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All the Buzz on Film Festival Awards, Celebrity Tributes and the Film Awards Season.

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Screens +300 Films to +285k Viewers | FIRST HYBRID EVENTe14516991e516801a18b29f9_1220x526.png0e78ecf405c5cf54e4d6314d_1220x812.jpg

Photo by Tom Zapcic

Vice Chair Heather Brittain O'Scanlon, Board Secretary Stephanie Clineman, Founder Diane Raver, Director of Operations Kristen Dirato, Daniel Baldwin, Executive Director Lauren Concar Sheehy, Avis & Finley Baldwin


Photo by Tom Zapcic
MVP Ming Chen, Spirit of New Jersey Award Recipient Senator Declan O'Scanlon,
Independent Spirit Recipient Daniel Baldwin

Screens +300 Films to +285k Viewers |  FIRST HYBRID EVENT






Photos by Tom Zapcic

Peter Hogan Sr, Board member Brian Sheeh Sr
Winners of Best Trailer, Rushed Mr. & Mrs. Ward, Kyle Ward, Siobhan Fallon

Hogan, Peter Hogan, Executive Director Lauren Concar Sheehy, Board Member Brian Sheehy Sr.

Senator Declan O'Scanlon, Andy Bowles, James Van Patten, Faith Stanek and filmmakers







Photos by Tom Zapcic
David Lipper receiving the Bud Abbott Award for Comedy Feature for “Reboot Camp”.

GSFF Founder Diane Raver, Dr. David Stout, President of Brookdale Community College, Executive Director Lauren Concar Sheehy - Brookdale Community College Foundation presenting an award to the Garden State Film Festival for service to the community

Board memebers at the Friday Gala







Photos by Andrei Jackamets, Jeff Crespi, Jeff Crespi 





Executive Director, Lauren Concar Sheehy stated,

"We continue to reach our legion of filmmakers and fans where they are and understand virtual engagement is not a replacement for a live festival experience. GSFF enjoyed our time with our fans and filmmakers both in person and virtually, and we hope to be back in-person to full capacity in 2022"





WORLDWIDE - For its 19th iteration, the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) presented more than 300 independent films to 585,000+ viewers, with the first hybrid event including in-person events as well as connecting to film lovers virtually through dynamic digital streaming in light of the global COVID-19 crisis. But not even an underground gas explosion, followed by a power outage, a tornado—and all during a pandemic—couldn’t stop the Garden State Film Festival from presenting its film slate.

When the pandemic began a year ago, GSFF, a grossly underfunded 501(C)(3), executed what other larger and much healthier funded festivals could not and transitioned to a digital experience.  For 2021, we built upon our streaming platform with F&S Digital to present our films securely. GSFF team worked around the clock to be the first film festival during the COVID-19 Pandemic to present a hybrid film festival, including in-person events and live streaming over 300 films to an audience of over 585,000 viewers globally.

The festival, which typically draws more than 25,000 attendees to the Jersey Shore town of Asbury Park, screens local, national and international movies. GSFF brings in the latest indie films, and in 2021, our filmmakers were able to reach film lovers all over the world, with our data showing people watched in Canada, Israel, India, South Africa, Cayman Islands, Netherlands, Philippines, Colombia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Georgia, Japan, France, Iran, Taiwan, Argentina, Singapore the UAE, the UK, Russian Federation, and Belgium, to name a few. It brings great joy to the team to have brought a film event to your living room—with some in-person events—at a time when we needed it.

Fans who participated in an unprecedented four-day livestream event on their computers, tablets, and mobile phones found the perfect antidote to a pandemic-weary world thanks to streaming hundreds of feature-length films, shorts, documentaries, animation, student films, premieres, and more top-quality cinematic showmanship right at their homes. Fans even had a chance to interact with the filmmakers virtually on talkbacks on Facebook. GSFF conducted pre-event interviews, happy hours and one-on-one interactions to connect to filmmakers before they arrived in Asbury Park.  

