Will Great Neck, Long Island, be the next Cannes, the next Sundance, the new Tribeca?
The first annual Gold Coast International Film Festival, puts Great Neck and the Town of North Hempstead on the map as a major cultural center, with the force to shape cultural tastes and catapult careers in the entertainment mega-industry.
Between June 1-5, some 25,000 people are expected in the various venues in the town of North Hempstead to experience an extraordinary program of some 40 films including premieres plus special events such as “Conversations With…,” intimate Q&As with notable filmmakers and “tastemakers”; Insider Industry Panels highlighting various aspects of the film and media industries; and special screenings and workshops incorporated into the Great Neck Arts Center’s arts in education outreach program.
Local communities will be able to have their closeup in the limelight, as well, timing their own street fairs and special events to the film festival.
Since the early 20th century, the Gold Coast has been the hometown of movie stars, moguls, directors, producers, composers and critics, from Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx to Francis Ford Coppola and Natalie Portman. (The Great Neck Park District is even creating its own film festival in July 11-August 3, “They Slept in Great Neck,” around movies of stars who lived here, including the Marx Brothers, PG Wodehouse, Rube Goldberg and Frederic March).
The festival is the brainchild of Regina Gil, the executive director of the Great Neck Arts Center which is the organizing entity, who continues to perform magic in bringing together major movers and shakers from the film industry (not to mention big-league sponsors) to make such a world-class festival materialize.
“I’m thrilled to build on the success we’ve experienced with the Arts Center and our Furman Film Series over the last ten years and take it to the next level,” says Gil, “This feels like the natural next step, bringing world-class films to an eager audience — and all in the setting of Gatsby, here on the Gold Coast.”
Just how big a deal is it to have an international film festival in your neighborhood? “It’s huge,” says Regina Gil. “For starters, if you’ve never been to a festival before, people think it is just about seeing a movie. But there is an electricity about the people who live and breathe films and filmmaking. You are surrounded by people who are experts or who have connections to the film, and you have the opportunity to interact with them. You get to understand what makes somebody get involved, care enough about a story to bring it to film.”
Bruce Dern is one of those major film personalities who will give the festival its cachet. He is the notable filmmaker/film personality who will be showcased at this inaugural festival in what will be an annual kickoff Tribute event. Dern, who coincidentally and most appropriately was Tom Buchanan in the 1973 remake of F Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, is coming in from Los Angeles to spend an evening at Landmark at Main in Port Washington, to discuss his career and meet and greet at a reception that will follow, where he will celebrate his birthday and the receipt of the festival’s first Legend award.
The President of Israel’s Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences (the equivalent of our Oscars) is also flying in to be part of a panel, so people can talk to him about how and why the film industry in Israel has become so big and important.
An event oriented around Indian film making sold out in an instant. (Tickets to festival events just went on sale May 16).
During the course of the festival, there will be films from Israel, China, Iran, India, France, England, as well as the United States, with a couple of New York premieres.
There will even be films with a Great Neck connection as well, including the New York premiere of Chasing Madoff, which promises to be one of the hot-tickets. Directed by Jeff Prosserman (USA), Chasing Madoff is a documentary chronicling the compelling story of Harry Markopolos and his team of investigators’ 10-year struggle to expose the harrowing truth of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme that wreaked financial havoc on so many in our own community.
Another with a local connection is Holy Rollers, directed by Kevin Asch (who began making films as a kid growing up in Great Neck), written by Antonio Macia. Inspired by actual events in the late 90s when Hasidic Jews were recruited as mules to smuggle ecstasy from Europe into the United States, it stars Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network) as Sam Gold, a young Hasid from an Orthodox Brooklyn community reluctantly follows the path his family has chosen for him, awaiting a pending arranged marriage and studying to become a Rabbi.
There’s also Beatles Stories, a feature documentary directed by singer-songwriter Seth Swirsky who was a huge Beatles fan when he was growing up in Great Neck in the 1960s. Wanting to get closer to them than their music could take him, in 2005 he set out to film people who had a story about themselves and the Fab Four. 110 interviews later (cut down to 50 for the movie), the result is Beatles Stories.
One film that looks particularly interesting and has a local connection is the world premiere of Billable Hours. Think the life of a big firm lawyer is glamorous? This comic short film, written by Alexandra Gil (a Great Neck girl) and Aleksandra Vargas, follows one young lawyer as she is slowly driven crazy by monotonous work, obnoxious colleagues, and the constant buzzing of her BlackBerry.
The festival also affords opportunities to engage with industry insiders at panels and workshops.
Bill Plymton will be giving a Master Class at NYIT: “I want to talk about my career as an independent animator who makes a good living creating independent films by way of showing some of my classic shorts, music videos, and clips from my new feature, “Idiots and Angels”. Plus, I will give a drawing demonstration and talk about how other filmmakers can make a living creating short films. And everyone who comes gets a free Bill Plympton drawing.”
