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First Time Film Fest in New York

Photo of Peter Belsito By Peter Belsito | SydneysBuzz October 11, 2012 at 9:30AM

This was an interesting new roll out of an upcoming NYC based Festival event . This announcement party was held in one of my favorite areas of Manhattan, Gramercy Park - and not far from the Hospital where I was born - NYC's Beth Israel. But seeing Tony Bennett in person was special. His daughter Johanna Bennett, an accomplished philanthropist, actor and social entrepreneur, is organizing this new Festival. Tony is a trim nice looking 85 year old - and who has not loved his singing??
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Tony Bennett and his daughter Johanna Bennett
Tony Bennett and his daughter Johanna Bennett

This was an interesting new roll out of an upcoming NYC based Festival event .  This announcement party was held in one of my favorite areas of Manhattan, Gramercy Park - and not far from the Hospital where I was born - NYC's Beth Israel. But seeing Tony Bennett in person was special.  His daughter Johanna Bennett, an accomplished philanthropist, actor and social entrepreneur, is organizing this new Festival. Tony is a trim nice looking 85 year old - and who has not loved his singing??  

Seeing him personally stirred some emotions in me I could not recall until almost a day later.  It was this - When I was 7 or so many years ago my family summered in New Jersey and one night we were all on Atlantic City's Steel Pier to hear him, Tony Bennett, sing. My cousin was as usual beating me up and I remember I was crying disconsolately in a public lounge area sitting on a couch. Suddenly a man put his arms across my shoulders and said to me, 'Peter it is going to be alright, everything will be okay'.  I looked up and it was Tony Bennett the great singer comforting me, he had asked my family what was wrong and my mother told him and also my my name. So now I only remembered this much later after the Fest party and I only wished that when I saw the great man that I had thanked him personally for helping a little guy so many years ago .... And oh yes i stopped crying then too...

First Time Film Fest
First Time Film Fest

First Time Fest, a celebration of first time filmmakers, is a new and unique film festival, event and opportunity taking place in New York City from March 1-March 4, 2013. 

First Time Fest’s mission is to discover and present the next generation of great cinema by first time screenwriters, producers, directors, editors, composers and cinematographers to a cinema-loving public and to select and present these films and filmmakers in a most unique and dynamic fashion.  FTF is currently seeking submissions for its inaugural event.

First Time Fest will be a four-day, multi-faceted event based in New York City’s Gramercy Park at the celebrated Players Club, founded by Edwin Booth and Mark Twain, the oldest and most exclusive arts organization of its kind. Films will be screened at the Loews Village VII (on 11th St. & 3rd Ave).

First Time Fest represents a hybrid between a traditional film festival and a highly motivated audience participation event. The featured films of First Time Fest will embody the work of 12 finalists, selected from a submission pool of potentially thousands of films. Each of the 12 finalists will have his or her feature screened during the Festival before an audience of industry professionals and the general public. A panel of five jurors will then decide the Grand Prize winner. Four of these judges will be of the film industry elite, while the fifth judge, unlike any other festival in the world, will be the collective “Voting Public” or "VPs." These VPs – 120 on each of the Festival’s days – will be selected by lottery from the thousands of moviegoers expected to attend First Time Fest. Additionally, 12 special VPs will be selected in a nationwide contest to represent the country at large.

The Grand Prize winner of First Time Fest will be presented at an exclusive gala on the final day of the Festival, and will receive an offer of theatrical distribution arranged through a partnership between First Time Fest and Cinema Libre Studio, a successful international entertainment company based in Los Angeles, California. Cinema Libre has produced over 15 award-winning international films, and has distributed more than 100 films in its 20 years of operations. Beyond distribution, the winner will be provided international sales representation by Cinema Libre and will receive a host of other major prizes. First Time Fest will also present other prizes during the Awards Ceremony, including: “Outstanding Direction,” Outstanding Screenplay,” “Outstanding Cinematography,” “Outstanding Editing,” and “Outstanding Score.”

Each of First Time Fest’s twelve finalists will receive a one-year, high-level industry mentorship.  This mentorship will involve regular contact with prominent members of the independent filmmaking community: producers, distributors, sales agents, talent representatives (agents and managers), lawyers, consultants, and, most importantly, respected cinema artists: directors, writers, editors, cinematographers and composers. First Time Fest deeply believes in the artistic and professional development of its participants, and will coordinate these intensive mentorship opportunities on their behalf. And, as each finalist is granted a one-year membership at the Player’s Club, they also have a fantastic opportunity to regularly interact with the Player’s entertainment industry members.

First Time Fest will also include a series of panels called “How They Did It,” in which a diverse group of award-winning filmmakers will moderate filmmaking case studies which spotlight some of the most successful and accomplished masters of the industry.

In addition, First Time Fest and the Players Club will be presenting the first John Huston Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema. The Award will be presented to an individual who has made s significant contribution to the art of cinema, and whose presence in our community has offered leadership and inspiration to other cinema artists. The Award is named in honor of one of America’s greatest filmmakers, who was an esteemed member of the Players Club (John Huston’s membership in the Club was sponsored by his friend and colleague, Humphrey Bogart).  It will be an extraordinary event.

They will also be celebrating the 60th anniversary of Morris Engel’s THE LITTLE FUGITIVE. This film, a cinema vérité classic from 1953, was shot entirely on Coney Island and has inspired countless filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, who credit it for launching the French New Wave. Unfortunately, few members of the public (and even many filmmakers) know of Engel’s work, and we hope that this tribute curated by renowned film historian Foster Hirsch, along with a panel to scheduled to include his daughter Mary Engel,  and the star of the film, Richard Brewster, will redress that..

Johanna Bennett and Mandy Ward serve as co-founders of First Time Fest.  Johanna has immersed herself within the entertainment and artistic community her entire life. Mandy has worked in the film industry for nearly 10 years in varied capacities, namely as a film producer of several projects. David Schwartz, the Artistic Director and Head Curator of Museum of the Moving Image, has come on to become the Director of Programing for First Time Fest.

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