Official selections announced for the Count Basie Center’s 2024 Breakthrough Filmmaker Fest

Breakthrough Filmmaker Fest


(FEBRUARY 23) Official selections have been announced for this year’s Count Basie Center Breakthrough Filmmaker Fest, the annual competition celebrating New Jersey’s emerging crop of young filmmakers.

The onsite Breakthrough Filmmakers fest event takes place on Saturday, March 23 on the Count Basie Center campus, 99 Monmouth Street in Red Bank. Both official selections and honorable mention titles will be shown, along with workshops, a Q&A with industry experts and a networking opportunity for this year’s selected filmmakers. Admission to the event is free with advance registrations; details on registration will be revealed next week.

This year’s official selections are as follows:

High School:

  • The Last Call (Directed by Christian Guzzone and Luke Zeveney, Middletown High School South)
  • Someday Is Today (Directed by Zoey Ness, Morgan Scasny, Gigi Maiorana and Kate Cashion, Middletown High School South)
  • The Haunting of White Hill (Directed by Justin Marinelli and Ray Violett, Howell High School)
  • First Date (Directed by Michael DeMar and Caroline Sheridan, Park Ridge High School)
  • The Rain Song (Directed by Justin Marinelli, Howell High School)
  • Shreds of Evidence (Directed by Michael DeMar and Caroline Sheridan, Park Ridge High School)
  • Fresh Kills (Directed by Caleb Sambucci, East Brunswick Magnet School – School of the Arts)
  • Morgan and The Waves (Directed by Andre Paras, Howell High School)
  • Life, Death, and Mortality (Directed by John R Stillwaggon, Howell High School)
  • Reckoning (Directed by Iris Anne Lautermilch, Hopewell Valley Central High School)
  • You Don’t Know What it Takes to Come Home (Directed by Andre Paras, Howell High School)
  • Lafayette and Noble (Directed by Josias Ortiz, East Brunswick Magnet School – School of the Arts)
  • Behind The Stage: Exit 109 (Directed by Bee Wernersbach and Andie Kershner, Middletown High School South)
  • Against Odds: The Life Of Cinematographer James Wong Howe (Directed by Andre Paras, Howell High School)
  • Subjective Worlds (Directed by Euridice Sagastume, East Brunswick Magnet School – School of the Arts)

Honorable Mentions: Between (Gabby De Rugeriis, Director; Middletown High School South) • Just Followed (Massimo Giuseppe Daniels, Director; Cape May County Technical High School) • Fake Friend (Sophie Rose Burden, Director; Holmdel High School) • Naomi (Molly Arcara, Director; Communications High School) •  Office Life (Lance Albert Drake, Director; Syndicate Film School) Take The Shot (Ryan Matteo, Director; Communications High School) • Love and Betrayal (Antonette Madlanie Dietz, Director; Bergen County Technical High School, Paramus) • The Seance (Mina Marie Bixby, Director; Cape May County Technical High School)

College Selections:

  • Laundry Etiquette (Directed by Kyle Alister Berdin and Colin Clark, Rutgers University)
  • Phoenix (Directed by Shannon Miller, School Of Visual Arts)
  • Home Coming (Directed by Annie Fleisch, School Of Visual Arts)
  • With My Fingers (Directed by Jose Antonio Saborio, Montclair State University)
  • Let’s Make An Omelet (Directed by Selma Mehmedagic, Rutgers University)
  • An Emperor of Idiots (Directed by Brandon Lang, Montclair State University)
  • Blue (Directed by Benjamin Horner, Rutgers University)
  • For Elise (Directed by Joanna Wong, Rutgers University)
  • The Inbetween (Directed by Izzy Love, Montclair State University)

Honorable Mention: Fair Weather: 20 Minute Cut (Brooks Wieszczek, Director; Montclair State University)

This is the Count Basie Center’s eighth annual emerging filmmakers competition — a heritage that has seen entries from all 21 Garden State counties, as well as from ‘Jersey-based filmmakers attending schools around the globe. In that time, the state has become a hotbed for the film industry; new tax incentives have planted countless productions on state soil – from Joker to Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom – while several studios have announced plans to amplify their presence in the state. Netflix, the streaming giant, received final approvals this week for its intentions to build a metropolis of studios and production facilities just minutes from the Basie Center campus.

The Basie Center’s original emerging filmmaker competitions were just that – singular competitions – but Breakthrough will be an annual, year-round initiative, with regular online workshops with industry experts, mini-competitions and other events. For more information, stay tuned to