David Paterson, the screenwriter of Disney’s 2007 hit Bridge to Terabithia based on the children’s favorite by Katherine Paterson, is leading a panel discussion of “Children’s Books-to-Film.” He is currently in pre-production on several films including legendary children’s classic The Great Gilly Hopkins, also for Walt Disney.
A pre-festival event featured an evening of Screenings & Conversation with Isabella Rossellini at NYIT
To create the festival, Gil has brought in some major talent, including Sean McPhillips, Senior Programmer, Festival Director, began his career at Miramax Films where he became Vice President of Acquisitions, attending festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, Tokyo, and Fajr. He is responsible for acquiring the films — not a small feat — and his instincts in finding “winners” and interesting personalities to discuss the films has already been proved in his selections for the marvelous Furman Film Series at the Arts Center.
“I’m so proud to be associated with this lineup, which represents the kind of quality only found at top festivals,” said McPhillips who is also co-founder of Secret Hideout Films.
“Programming for year one focused on creating a varied set of experiences for the Gold Coast audience. It is my hope that people will not only find films that fit their taste but that they’ll join in the festival spirit and try new things,” McPhillips said. “Each film–drama, comedy, documentary or short–was selected for its unique value, story, and reason to be seen.”
In addition to McPhillips, the feature programming team consists of Donna Dickman, formerly of Miramax Films and Focus Features, and L. Somi Roy, Curator at Large for Asian, Asian-American and non-fiction films, who has worked with Lincoln Center, MOMA, Whitney Museum and The Smithsonian.
The festival is designed to be accessible, as well, both in the “price points” of tickets, in venues and in programming.
There will be screenings morning to night at Clearview Cinemas (a sponsor) in Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington, Roslyn, Herricks, and New Hyde Park. You can purchase a ticket for as little as $15 to one of the movies or panels, or purchase one of three packages: a Patron Gold Pass, at $250, provides access to all Festival screenings on a space-available basis and 25 percent discount on Festival merchandise; a Premier Gold Pass, at $500, provides access to all Festival screenings and two special events such as filmmaker panels and after-parties (you have to RSVP), Festival tote bag and 25 percent discount on merchandise; and VIP Gold Pass, at $1000, gets you reserved seating at select screenings, plus parties, panels, and special events, festival T-shirt and tote bag and discount on merchandise. Senior citizens get a discount, too.
The Long Island Railroad, one of the festival sponsors, is enabling patrons to get a discount on the film tickets by showing their railroad tickets.
This is really a community wide event, with the town and local communities linking up their own events, which expands the festival’s reach.
The Village of Great Neck Plaza, where the Great Neck Arts Center is located, is holding its annual Great Neck Plaza Restaurant Week May 29-June 5 (visit www.shopgreatneck.com), and scheduled its wonderfully festive Promenade Night on Middle Neck Road for June 2.
On June 4, the Town of North Hempstead is hosting KidStock 2011, an open-air family festival featuring a musically entertaining blend of folk, rock, “kid hop” and “kindie rock” that parents and their kids can participate in together (Noon – 5pm at North Hempstead Beach Park).
Also on June 4, there is a “Cinema By the Bay” screening of The Karate Kid at 8:30pm at the Town of North Hempstead Dock (347 Main St, Port Washington).
Nassau County Museum of Art’s is hosting an Outdoor Screening of Funny Face, George and Ira Gershwin’s airy 1957 musical starring Fred Astaire, June 4, 8:30 pm, (purchase tickets at www.nassaumuseum.org; free for Gold Coast International Film Festival VIP All Access Pass holders.)
On June 5, Port Washington is holding its 21st Annual HarborFest, with Craft Fair, entertainment, Wells Fargo stagecoach rides, Children’s Fun Park, Enviro-Expo. (Port Washington Town Dock).
Area hotels are getting involved, including the Inn at Great Neck, the Andrew in Great Neck Plaza, and the Roslyn Claremont which have allocated rooms during an otherwise busy season.
A festival “hub” has opened at 292 Plandome Road in Manhasset in a storefront supplied by the landlord and decorated by Great Neck Games like an Oscar party, across from Long Island Railroad. In fact, such a world-class festival is being mounted on such a tight budget because of the sponsors, donors and volunteers.
You can do more than be a spectator, and actually become part of the festival. There are opportunities to volunteer — as an usher, a ticket-taker, to man the information “hub” at Plandome Road, to work the parties and panels. (You can download a volunteer form or call 516-444-FILM; volunteers are asked to give blocks of 4 to 8 hours).
This is the inaugural Gold Coast International Film Festival, in what Gil expects will only grow and grow and grow year by year. But while she is positive the international film festival will grow, “it is hard to imagine what will it become.”
Get full schedules and order tickets at www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org.
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