Jersey City International TV & Film Festival hosts Summer Blockbuster Party

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Back for the second year in a row, the Jersey City International Television and Film Festival (JCITFF) hosted a Summer Blockbuster Party, highlighting critically acclaimed movies presented during last year’s film festival. 

With an array of silent auctions arranged in the center of the Battello restaurant, the founders of the film festival promoted community outreach while honoring those who’ve contributed grants to fund yearly workshops at Wednesday’s event.

Some attendees dressed up as famous movie characters, such as Tom Hanks’ Forest Gump in his running outfit, or Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, as they drank cocktails and ate from a buffet – which was donated by Very, a clothing shop located on 9 Erie St.

“Welcome to the JCITFF Summer Blockbuster Party, and what we’re doing here today is letting the community know – for the second year in a row – the type of programming that we have,” said Michael Billy, the founder of the JCITFF.

“We’re not just a film festival for the weekend, but we provide free workshops for the community all year around. We provide networking events for the community members who are interested in film and television businesses to connect with professionals in the film and television businesses.”

Beginning in October, JCITFF has offered four workshops this year, with four more film workshops coming soon – which allows amateur, independent film makers to progress in the film industry.

“When I was thinking about summarizing the vision of JCTIFF, the word that comes to mind for me is ‘community,’”said Craig Goletz, the president of JCITFF.

“I found a quote from Margaret Mead that epitomizes what we’re about and she says, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’”

“And Jersey to me is the biggest small town I’ve ever been in and it’s true to its heritage; it’s a community of relationships.”

The key to success was to become the fabric of Jersey City’s culture, and community, according to Goletz.

Ultimately, while not being the main goal, the Blockbuster Summer Party’s role was to raise funds for independent filmmakers through grant programs.

“We had our first filmmaker grant this year that went to help volunteerism in Hudson County with the focus of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hudson County,” said Goletz.

JCTIFF supported the NJCU Foundation, Jersey City Pride, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Jersey Citywide Debutante Cotillion, NJCU Student Showcase and Paul Silverman and the Silverman Building.

JCTIFF provided the first filmmaker grant to Juliet Foster, which was made possible by Bill LaRosa, the director of the Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, as well as other members of his office.

“My commitment to the festival is basically to get them out, get people to know about them, invite other filmmakers into the fold, introduce them to JCITFF and to push the agenda as much as I can,” Foster, the owner of JFoster Imagery, told Hudson County View.

“The chosen recipient for the grant that I won is actually Big Brothers and Big Sisters.”

The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties start recording their documentary, about the importance of mentoring, this week which will be presented during the film festival in the fall.

Sue Henderson, the president of New Jersey City University (NJCU), explained her partnership with the Jersey City International TV & Film Festival and how the program helps the growth of young talents through student submissions.

“We actually benefit from it. Some of our students have been recipients of some of the scholarships and the other thing that we’re excited about is it gives us an opportunity for other independent filmmakers get engaged because sometimes that’s our graduates,” Henderson stated.

“I noticed this year’s submission has 16 student films so there you go. It’s a lot of opportunity for our students, but it’s also helping the community.”

The festival started in 2013, having their inaugural festival in 2014, which focuses on independent filmmakers, giving them the opportunity to compete and showcase their production in local venues.

Feature films on tap include a debut video from Giselle Bellas, a local opera singer, and the 2014 indie film “The Heartbreaker” by Emily Bailey – who hails from Syracuse University.