Basie’s PROJECTFX Statewide Student Film Festival Sponsored by Bank of America Announces 2018 Finalists + Judges


(RED BANK | APRIL 23) PROJECTFX, the Count Basie Theatre’s statewide student film festival sponsored by Bank Of America, today announced its 2018 finalist films as well as its panel of esteemed judges.

The competing films – ten entries from Garden State high schoolers and an additional six from students attending New Jersey colleges – are viewable now at The public can have their say by “liking” or “sharing” the films on Facebook, which will figure into each film’s final score.

Films will also be viewed and voted on by a panel of esteemed adjudicators, including Sony Pictures Classics co-founder and Middletown resident Tom Bernard; Criterion Collection ProjectFX Logopresident Peter Becker; visual effects supervisor Matthew Gratzner (Shutter Island, A Good Day To Die Hard, War Of The Worlds); actress and Basie board member Maureen Van Zandt; 42 West executive Scott Feinstein; production manager Kevin Hyman; Linda Safran of The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures; film editor Nina Danevic; entertainment writer and podcast host Alex Biese; director / producer Paul Bernard; producer / director James Burke (Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Levity) and others.

“We are so grateful to Bank of America and Sony Pictures Classics for supporting the ascension of gifted student film makers in the Garden State,” said Basie President / CEO Adam Philipson, who will also serve as a judge. “The talent level and themes of the films are inspiring and the Basie is always humbled and honored to be a part of shining a spot light on the stars of the future.”

On Saturday, May 5, the PROJECTFX Festival will feature all finalist films on the Basie big screen, as well as host an industry roundtable, featuring industry experts and a discussion / audience Q&A on breaking into Hollywood and the motion picture industry. Entry to the screenings and roundtable free, though advance tickets must be obtained by visiting An onsite vote will also figure into the final tally.

High school and college PROJECTFX finalists are vying for the ultimate grand prize: $1,000 cash, an internship experience with Sony Pictures Classics in Manhattan and a Sony digital video camera. Second place winners in each category will receive $750 cash prizes, while third place high school and college winners will each receive $500.

A full list of competitors is included below. Publications interested in interviewing any student competitor may place their request with Count Basie Theatre PR, which will have the student reach out directly.


Madison Brand, Middletown High School South senior, “Pooh”
Keeley Giblin, Middletown High School South junior, “Sweet-Ish Fish”
Michell Hahn, Middletown High School South junior, “Day Dream Journal”
Abigail Karl, Communications High School senior, “Conquer”
Maximum Portman, Red Bank Regional High School senior, “Graceful Grieving”
Madison Rambowski, Sussex County Technical School junior, “Dali Schonfelder: The Nalu Story”
Steven Ruggiero, North Hunterdon High School senior, “Any Other Way: The Evan Ruggiero Story”
Michael Smiley, Middletown High School South, “Missing”
Victoria Tarnowski, Old Bridge High School senior, “Helios”
Daniela Vargas, Middletown High School South sophomore, “Chaussures”


Logan Adams, Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, “Procrasti-Nation”
David Ambrose, Montclair State University freshman, “The Unknown Stranger Short”
James Barker, Montclair State University senior, “Pocket Full of Sunshine”
Amanda Brewer, The College of New Jersey freshman, “Bro”
Connor Klingman, Rider University junior, SuperGlued”
Noah Resnick, Kean University junior, “Superbug Blues”