In addition, GSFF plays a vital part in educating and showcasing the next generation of filmmakers, and had over 48 high school films screening

During a time when mental health challenges continue to increase, GSFF teamed up with New Jersey’s own Jillian Pransky for a virtual wellness event called Meditation, Yoga, and Creativity, as a way of helping us tap into our creative selves.  The event focused on how simple practices can bolster and nourish your mental and physical health, particularly in the time of covid.  Pransky led an inspiring conversation with New York Times best-selling writer Dani Shapiro.  Their conversation was followed with a practice meditation geared to all levels. Audience members learned a simple technique you can practice in just a few minutes, anywhere, anytime. 

GSFF’s 2021 hybrid event blended numerous live screenings with a rich virtual platform.  Some of the in-person events included a size-restricted Friday Night Cocktail Gala and Closing Night Awards Presentation in addition to live events and even a screening at the Cranford Theater.
Additionally, attendees were able to hear the festival’s Movie Music Competition’s award-winning musical composers as they played before the screenings and on the GSFF website.  Notable actors took part in the winning feature screenplay “The Boy Roach” by Rob Thorp.

GSFF Executive Director and filmmaker Lauren Concar Sheehy livestreamed the GSFF Awards Ceremony alongside director Paul Porowski, formally the news operations manager and producer of Chasing News, camera operators Peter Normandia of Edit Cellar and Sergey Kornienko of Brookdale Television. The awards included the best in various categories of films and celebrity honorees were recognized. A list of winners is included below. 


The 2021 Garden State Film Festival, which brings over 25,000 attendees annually, took place over 6 days in Asbury Park and Cranford, NJ, from Tuesday, 23 to Sunday, 28 March 2021. Although GSFF is an international festival that screens locally within venues in and around Asbury Park, the GSFF 2021 digital experience once again provided a new reach, global in scale, to a legion of film fans.

Celebrating its 19th anniversary in 2021, the artistic philosophy of the Garden State Film Festival is rooted in the celebration of the independent film genre, and underscores this spirit through dramatic screenings and unparalleled film collaborations attracting a diverse audience. Each year the Garden State Film Festival presents world premieres, high-profile films, industry panels, and celebrity guests. 



The Garden State Film Festival prides itself on the extensive year-round outreach for youth groups, schools, seniors, military and other nonprofit organizations throughout the tri-state area, serving these communities with programs aimed to cultivate imaginations, introduce students to filmmaking careers and expose all of us to the very best the cinematic arts have to offer in a media-saturated world.

 SAVE THE DATE! The Garden State Film Festival 20th Anniversary Edition is March 23-27, 2022. 

Visit to learn more and see cool info. 


MEDIA REQUESTS Interested media who wish to interview Garden State Film Festival Executives, film talent, please contact Lauren Concar Sheehy, Executive Director, Garden State Film Festival via email





Photo by Marc Brodsky







Photos by  Jeff Crespi, Ed Shin, Ed Shin


Lauren Concar Sheehy, Executive Director, Garden State Film Festival, said, 

I am intensely proud of our team. We believed in the opportunity to venture into a new digital frontier that served as a blueprint for festivals worldwide in 2020.” 

"We had a blast bringing global film fans GSFF 2021 through online, in-person and virtual exposures. We continue to engage audiences on an emotional level. We wanted to remove barriers and enable those around the globe to access a “gathering” during a time where social distance is mandatory. We know there a positive impact on the relationship between arts and mental health. Events increase positive attitudes, including positive representations of people’s contributions, capabilities and potential to recover and this online event will have the same impact.“



Garden State Film Festival Live Stream | Awards Ceremony 2021






Garden State Film Festival, Director of Operations, Kristen Dirato commented,

We were blown away by the number of people who tuned in to our 19th festival. Our legions of fans backed our monumental decision to attend in person as well as stream online and they turned out in record numbers considering the pandemic. Thank you to everyone who was a part of a weekend we will never forget.”





