“Once upon a time on a very snowy day… yes, that’s exactly how we can start off the story of the 2015 Garden State Film Festival! While rain could be a good thing, bringing people out to see films on a weekend when over 150 are shown in a single city; snow? Well, I guess you can say that snow just added to the ??fun??
By some miracle my photographer, Patrick Zehr, also made it through the winter weather, and both of us arrived before the start of the event. My phone was beeping with texts and messages from various V.I.P.’s that were stuck in traffic on trains, the Parkway, or counting how many hours they have already spent on the road, determined to touch down at the gala come hell or high…snow. All arrived safely, and most made a perfectly-timed fashionably late entrance. Perfection! It actually gave me and my crew a little lead time to take some snapshots before it all went off with a bang, testing the lighting, hooking up to Wi-Fi, and getting all set up to rock ‘n roll on the red carpet coverage.
The most energetic, enthusiastic, and organized (now former) Executive Director of GSFF, Diane Raver, was welcoming guests including film makers, fans, and celebrities such as Ed Asner, Armand Assante, and James Wilder, as they paused for photos and enjoyed cocktails and complimentary hors d’oeuvres accompanied by a fashion of food. A long list of well-known names paused for red carpet camera clicks and made their way to the bar for cocktails and conversation.
[This is the point where I guzzle my glass – a martini I think? Patrick, managed to capture my minute-to-minute life so I can look back and remember it after a weekend whirlwind that went by in a blur ;) ] – and realize that I haven’t eaten since, oh, about 3pm. Patrick (my photographer) and I made a dive for the buffet table, scrounging for the last bits of bread, pasta, and salad. It’s eat now, or never (in about 60 seconds flat)! Get the picture yet? Oh, we did – over 2000 pictures in 4 days! The thing is, when you’re capturing the moments, you truly have to schedule time in to do things like let’s say – eat! : )
The Claridge and Resorts hosting hotels must have been wondering why there was a sudden surge in Wi-Fi usage – yep, that was probably me. *~giggle~*
I am visually blogging and mentally writing everything as I go when I’m working.
My mind races faster than me in my Manolos, and if you’ve seen me run in heels, you know that I’d win a race.
So now you probably think that I got to sit and relax through a feature film. Hah! I am probably known as the girl with the phone glued to her that lived at the festival. So here goes Laura [codename: TheLadyinRed] vigorously Facebooking, Tweeting, and Instagramming, #tagging #everything #and #everyone that could possibly be interested in following #GSFF #GSFFAC.
I did get to lift my head up and enjoy the films, though, in all seriousness…but I definitely had my head in the game. It’s what I do. I love to give you a glimpse inside spectacular events.
Post film, I went home, put on my pj’s and fuzzy bunny slippers.
Hah! I joke! Well, first, if you know me, fuzzy bunny slippers won’t touch these Louboutin-esque feet! Actually, some of the best moments that my photographer, Patrick Zehr, and I had, were after the official screenings were over, in the evenings. We stopped at Bar 1 and met up with the cast and crew of The Antwerp Dolls. What a great group of talented guys! Director of C.T.R.L., Mariana Conde, was out and about, too. They came all the way from the U.K. and were so excited to be a part of the film festival. Their enthusiasm was contagious!
Post toast, we crossed the casino floor, and I gave good friend and actor Garry Pastore a hug while he, and actors Joe Sernio (Meet Mario) and Artie Pasquale (The Sopranos, Meet Mario) were getting a little gambling in. Snapping these moments on film was awesome! This is what the stars do when off-camera. They eat, drink, and play just like us!
I had to get home to gear up for Day 3 of GSFF. It was going to be the longest day of the gathering, and Patrick and I needed to prep.
…ok…back to how we somehow recharged our batteries for DAY 3!...
See, when Patrick got home, he had about an hour’s worth of photo uploads to do every night. DropBox downloading was on my end. I was reviewing snapshots while removing my mascara and picking out accessories to go with the next day’s outfits at the same time. Soon, we realized that if we were to keep up with picking out the best poses on a daily basis, we would have to sacrifice sleep. Sleep won – at about 4 hours each night, max.
Sit. Watch. Photos. Repeat.
The film block ran a bit late, and we had times to keep and places to be, people! There were people lining the streets, boardwalk, and hotel hallways and elevators all buzzing about the best films they had seen during the day. My guess is that many were on-the-go to try to take in as much as possible in one weekend, just like me.
I dropped off my camera crew to get their car, and proceeded to the Claridge. I had time for a quick hair and make-up check, and in come my awesome team, Patrick and John with the best tasting turkey sandwiches and bottled water money can buy. (Did you think I was going to say that I had a gourmet dinner? Not this girl on the go! Hah! Most of the time when I’m interviewing and jotting down notes, posing for pictures, and playing part-time photographer, it gets about as glam as this.) These guys saved me! Not only did they watch my bag when I tossed it to the side while Tweeting and stopping for pictures all day long, but they made sure I ate and didn’t fall over from exhaustion, too. So here we were, in the Claridge lobby, decked out in satin, silk, and sparkles (Ok, my team, Patrick and John (Patrick’s assistant) didn’t wear sparkles… maybe next year ;) ) eating turkey sandwiches from 7-Eleven. Glamourous, eh?
