciation to Janet Peterson, local wealth manager for Oppenheimer and a close personal friend of Kevin Smith, who bigheartedly put together this event for the council. The fact that Mr. Smith flew in from his home in Los Angeles specifically for the evening is testament to his support and loyalty to longtime friends, community, and the arts. The beneficiary of this uniquely stellar evening was the Ninth Annual FilmOneFest, a unique annual outdoor film festival in Atlantic Highlands that has flourished over the years into a celebration that any local film lover cannot pass up. This year, it will be held on Saturday, July 15 (rain date is July 16; if there is rain that day, the event will move indoors). After having more than 400 supershort films submitted from 51 countries, nearly 40 films – the best of the best – were selected to be presented. The only rule is that each film must be shorter than two minutes. All genres are accepted and formats include live action, animation, and CGI. The festival is free to attend, and viewers are amazed each year by “the variety, creativity, and originality, as filmmakers rise to the challenge of telling a complete story in less than two minutes,” said co-founder Robert O’Connor.

FilmOneFest opens at the Atlantic Highlands Marina at 6:00 p.m. on July 15, with arts and food vendors, a stilt walker, face painters, a clown, and princesses. Organizer Corinna Thuss explained, “Guests arrive at our beautiful marina by a giant digital screen, pick a comfortable viewing spot on the grass under the stars, and settle in with friends, family, food, and drink.” The main stage will first feature multiple live bands. At 9:00 p.m., the main screening begins. Judges’ top picks will be announced, with $250 for the Gartenberg Memorial Award and $250 for the top FilmYoungFest entry, a special category for filmmakers under the age of 18. The second annual Gartenberg Memorial Award recognizes excellence in filmmaking in honor of late FilmOneFest director Julie Gartenberg. Audience members also get to pick their favorite, with real-time voting for the Audience Choice award.

This year’s distinguished judges’ panel includes movie producer and manager Carol Cuddy (“Men in Black 3,” “Elementary”), television network executive and producer Jon Crowley (HGTV, “Impractical Jokers”), film critic Joan Ellis, film editor Susan Littenberg (“Nina,” “Charlotte’s Web”), sound editor Gedney Webb (“A Dog’s Purpose,” “The Hundred-Foot Journey”), and film reviewer/historian Victor Zak.

Local food trucks will offer Thai, Venezuelan empanadas and food, and other cuisines. Hot dogs, burgers, and treats will also be available. Walk-in admission is free and open for the main screen/lawn. Lawn chairs and blankets are permitted. There are limited $20 bleacher-style seats available; pre-registration is required on the FilmOneFest website. Donations of canned goods for the AACC Food Pantry are encouraged.

For more details and updates, go to www.filmonefest.org. For more about the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council, visit www.aharts.org.