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First Time Fest Hits NYC

I support this new NYC Film Fest which a lot of our friends attended and also support. I went to their inaugural event in NYC a few weeks back and it felt good and I certainly like their Indie lineup. The following is from a recent press release:

Celebrating first-time filmmakers with a grand prize of theatrical distribution, hosted by the historic Players Club, First Time Fest also had additional participants to this year's unique event.

Harry Belafonte, Gay Talese, Michael Shannon & Ellen Burstyn have joined Christine Vachon, Fred Schneider, Sofia Coppola, Todd Solondz, Barbara Kopple, Scott Foundas, Eric Kohn, Emily Russo, Jenny Lumet, Darren Aronofsky, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hal Hartley, Peter Saraf, Nancy Savoca, Amy Ryan And Martin Scorsese participated In First Time Fest.

Belafonte & Shannon appeared onstage in the Ftf’s “Stand Alone! – Conversations With The Outstanding” series, one-on-one interview with notable cinema artists. Renowned author Gay Talese joined Christine Vachon and the B-52s Fred Schneider as another of the Ftf’s five jurors (the entire live audience at each of the 12 competition films was the 5th juror). Together, the jury and audience ultimately selected Grand Prize winner, Sal, a modern-day Western by Argentinian writer-director Diego Rougier which was offered theatrical distribution and full international sales representation from the renowned American film distributor, Cinema Libre Studio.

Acclaimed actress Ellen Burstyn, who worked with both Scorsese and Aronofsky served as the host of the Ftf Closing Night Awards program. As part of that festive evening, Martin Scorsese added his illustrious presence and belief in the art of cinema, presenting the first John Huston Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema to Darren Aronofsky. John Huston was one of the most prolific and versatile directors in the history of cinema. And with his mesmerizing debut film, Pi – made independently on black-and-white 16mm film – Darren Aronofsky was instantly recognized as a uniquely gifted new talent. His subsequent films: Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler and Black Swan, have more than fulfilled that promise.

In addition, Ftf had a special presentation of Andy Grieve and Lauren Lazin’s documentary about the band The Police, Can't Stand Losing You, featuring Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers.

On an exciting party note, and in conjunction with Ftf’s presentation of the Australian/Mongolian documentary Mongolian Bling, First Time Fest and Hip Hop Saves Lives presented “Project Haiti,” an album release party for Zing Experience at Webster Hall.

Representing a hybrid between a traditional film festival and a highly motivated audience participation event, Ftf presented a dozen Competition Films, which were judged by a panel of industry luminaries and the Ftf audience. All competition screenings were followed by “hot-seat” discussions between the jury and filmmakers, and all audience members then voted on the films. It was truly a contest of the best emerging filmmakers competing for the Ultimate Audience Award.

Competition Films – (please visit here for competition films & descriptions).

In addition to the Competition Films, Ftf presented First Exposure, a series of first films from now prominent filmmakers. Joining the line-up - and mostly attending the fest - was the exciting Opening Night presentation of Sofia Coppola with The Virgin Suicides, Todd Solondz with Welcome to the Dollhouse, Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, Barbara Kopple with Harlan County, USA, Melvin Van Peebles with The Story of a Three-Day Pass, Pi from Darren Aronofsky, The Maltese Falcon from director John Huston, Poison from Todd Haynes, Jack Goes Boating from director Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hal Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth, and True Love from Nancy Savoca.

First Exposure Films – (please visit here, for First Exposure descriptions)

First Exposure also includes a 60th Anniversary Tribute to Morris Engel’s The Little Fugitive, a cinema vérité classic from 1953 that was shot on Coney Island and has inspired countless filmmakers, from Jean-Luc Godard to the Coen brothers. The tribute included a panel hosted by film historian Foster Hirsch including Mary Engel, daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, and James Sanders, author of Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies. In addition there was a Special Presentation of Everardo Gout’s thrillingly over-the-top action thriller Days Of Grace (Dĺas De Gracia), which won the Mexican Academy of Film’s prestigious Ariel Award for Best First Feature and was nominated for the Camera d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

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

First Time Fest is a four-day, multi-faceted event hosted in New York City’s Gramercy Park by the celebrated Players (16 Gramercy Park South), the club founded by Edwin Booth, Mark Twain and John Singer Sargent, the oldest and most exclusive arts organization of its kind whose membership includes the greatest stars of stage and screen. Each of First Time Fest’s twelve finalists receive high-level industry mentorship and a one-year membership to The Players. The Players was the location for all Ftf panels and events as well as the Filmmaker and VIP Lounge. First Time Fest’s screenings were all held at the Loews Village VII on Third Avenue (on 11th St. & 3rd Ave).

Among the Fest’s terrific sponsors is the delicious Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte. "The forward-thinking Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte draws its inspiration from the call of ‘faraway lands.’ One of the youngest and most fashionable Champagne brands, Nicolas Feuillatte has captured the world's imagination by sharing its passion for creativity and arts in a record 37 years, becoming the #1 Champagne in France. In its role as discoverer of talent, the brand awards its prestige cuvée Palmes d'Or to First Time Fest's winners to complement the celebration in style."

Other terrific sponsors of the fest include Brooklyn Brewery, Moscot, Marquis Vodka and Technicolor Postworks.

For additional Festival Information - Visit The Festival Website at

Johanna Bennett and Mandy Ward are the co-founders of First Time Fest. As an accomplished philanthropist, actor and social entrepreneur, as well as the daughter of singer Tony Bennett, Johanna Bennett has immersed herself within the entertainment and artistic community her entire life. Mandy Ward has worked in the film industry for the past decade in varied capacities, namely as a film producer of several projects. Mitch Levine, CEO of The Film Festival Group, is producing the festival. Through his company, Mitch offers consulting services and expertise to film festivals, film commissions, distribution companies and filmmakers around the world, and was formerly the CEO and Executive Director of the renowned Palm Springs International Film Festival. The Festival’s Director of Programming is David Schwartz, the Chief Curator of Museum of the Moving Image.

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