By Peter Elacqua
Three local filmmakers will have their work shown at the 14th annual Garden State Film Festival which will run from March 31 through April 3 in Atlantic City. Visitors may pay $12 for an individual screening or $45 for a weekend pass.
Joe Minnella, 34, of Howell, will screen his feature film “After Sandy,” which is about life after superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Minnella said that while he was a student at the University of Scranton pursuing a degree in business, he decided he would rather pursue a career in film. After he graduated from Scranton, he studied at the New York Film Academy.
While studying at the New York Film Academy, he directed off-Broadway plays.
“It was my first experience working with actors and with people I did not know,” Minnella said. “It was one of my first steps into a bigger world.”
He said he was looking for his next project when superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in October 2012.
“At first I wanted to help and one way I could help was to get some coverage and put some photos and videos online for insurance claims,” Minnella said. “In the end there was more than enough coverage and they did not need just another video about broken houses, so I decided I wanted to make a short film.”
“After Sandy” was filmed in locations that included Union Beach, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant and Wildwood.
Minnella said “After Sandy” has been available online, but its showing at the festival will be the movie’s first appearance on a large screen. The filmmaker screened a short film at the festival in 2008 and a feature film at the festival in 2010.
“I am always honored to be a part of the Garden State Film Festival. It has been a great experience and I love everything about it,” Minnella said. “I am incredibly proud of how ‘After Sandy’ turned out. I watch it and I relive the three years of putting it together. Any time I see it, it is an incredible thing to share. I have always felt proud of any film I worked on, but I am sharing something more and hopefully it inspires people to help others in this situation. I think that 20 years from now when people want to know what (Sandy) was like, they can look at this film and see a more comprehensive view than anyone else.”
“After Sandy” will be shown at the Claridge Hotel Ballroom, 123 S. Indiana St., on April 3 at 12:30 p.m.
Tim Preston, 18, of Howell, will show his short film “The Devil’s Tree,” which began as a school project. Preston is a senior in the Freehold Regional High School District’s Fine and Performing Arts Center at Howell High School.
Preston said his teacher, Scott Napolitano, assigned students to look up myths from “Weird NJ” magazine and to make a short film about a myth. The students were allowed to twist the myth to their liking.
Preston said “The Devil’s Tree” earned a top 10 finish in the Count Basie Theatre Project FX competition and won Best Short Film at the Morristown Museum Film Festival.
“Working with my crew, we had so much fun putting the project together and to have it make the film festival and have possible statewide recognition is incredible,” Preston said, adding that he is interested in pursuing film in college.
Preston said Napolitano informed students about the Garden State Film Festival and he applied and was selected for the short film category.
“This is something I will never forget,” Preston said. “Overall, it is a great project and I enjoyed every minute on set and every minute editing it and now getting to watch the payback we have as a team is priceless.”
“The Devil’s Tree” will be shown at Dante Hall, 14 N. Mississippi Ave., on April 2 as part of a collection of high school films beginning at 11 a.m.
Ralph Colombino, 46, of Eatontown, will have his short film “Black Hole” shown at the festival. Colombino has owned and operated the Actors Playground School of Theatre, Freehold, for 11 years. Colombino is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and earned a BFA in acting.
He said that in 2012, one of his longtime students, John D’Leo, was cast as Robert De Niro’s son in the film “The Family” and Colombino was invited to France to be on set during filming. He said De Niro and the film’s director, Luc Besson, were impressed with the work he had done teaching D’Leo and encouraged him to produce his own films.
After he returned home, Colombino said one of his students, Ed Squires, performed a one-act play, “No, They’re Talkin’ About They Discovered a Black Hole,” and that inspired Colombino to make “Black Hole.” Squires was eventually cast as a main character in the film.
“I have directed many theatrical productions over the years, but ‘Black Hole’ is the first film I ever directed,” Colombino said. “I am very happy with my first film. I learned a lot doing it which I will take with me into my next project. I was extremely happy with the performances by my actors, plus the fact that the risks we took really paid off.”
“Black Hole” will be shown at the Garden State Film Festival at the Claridge Hotel Ballroom on April 3 at 3:45 p.m., according to information provided by festival organizers.