The Western and The Garden State Film Festival

This past weekend I attended the 11th Annual Garden State Film Festival. I had an amazing time- there were lots of great movies, and it was nice to see life on the Jersey Shore returning to normal. The show must go on! I didn't get to see as many films as last time, since I was volunteering one of the days, but I saw plenty. Here are a few favorites:

A Reckless Romeo- Dir. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, one of the great comedians of the silent era. I've seen several films with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, but never one with Arbuckle. It was delightfully silly, and the screening featured live music, too!

I was also surprised to learn that it was shot in nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey. The Fort Lee Film Commission has been working to restore many of the silent films that were shot there before the industry moved out to California.

Icebound- Dir. Daniel Anker. If you happen to have seen the animated movie Balto, you might be familiar with the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska in 1925, and the race to bring medicine to the town with sled dogs in the dead of winter. It's fascinating to see just how many people and dogs were involved, and how the story turned into a media sensation across the country. Of course, some most of the facts got lost along the way, but here, you'll get the whole story.

Bartleby- Dir. Gerard Amsellem. This is a modern adaptation of a Herman Melville[ref] Author of Moby Dick. "Give me Vesuvius's crater for an inkstand!" [/ref] story, Bartleby The Scrivner, where an employee at a law office drives everyone to confusion and frustration by answering every request with "I prefer not to." The film is very clever in its adaptation, and surprisingly funny as well.

Loot- Dir. Greg Rom. I don't want to describe this too much, and give things away. But it is very well done. Very funny. It's about a bank robbery. Yes... I think that about sums it up.

West End- Joe Bascile. The plays of William Shakespeare translate very easily to almost any situation. This is Hamlet, as a gangster movie, on the Jersey Shore. The performances are all great, and the full house at the Paramount Theater loved every minute. The film was especially poignant on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, since many of the locations where it was shot, in Asbury Park, Long Branch, and others, were hit hard by the storm. Whenever the characters went to a recognizable landmark, the audience burst into cheers.

Not having a film to submit this year, I sent in The Western to the Garden State Screenplay Competition. I can announce its real title now- Afghanestern. While it uses many Western tropes, the setting is in modern-day Afghanistan, so things don't always go how you might expect. You can read two excerpts from it over at the Media Page.

I'm also honored that Afghanestern was named a finalist in this year's competition. This script represents many, many hours of research, writing, and revising, and I'm grateful the judges enjoyed my work. I'd also like to extend my congratulations to Terri Sissman, whose screenplay, The Invisibles, was named the winner of the competition.

I had a great time at the festival, saw lots of great films, and met lots of wonderful people. If you've never been to the Garden State Film Festival, be sure to check it out next year.