Golden Door to cinema’s future
Jersey City-based film festival awards scholarship
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Jun 30, 2013 | 3375 views | 0 0 comments | 112 112 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On June 20, Golden Door International Film Festival founder Bill Sorvino (right) presented Christian Balbutin with the festival’s first Student Scholarship for Excellence in Filmmaking and Media Arts.
On June 20, Golden Door International Film Festival founder Bill Sorvino (right) presented Christian Balbutin with the festival’s first Student Scholarship for Excellence in Filmmaking and Media Arts.
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It’s hard to imagine, but even Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese weren’t always the great filmmakers they are today. They, too, were once little more than youngsters with an interest in moving pictures. It is quite possible they, and other iconic filmmakers, committed to their craft only after someone took an interest in their early work and spotted something that resembled talent.

Having seen similar sparks of promise in the work of recent Henry Snyder High School grad Christian Balbutin, the Jersey City Arts faculty two weeks ago awarded him the first Golden Door International Film Festival Student Scholarship for Excellence in Filmmaking and Media Arts. Balbutin will use the $500 gift to offset some of his expenses at New Jersey City University, where he will be enrolled in the fall.

For the past two years, Golden Door International Film Festival cofounder Bill Sorvino and his crew have presented more than 40 professionally produced independent films at venues throughout Jersey City. Inaugurated in October 2011, the festival has twice showcased film shorts, short shorts, and feature-length narrative and documentary works by emerging filmmakers.

The line-up of movies selected for each festival ran the gamut of independent filmmaking and attracted hundreds of audience members.
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Last year, the Golden Door International Film Festival board decided to expand its mission.
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Sorvino, a professional actor and Jersey City native, said he started the festival to give emerging independent filmmakers an avenue through which they can showcase their work and develop an audience. Last year, the festival board decided to expand its mission by supporting the growth of student filmmakers and youth interested in media arts. By working with the Jersey City Public School District, the festival asked the faculty at Jersey City Arts to identify a promising student with an interest in film.

“Our mission statement is based on the principles of fostering the arts and supporting artists who show promise in their talent and earnest attitude toward achieving excellence,” Sorvino said last week. “We chose Christian based upon the school board's recommendation in keeping with those principles.”

The Hudson Reporter is a co-sponsor of the annual Golden Door International Film Festival.

‘Promise in cinema’

While the Jersey City Arts program is based at Henry Snyder High School, the program is open to and attended by students throughout Jersey City. Students enrolled in the program take their academic courses at their neighborhood or charter school, but then spend several hours a week at Henry Snyder High School working with instructors in their creative field of concentration (painting, music, theater, media arts, etc.).

“The [Golden Door International Film Festival] Board of Directors decided in the fall of 2012 that we wanted to reach out to the Jersey City public high schools to offer a $500 scholarship to a deserving student who excelled in media arts and film,” said Golden Door spokeswoman Peggy Kelly.

To be eligible for the scholarship, Kelly added, a student must “be in good academic standing in their respective high school, they must have a financial need for the scholarship, and display promise in cinema studies or media studies. Their level of promise is determined by the media arts department faculty.”

The scholarship, officially known as the Golden Door International Film Festival Student Scholarship for Excellence in Filmmaking and Media Arts, is currently open only to graduating high school students on their way to college. The Golden Door board hopes to be able to expand its scholarships in the coming years to include college and graduate school students.

The timeline for expanding the festival’s scholarship program will depend on the level of support from Golden Door sponsors, said Kelly, although the board expects to award at least one scholarship to a graduating high school senior in June 2014.

“Scholarships for the 2013-2014 school year are under discussion with the board. Those decisions should be finalized in the next few weeks, in time for the beginning of the school year in September,” Kelly said.

The third annual Golden Door International Film Festival will return to Jersey City from October 10 to 13 at various venues throughout the city. For more information regarding the festival visit GoldenDoorFilmFestival.org or HudsonReporter.com.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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