Garden State Film Festival, Chairman of the Board, Eric Ascalon stated,

"I want to thank my fellow board members, our amazing staff, our tireless executive director and operations director, our volunteers, filmmakers, sponsors, and audience members for helping us pull off the 2021 Garden State Film Festival, NJ’s premiere independent film event. This was our 19th year since our founder
Diane Raver
's vision was realized to create a festival to pay tribute to New Jersey as the birthplace of the film industry. It is a privilege to chair the board of this exceptional organization. I am so proud of you all!



Messages from other film festivals, fans and filmmakers continue to pour in from all over the world, of gratitude and congratulations on not only a successful event but being the first film festival to execute a hybrid event.  Fans and filmmakers alike loved the pre-event interviews along with the post-screening filmmaker talkbacks after the screening block.  


The Garden State Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) organization. It operates on ticket and merchandise sales and generous sponsorships and donations, so if you would like to learn more or get involved, please visit






The Garden State Film Festival
2021 Winners

Narrative Feature

“7 Days To Vegas”
Kim Waltrip, Adam Weinraub- Producers
Eric Balfour- Director


International Narrative Feature

“The Corruption of Divine Providence” 
Tanya Brunel, Jeremy Torrie- Producers
Jeremy Torrie - Director


Bud Abbott Award for Comedy Feature

“Reboot Camp”
David Lipper, Jim Johnston- Producers
Ivo Raza- Director


M. Carroll Raver Award for Cinematography

“Alaska Long Hunters”
Mark Rose- Director/Producer


Horror Feature

“A Comedy Of Horrors Volume 1”
Ken Arnold, Dan DeLuca, Matt Servitto, Demetrea Triantafillides-Producers
Matt Servitto, Dan DeLuca, Jamie Nash, Ken Arnold, Nick Tucker,
Taylor Hamiliton-Directors


Thriller Feature

“Goodbye Honey”
Josh Michaels, Max Strand, Todd Rawiszer, 
Max Strand-Director


Narrative Short-Tie

“You Wouldn’t Understand”
Trish Harnetiaux, Jacob A. Ware- Producers
Trish Harnetiaux-Director


Rachelle Owen, Joshua Owen, Rubber Duck Films, Dorota Puzio,
Nora Mariana, Rami Kodeih-Producers
Rami Kodeih-Director


Science Fiction Short

“Hey, It’s Me”
Courtney Sposato, Mark Sposato-Directors


Lou Costello Award for Comedy Short

Matthew James Ballinger, Alison Barton, Bonnie Dennison- Producers
Bonnie Dennison, Alison Barton - Directors


International Narrative Short

 “The Bigonia Garden”
Saray Salman, Jordan Sultana, Shahar Tenne-Producer
Ron Goldin-Director


International Comedy Short

Marie Sonne-Jensen-Producers
Yannick Karcher-Director


Emanuel “Manny” Berlingo Award for Best Feature Length Documentary

“My Promise to PJ”
Larry Leisure-Producer
Daniel Baldwin-Director


Short Documentary

“Life in Kensington, Philadelphia Through the Lens of Jeffrey Stockbridge”
Opaque Philadelphia-Producers
Rick Cook, Hunter Siede-Directors


Short Documentary  (Tie)

“The Long Hair”
David Kuznicki, Eric Althoff, Brian Katona-Producers
David Kuznicki-Director


International Short Documentary

   “In the Shadows”
United Arab Emirates
Mildred Garcerant-Producer/Director


Animated Short


Han Chen Chang, Ada Vaughan, Lucas A Ferrara,
Jorden Samchok, Brian Chapman-Producers
Zhike Yang,Wenjie Wu, Han Chen Chang-Directors


Web Series/New Media

“Reclaimed Relics”

Peter Normandia-Producer/Director/Editor


Web Series/New Media-Comedy

“Procedural Justice”
David Alfano -Producer
Josh Callahan-Director


International Web Series/New Media – Family

“Detention Adventure”
Ryan West, Carmen Albano, Joe Kicak, Lauren Corber-Producers
 Joe Kicak-Director


