Beginning Thursday, September 22nd and running until Sunday the 25th, Jersey City will hold host to the 6th annual Golden Door International Film Festival. The film festival will be held at various landmark venues throughout the city, such as the Loew’s Jersey Theater, The Beacon Paramount Theater, and The Rialto-Capital Theater. A red carpet event will set the stage each night for the premiering films: Thursday night will premier Chris Robert’s Another You, Friday night Miles Doleac’s The Hollow, and Saturday Night, Mara Lesemann’s Detours.
Bill Sorvino, the President and founder of Golden Door International Film Festival, gave The Digest an exclusive look into where the festival came from, what the judges look for, and a preview of this year’s film festival:
So who is Bill Sorvino? Give us a bit of background.
Personally, I was born and raised in Jersey City. My parents still live in the very house I was raised in. Professionally, I’m a full-time actor in the middle of a bunch of other stuff. I’ve been acting about nine years now, and before that I was a singer/songwriter.
So Jersey City through and through! And what about the film festival? Where did the idea come from?
It really comes from both sides of my family. On my father’s side, I was always looking up to my uncle, Paul Sorvino, and my cousin Mira. So it was inevitable that I would eventually catch the acting bug! On my mother’s side, it was through my grandfather who came to Jersey City from Italy in 1905. He really taught me to love this city and the country. As weird as it sounds, I literally had a dream about the festival. I had a dream that I’d hosted a similar festival in Jersey City. So when I woke, I pitched the idea to a couple of people who came back telling me, “it’s an absolutely wonderful idea; truly something that’s missing from the community.” So it was the right idea at the right time, and it took off pretty quickly.
Family is everything, right? How have you seen the film festival grow in the previous years?
Really in a way that you’d expect, but don’t expect. You’re doing something you believe in and just think: “it’s going to grow, it’ll take off,” but you never really know what’s going to happen. It could easily fail; it could simply flatline. What’s great is it has really exceeded most of my expectations. Now in the 6th year, we received submissions from notable directors and starring very notable actors completely unsolicited. We didn’t even need to reach out to them! Usually, it’s required, but that wasn’t the case this year. It’s like “Wow, they’re coming to us now.” I guess that means we’re on the map now, in a way that I was hoping for but wasn’t sure when it would happen. I think we’re ahead of where we wanted to be and that’s great. Frankly, I’m keeping my head down and plowing ahead. If I pick up my head one day and I’m in the endzone, that’s great, but I can’t worry about that. Forrest Gump style; just keep running.
How would you like to see the film festival evolve in the coming years?
Well, we already hold special events during the year that are open to the public; screenings, little labs, stuff like that. I’d like to have a film institute where we teach filmmaking to some of the less-fortunate kids in the community. Just give back. The community has been extremely supportive so far, and the film festival is really becoming a beacon of film in the community; so giving back almost as an institute. The festival is reaching a critical mass where we don’t need to push everything we do anymore, it’s just kind of coming on its own. So if we maintain our excellence, it’ll just keep happening. On the other side of the ball, we need to fill in the blanks in order to give back. That’s where our success will allow us to give back.
And what about the awards handed out during the film festival?
Oh, there’s a variety; a bit like the Academy Awards. There’s the typical best film, best director, actor, actress, supporting actors, best documentary, student film; we’re pretty big on the students. That’s the next crop, so we want there to be a place where students can find their voice. The James Gandolfini Award is an outcropping of the Fort Lee Film Commission. The commission exists because Fort Lee was the original Hollywood back in the 1920’s, so they have a historical film preservation society. They created the James Gandolfini Student Filmmakers Award and were giving it out in Bergen county; so we teamed up with them to give one in Hudson County. It’s really an encouragement to the filmmakers of tomorrow. Since we do so much with autism-awareness, we’ve really become a go-to for films related to that subject. Funny enough, we were getting so many submissions for music videos, that we also decided to give a best music video award! It just seemed logical.
What do the judges look for when judging these films?
Well, the judges are either working actors, formerly well-known actors, professors, casting directors. So they’re basically being judged by their peers, and people who very much understand what goes into a good film. It’s really objective, but it’s the quality of the different aspects that goes into a film. One may not have the best story, but there may be an amazing acting job. So that could win for best actor and nothing else. So where is the overall value of the production; the acting, the directing, the screenplay? All of these play into how the film is ultimately perceived. It’s simply all considered. So they rate them, we compile and average those ratings, and it all comes down to that. Besides the averaging, there’s no scientific formula that goes into this.
What kind of crowd are you expecting at this year’s festival?
Every year seems to be a bit larger than the last, you never know which night will be “the” big hit, though. Opening night we expect three, four, maybe five hundred, and this year I’m guessing around four hundred at the Landmark Loew’s. And we have red carpet events as well which we normally see 200+ people for each. We know that some of the Giants will be there as well, Rashad Jennings for instance. We (the family) also have a bunch of celebrity friends as well, and with schedules, it’s always hard to say who exactly will be there. Overall we typically see over 2000, maybe even close to 3000 attendees during the course of the film festival. There are also the after parties every night. We select a venue where everyone can meet up, free food, cash bar, and it goes until everyone is ready to go home.
For more information on the film festival and showtimes, head over to www.goldendoorfilmfestival.org.
About the Author/s
Graduating with a B.S. in International Business from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Ted spends most of his time with his head in the clouds pondering his next destination. Besides that, he can usually be found skating around New York City, or, during the winter, hitting sweet jumps on the mountain.