PROJECT FX, the Count Basie Theatre’s Statewide Student Film Festival presented by Bank of America, announces 2018 winners



Etta Rudolph Denk, Sr. Vice President, NJ Market Manager, Enterprise Business & Community Engagement at Bank of America, poses with high school winner Madison Rambowski and Count Basie Theatre Director of Operations Joe Pulito.

RED BANK – PROJECT FX, the Count Basie Theatre’s statewide student film festival presented by Bank of America, announced last Saturday the winners of this year’s competition. “Dali Schonfelder: The Nalu Story,” a film by Sussex County Technical High School junior Madison Rambowski, took home the award for Top High School Film, while James Barker, a senior at Montclair State University, was awarded the college prize for his work, “A Pocketful Of Sunshine.”

Each top prize winner receives an internship experience with Sony Pictures Classics, along with $1500 in cash prizes and a Sony video camera.

“’Pocket Full of Sunshine’ is such an important story to be told and I couldn’t be happier that the film has received this recognition,” said Barker, the college winner, whose tells the story of a lonely ex-con who struggles to make ends meet as he tries to recommend with his family. “Winning PROJECT FX and having the opportunity to work as an intern at Sony Pictures Classics is something I could have never expected just a few years ago. I am so honored to work with such an esteemed production company this summer and grow as a filmmaker.”

“This means more than the world to me,” said Rambowski, whose winner in the high school category tells the story of Dali Schonfelder, the 17-year old, creator and owner of the clothing brand Nalu, dedicated to donating school uniforms to children in India.

“Filmmaking is my greatest passion and the fact I had the opportunity to showcase my work amongst other talented young filmmakers was more than I could dream of.  Now, winning the competition and receiving an internship with Sony Pictures, I don’t even think I’ve wrapped my mind around that quite yet.”

In the high school category, follow-up winners included “Any Other Way: The Evan Ruggiero Story” by Steven Ruggiero of North Hunterdon High School, and “Helios” by Old Bridge Township High School’s “Helios” by Victoria Tarnowski. They took home $750 and $500 cash prizes, respectively.

On the collegiate side, Kean University junior Noah Resnick’s “Superbug Blues” took home the $750 prize, while Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Logan Adams took the $500 award for “Procrasti-Nation”.

Each of this year’s winning films and contenders in both the high school and college categories can be seen at

“Congratulations to all the participants and winners of Project FX – a unique festival that provided students in our state with an opportunity to showcase their work and learn from the finest in the film industry,” said Bob Doherty, New Jersey president, Bank of America. “The arts help enrich our communities and Bank of America is committed to the arts both nationally and locally. We are proud of our relationship with The Count Basie Theater and its Project FX competition which positively impacts New Jersey youth.”

In addition to public voting on Facebook and an onsite tally during the festival itself, PROJECT FX entries were viewed and voted on by a panel of esteemed adjudicators, including Sony Pictures Classics co-founder and Middletown resident Tom Bernard; Criterion Collection president 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.

Bank Of America’s Denk, college winner and Montclair State University senior James Barker and the Basie’s Pulito

Additional Winner Commentary:

Madison Rambowski: “Filmmaking Has always been the one thing I’ve wanted to do.  If anything, this made me think of filmmaking less as just a career goal, but more as an emotional outlet as well.  Seeing the diversity in the art at the festival made me realize just how powerful art through imagery and story-telling is, and it’s something I’ll always hold dear to me.  I really do believe this will help propel my career in the business though — there’s no doubt in that.”

James Barker: “As I tell all aspiring film students, especially high schoolers and rising freshmen, the most important thing to do is get on set and learn as much as possible. You can learn about film theory, technique and history in class, but until you get on set, touch the equipment, and feel the pressure, you won’t be able to grow as a filmmaker. Follow your dreams, but know that it is going to be a lot of work and a lot of restless nights to get there. Find your voice and share it with the world.”

Rambowski: “Never did I ever think I’d win ProjectFX 2018.  If I’m being honest never did I ever think I’d be accepted into the festival in the first place. My advice to any young filmmaker is submit to every festival, make every phone call, send your film to everyone on your phone contact list, and always be confident in your own work.  That’s really the only advice I can give.”

Barker: “Graduating in just a few weeks, I am about to embark on my journey into the film industry. At Project FX, the judges said that networking is everything. At Montclair State University, our professors, like the illustrious Roberta Friedman, constantly remind us how important connections are in this line of work. I could have never expected just a few years ago. I am so honored to work with such an esteemed production company this summer and grow as a filmmaker.”