I think we broke records for how fast we could eat, because then, we were off to our can’t-miss screening of The Painting. Their crew flew out from LA. That’s how strong the dedication is to really being a part of the film premiere process at the Garden State Film Festival. People travel from all over the world to make their mark and meet others in the industry that can make life-long productive relationships.
Fast forward – onto the after-party!
The Claridge had a great room with an ocean view set up with a bar and beats for us to go to. I managed to grab a martini and meet up with a few friends, filmmakers, [a big shout out to the crew and cast of Charlie, Trevor, and a Girl Savannah] and finally around 12:30am, kick back and relax for a while with a few of my favorites.
I think Patrick and John were grateful I gave them the green light to go. I stayed for a while longer and probably got to bed around 3am after driving back to my house.
I met up with Patrick and we headed to our first film screening – The Midlifers. This was originally going to be a web series, but a couple of the episodes were consolidated into a comedy. This is the part where I wish I could have cloned myself, but we zipped over to another theatre in the nick of time for C.T.R.L. (A super cool music video with dance moves that tell the story of a young man's attempt at a first contact with a love interest, hijacked in a most entertaining way – this won the International Music Video award, by the way), Cassandra, Agua Blanca, and Meet Mario (A very interesting plot daring to be different involving an African American Italian who does not see “race”).
Pause. Pictures. And we eat!
I swear this burger was the best one I’ve eaten in two weeks! Oh, and the pear martini hit the spot! I had followers on Twitter and Instagram comment that they were so thankful I took time to stop, sit, and eat, because those who tuned in for a #GSFF play by play, were wondering how I led the life of the Energizer Bunny! : ) [I love you guys!] And, thank you, Gallagher’s at Resorts. Your food was exactly what Patrick and I needed after going non-stop. Without it, I may have fallen over in my Choos!
We were approaching the final finish line.
Patrick and I arrived pre-cocktail party at the Holtzman Gallery at the Claridge. This is a photographer’s dreamscape. The lighting is perfect with a gorgeous artistic backdrop, and we were ready to commemorate the big bash. Patrick had started the tradition of selfie’s of the two of us each day, and this time, we took some with his phone, with mine, his camera, and probably the camera of near passers-by, and we just couldn’t get it right. So we finally got so mad at ourselves for not taking a simple selfie that was publish-worthy, and this was the result. Yep – game on! We laughed at our pissed-off poses because we were totally photo’d-out.
We were among the first in the gallery and the gala began. Cocktails in hand, the celebs started to unwind. By this time, Patrick and I had become fixtures at the film fest; well, either that, or we were the best groupies on the planet or classified as celebrity stalkers. ;)
Before the cocktail party officially ended we had to be poised on the red carpet, ready to do our thing. We had previously tested the lighting and knew exactly where to stage ourselves. I probably sounded like a dictator as I forgot my “please and thank you’s” and ordered Patrick around siphoning shots that I seek. [Patrick, please excuse my manners, you rock!]
Click, click, click, flash!
The Lieutenant Governor of NJ, Kim Guadagno, joined the list of red carpet royalty, with many wearing their formal best. Tuxedos and ball gowns, glittering cocktail dresses and supreme style graced the camera lenses that night.
Now we finally made it to the much anticipated awards dinner. Event manager, Joel Ballesteros, of the Claridge transformed the ballroom into an elegant scape lit up in dreamy purple-blue hues, light emanating through tables, and sit-down service.
Amazing filmmakers, artists, and actors were presented with awards while a decadent dinner was served.
With Patrick poised in the photographer’s pit, and me - ready to leap at a moment’s notice to capture the emotion and passion of the presentations, we somehow managed to enjoy a three-course meal between running back and forth to our seats.
You may think I’m making this up, but no, really, my dear friend and celebrity correspondent, Whitney Ullman, is witness to the fact that Laura leaps at a single bound to get the goods, knees nearly scraping the floor, while wearing designer dresses and heels. Laugh, go ahead, laugh, if you must. But this is the glory of being the go-getter. And I love every minute of it! I wouldn’t have it any other way!
To be witness to so many magical moments is something that I hold dear to my heart. The pure emotion of the awards recipients… the passing of the baton from Diane Raver to the new Executive Director of the Garden State Film Festival, Margaret Fontana, was so worth watching. Ed Asner’s speech had everyone in stitches. Quinn Shephard getting all choked up upon receiving her Rising Star award … I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. (Next year… I’ll hopefully be able to pre-screen more movies so if I can’t physically transport myself to a premiere, at least I can enjoy the experience!)
And this is the part where I do what I don’t do best. I keep quiet and let the pictures speak for themselves. Thank you to my photographer, Patrick Zehr, for not just taking pictures, but capturing moments, and making many, many people happy.
For more incredible photographs from the four day extravaganza, here is an album of an eclectic few I published on Facebook. The Garden State Film Festival also has hundreds of photos that attempt to chronologize this beautiful moment in time. Please visit their Facebook page to immerse yourself in the moments more.
I can’t thank everyone enough for allowing me to be a part of the 2015 Garden State Film Fest. It’s only the beginning of bigger and better things to come! There was so much talent in one city at one time. Your lights illuminate the world brighter than any stars could shine!