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THE REEL SCENE: Gala fundraiser supports independent film festival

In a few years, when Asbury Park becomes another Greenwich Village, the Garden State Film Festival organization will be the leader that made it happen, said George Silver of New York City.

"No, I'm not an actor or a filmmaker," Silver said, "but I do think of myself as being on stage all the time."

Silver is a New York City Civil Court judge. He was a guest at the fourth annual Garden State Film Festival fundraiser held Aug. 11 at the Villa dei Forei on Navesink River Road in Middletown. Silver said he has known Michael Oster, the honorary chairman of the festival and supporter of the Garden State Film Festival, since their college days. The event was held at Oster's estate.

"Asbury Park is one of the most interesting places in the area," Oster said. "Working with the the Garden State Film Festival is the perfect opportunity to help redevelop the area."

The Garden State Film Festival is a nonprofit organization. In addition to showing independent films at various locations within Asbury Park, such as the Paramount Theatre, Asbury Lanes, the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel and Convention Hall, the organization conducts educational programs offered to area school students and has outreach programs throughout the surrounding communities.

"Last year, I watched 541 films," said Diane Raver of Sea Girt, executive director of the Garden State Film Festival. "Of the 541, 140 were shown during the three-day film festival from March 31 to April 2."

The fundraising event helps the organization continue its work in providing independent films shown in the community and help with its educational programs in local schools.

"The media of film can open up a myriad of opportunities for the students, here, in Asbury Park," she said. "Young students that seem to have no hope for a future can come and make a film. Making a film is hip. Teaching students all about filmmaking can give them a voice in the world."

Each year, the Garden State Film Festival offers free programs to students at Asbury Park High School, Long Branch High School and Matawan-Aberdeen Regional High School.

"I'm excited to be part of this," said Tom Gilmour of Asbury Park, director of the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce. "Asbury is a wonderful city, and we are happy to have the Garden State Film Festival here."

"I love Asbury Park," Oster said. "I'm in favor of whatever they (the Garden State Film Festival) want to do. The arts is the big focus in the city."

"I can't say enough good things about the festival or Diane," said Benjamin Travers of North Bergen.

He attended the fundraiser with Gina Picinil, also of North Bergen. In 2004, Travers produced "Four Dead Batteries," a romantic comedy that won the pick of films at the Garden State Film Festival.

The 96-minute film cost about $77,000 to make, he said. After winning the award at the Garden State Film Festival, Travers entered the film in 14 other film festivals across the country. The film is now in distribution at and at on the Web.

"Diane was the first person to give me a shot. This is fabulous," Travers said, referring to the organization and the gala at Oster's estate.

"I always thought about being an astronaut, when I was a kid, but I don't have 20/20 vision," said Travers, 30.

By the time he was a teen, he decided he wanted to be in the film industry.

"This (the Garden State Film Festival) is a blessing, to all of the independent filmmakers," he said. "I'm a loyal fan."

The next film festival will be held in March. The entries must be submitted by Nov. 15, Raver said.

For more information about the Garden State Film Festival, call 877-908-7050 or visit on the Web.

Terry Gauthier Muessig: (732) 291-2643 or

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