Bill Sorvino – A Dream of a Film Festival
by Sally Deering
Ideas sometimes come to us in dreams and that’s exactly how Bill Sorvino conceived the Golden Door International Film Festival to be held in Jersey City in October. What started as images flickering in his sleeping mind will now be images flickering on the silver screen.
“I had a dream last year about having a film festival in Jersey City,” Sorvino says,” and it was like lightning in a bottle. Jersey City is close to my heart. I grew up here and my family has a 100-year history here. I want Jersey City to have something in its own right.”
Dreaming of a film festival is not much of a stretch for Sorvino. He’s a screenwriter and actor who studied at the William Esper Studios in New York City and has appeared in several indie films. He also hails from a theatrical family – his uncle is celebrated actor Paul Sorvino and he’s cousin to Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino – and throughout the years Bill Sorvino shared conversations with his Uncle Paul and cousin Mira about film, theater and acting held during family gatherings at the dinner table.
“My uncle had a farm in Pennsylvania and I would go and hang out and we would eat and talk,” Bill Sorvino says. “One weekend, Mira, my Uncle Paul and Mira’s husband were at his house down the shore and my uncle was holding an (impromptu) class on acting. We were sitting there mesmerized by his depth of knowledge.”
Not everyone who comes from Jersey City wants to come back and shine a light on the talent here. Usually star-struck wannabees head to Los Angeles and carve their niche there. But Sorvino’s different – his passion for Jersey City and the place where he grew up and his love for film and theater and his uncle Paul and cousin Mira are key factors to his dream. Sorvino and his Uncle Paul are very close – and it’s quite likely festival-goers in October will get a chance to see Paul Sorvino at the festival’s closing night gala at Loew’s Jersey City, the restored movie palace in Journal Square and one of the venues for the festival’s screenings.
The Golden Door International Film Festival will take Jersey City by storm from Oct 13th through October 16th – where four local venues will unroll the red carpet to film stars, celebrities and film-goers screening films by local and international filmmakers. It’s a juried competition with awards given out in ten categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress and Best Cinematographer. Still in the preliminary stages – the venues have been chosen and film submissions are pouring in and Sorvino, who grew up in downtown Jersey City and attended Hudson Catholic high school and St. Peter’s College, wants to encourage local filmmakers to submit their films. Comedies, dramas, documentaries, animations and short films are welcome as are student films.
Filmmakers can submit their films to the Golden Door International Film Festival by going to the website www.withoutabox.com an online submission system for film festival and screenplay competitions. Film Festival directors like Sorvino use the website to manage their festivals and for filmmakers it’s the go-to-place to enter the festival, upload their films and PayPal their entry fee. (Deadline for submissions to the Golden Door International Film Festival is July 1, 2011; entry fee is $50.)
“Everyone goes to withoutabox.com if you are going to put on a festival or submit to a festival,” Sorvino says. “They do the money transactions and post the checklist of submission requirements. It makes it easier to screen the films, too.”
The Golden Door International Film Festival will screen film submissions in Jersey City at the beautifully restored Loew’s Jersey City movie palace in Journal Square; Michael Anthony’s restaurant on the waterfront; LITM restaurant, a hip bistro on Newark Avenue; and Bar Majestic, a cozy gathering place across the street from City Hall on Grove Street.
“Another thing I’ve really come to love about planning the film festival is getting to meet the owners of these places,” Sorvino says. “These owners want to create a better sense of community and have an artistic insight.”
So far, Sorvino has received submissions from all over the globe including South Africa, India, Austria and England and several from local filmmakers. Although the roster of films that will be screened hasn’t been chosen yet (filmmakers will be notified Aug 1st) several submissions have caught Sorvino’s eye including “Street Corner Harmony” a documentary by Abraham Santiago and Steven Dunham about Doo-Wop groups of the 1950s narrated by record producer Wayne Stierle; and “Night Club” a film by San Borowski starring Ernest Borgnine, Mickey Rooney, Lance Howard and Clint Howard (Ron Howard’s father and brother,) Sally Kellerman (‘Hot Lips’ in the film “M.A.S.H”) and Bill Sorvino’s uncle Paul Sorvino.
Members of Jersey City’s arts community are also joining in to support the festival. At the closing night gala at Loew’s Jersey City a panel of judges, including John Dapolito of Jersey City, who teaches acting and script analysis in New York, will give out awards. Members of the Golden Door International Film Festival’s Board of Advisors will also be on hand including Christine Goodman, Founder/Director of Art House Productions in Jersey City; Eileen Gaughan, administrative aide for the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs; and Joseph Calamito, publisher of the Riverview Observer newspaper and website.
“I’m holding it in Jersey City, because for me, when I was growing up here downtown was terrible,” Sorvino says, “and in 2007, I came back and saw the changes. It’s amazing what can happen when there’s group effort, community pride and positive energy moving forward. You have a vibrant artist community in Jersey City, great bars and restaurants. It’s like a little Manhattan. I want to make movies here. I tell everybody I know in the business, we have to look at Jersey City as a location to make films.”
To Sorvino, Jersey City could easily become the new go-to destination for filmmakers on the East Coast. All it takes is a festival and a dream.
Submit your Film
Golden Door Film Festival
Deadline: July 1, 2011
Fee for Submission: $50
Notification: Filmmakers will be notified Aug 1, 2011 if their films have been accepted to the competition