TV Pilot

“Half Life”
Elizabeth Balla, Patty Carey, Kerstin Glaess
Jonathan Wacks, Jamie Zelermyer-Producers
Nick Minas-Director


Music Video

Ben Meyers-Director



Patrick J. Clifton, Siobhan Fallon Hogan,
Erin Fraser, Peter Hogan, Robert Patrick- Producers
Vibeke Muasya -Director


TV Series

“HomeGrown the Series”
Brian Broduer-Director


Best Covid Film

“Exit Package”
Melissa Jo Peltier-Producer
John Gray-Director


Narrative Short – College

“Le Prince Oublié”

Chapman University
Hailey Burns-Producer
Chloe Aguirre-Director


Documentary Short – College

“The Mayor”
Rowan University
Paisley Blair-Producer
Claire McKissik- Director


International Narrative Short – College

“The Postman”
Constantin von Jascheroff, Julius Bräuer -Producers
Julius Bräuer -Director


Animated Short – High School

(Middletown High School South)
Vic Pater, Director


Narrative Short – High School

 “Growing Pains”
(East Brunswick Tech School of the Arts)
Jennifer Ruiz-Gonzalez, Director


Documentary Short – High School

“The Mayor”
(Middletown High School South)
Charlie Falotico, Director


Drama – High School

“The Box”
(Palisades Charter High School)
Chelsea Trotti, Director


Student Short – High School

“I’m Ready”
Maya Jai Pinson, Director




The Garden State Film Festival would like to recognize films shot in the State of New Jersey with the following winners in the
“Home Grown Award” categories:


Home Grown Feature

“The Andy Baker Tape”
Caitlin Borek, Dustin Fontaine, Bret Lada, Arthur Giamalidis- Producers
Bret Lada- Director


Home Grown Documentary Feature


“The WBGO Story...Bright Moments from Newark to the World”
Chris Daniel, Dorthaan Kirk-Producers
Chris Daniel-Director


Home Grown Short

“The Block”
Marcus Scigliano-Producer
Alex Scigliano, Marcus Scigliano- Directors


Home Grown Documentary Short

“Harness the Dream”
Tom Arnell, AJ Dakoulas, Harry Landy-Producers
AJ Dakoulas-Director


Home Grown Music Video


Daniel Alphonse Boulos, Alexandria "Taurie" Chukwuma, Amede "Piper" Deane-Producers

Daniel Alphonse Boulos-Director


Home Grown Student Short – College

“A World Revisited”

Fairleigh Dickinson
David Zajac- Producer
Brendan Laird- Director


Home Grown Student Short – High School

(Washington Twp High School)
Alyssa Marerro, Director


         Home Grown Student Documentary Short – High School

“No One Said It Would Be Easy”
(Collingswood High School)
Josiah Angehr, Director


Home Grown Student PSA – High School

“Mental Health”
(Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology)
Kimberly Santiago, Director


New Jersey Hometown Documentary Short – High School

“At the Core: The Heart of Appel Farm”
(Washington Twp High School)
Troy Nguyen and Chloe Pecheux, Director


1st Runner Up “Springfield, NJ”
Jorge Rivera, Frank Sarracino, Ryna Sickinger


2nd Runner Up “Flower Power”
(East Brunswick Tech - School of the Arts)
Marlayna O'Brien, Henry Ruiz, Jennifer Ruiz-Gonzalez, Sammy Horan



The Garden State Film Festival
Movie Music Competition Winners


“Love, Love, Love”

Best Performance of an Original Song From A Feature Film

Composers: Chris Corley, Jon D'Agostino
Performed by: Serendipity


“Theme from HomeGrown”

Best Original Score From A Television Show

Composer: Brian Brodeur
Performed by: Brian Brodeur


"Born to be Alphas”

Best original score for a drama hort

Composer: Sandrine Rudaz
Performed by: Sandrine Rudaz, Ro Rowan and Luanne Homzy



Best Foreign Indie Folk from a short film
Composer-Sonia Schmidt
Performed by-Ohsergio


“Family Life and Childhood”

Best Orchestral Theme from a Documentary
Composer: Raphael Fimm


“Glimpses- “A Day in the Life”

Best Americana Instrumental from a Short Film
Compose:  Estelle Bajou
Performed by:  Estelle Bajou


“Barbara's Theme”

Best Score From a Home Grown Feature Film Thriller
Composer: Kyle Ward 
Performed by: Kyle Ward and Pongsapak Kiatpreecha


“No Room to Cry”
Best Vocal Theme from a Short Film
Composer: Jesse Anatole
Lyrics & Song by: Jerin Forgie
                             Performed by: Jerlin Forgie                            


“Second Chance “

Best Family Original Song and Composition
Composer-Robbie Rosen
Performed by: Sammi Singz (Samantha Horowitz)


"I am Beautiful. I am Strong."

Best Orchestral Arrangement of a Student Film
Composer: Cristina "Trinity" Vélez-Justo
Performed by: Virtual Instruments


“Ave Maria”

Best Religious Vocal
Composer: Charleene Closshey
Performed by: Charleene Closshey and the Sofia Boys Choir


“Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”

Best Revival of a Folk Classic in a Music Video
Composer: Melanie Safka
Performed by: The Asbury Park Love Contingent



Garden State Screenplay Competition Winner



 by Drew Henriksen



“The Boy Roach”

By Rob Thorp




The Garden State Film Festival (“GSFF”) is proud to announce
the winners for its acting awards.



Vince Van Patten – “7 Days to Vegas”



Pamela Jayne Morgan – “Goodbye Honey”



Rafe Soule – “Goodbye Honey”



Eileen Davidson – “7 Days to Vegas”



“7 Days to Vegas”

 Vince Van Patten, Ross McCall, Paul Walter Hauser, Eileen Davidson, James Van Patten, Willie Garson, Lucas Bryant, John O’Hurley, Chad Lowe, Jennifer Tilly, James Kyson, Danny Pardo, Don Stark



Adam Hirsch – “The Bigonia Garden”



Alia Shawkat – “Alina”



Laris Macario – “The Sleeping Life of Sofia”



Rebeca Robles – “Alina”




Honorary Chair
Arianna Bocco


Independent Spirit
Daniel Baldwin


Ming Chen & A Shared Universe PodcaStudio


Spirit of New Jersey

Declan O’Scanlon


Educator of the Year

Chris Dudick


The Garden State Film Festival Rising Star Award for Acting

Christian Barber





THE GARDEN STATE FILM FESTIVAL is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization, created to promote the art of filmmaking on all levels. This globally recognized 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 2021 Corporate America Today Best Independent Film Festival - USA, 2020 Brookdale Community College Foundation Award for service to the community, 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


Industry notables such as Glenn Close, Christopher Lloyd, Batman producer Michael Uslan, Austin Pendleton, Kurtwood Smith, James Gandolfini, Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, Lainie Kazan, Diane Ladd, Laura Dern, Bebe Neuwirth, Armand Asante, Sally Struthers and our biggest supporter Ed Asner as well as others have lent their support. The artistic philosophy of the Garden State Film Festival is rooted in the celebration of the independent film genre and the creation of a forum where local and other independent filmmakers can exhibit their work. It was also created to pay tribute to New Jersey’s legacy as the birthplace of the American filmmaking industry in Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratories where he invented the first film cameras and projectors, to Fort Lee, where the original studios were founded. Our event provides novice and aspiring filmmakers, actors, and others interested in careers in the film business, the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals in an atmosphere conducive to learning and mentoring. Further, we are happy to present each spring in Asbury Park and to serve as an added engine for the city’s vitality through arts, commerce, and culture. For more information visit












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