Winners announced for the 2020 Count Basie Center Teen + College Film Fest


(RED BANK – APRIL 6, 2020) Winners were announced today in the 2020 Count Basie Teen + College Film Fest, following a weeks’ worth of public screenings and ‘Audience Choice’ voting in the competition’s pivot online following social distancing guidelines in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

More than 6,200 viewers watched this year’s selections. Earlier today, Adam Philipson, Count Basie Center for the Arts President and CEO, announced the winners following an online Q&A between students and festival judges:

Middle School Category:

  • Best Film: Unbridled (Maiah Riedel, Emily Scharfenberg, Directors; Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Teaneck)

High School Category:

  • Best Director: Jennifer Ruiz Gonzalez, Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School (夢 Yume)
  • Best Documentary: Jackson Hometown Documentary; Barry Rosenweig (Amber Buckley and Alivia McGarry, Directors; Jackson Liberty High School)
  • Best Animation: Humanoid (Mason Dugasz, Director; Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School)
  • Best Narrative: 夢 Yume (Jennifer Ruiz Gonzalez, Director; Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School)
  • Best Actor: Vic Pater, Till Death Do Us Part (Courtney Voehl, Director; Middletown High School South)

College Catogory:

  • Best Director: Connor T. O’Keefe, Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts (Dear D)
  • Best Documentary: Taking The Reigns (Alice Almiron, Director; Passaic County Community College)
  • Best Animation: Rose and Tulip (Shannon Miller, Director; School of Visual Arts)
  • Best Narrative (tie): Dear D (Connor T. O’Keefe, Director; Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts); Face to Face (Jessica Verello, Director; Brookdale Community College)
  • Best Actor: Jenna Craig, January Friend (Jennifer Seitis, Director)

In addition, Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School won the “School Award” for the highest scores between its submissions, while High School Defusal by director Chris Zou (Bridgewater-Raritan High School) won the “Audience Choice” Award, tabulated from nearly 3,000 votes cast during the festival’s week of online screenings.

“With the state of NJ now having a very healthy tax incentive plan we’re seeing a growing interest in filmmaking from all ages across the state. Now in its sixth year, the Count Basie Center Teen + College Film Festival saw a record number of diverse and high-quality short films,” said Tom Bernard, co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics. “The Basie Center has created an incredible festival that provides a unique opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to showcase their work.”

“Despite the COVID-19 quarantine, we were determined to make sure the filmmakers of our official selections got their chance to shine,” said Philipson. “In moving the festival online, we were truly able to provide these students with a worldwide audience, with more than 6,000 viewers taking time to watch the films, and more than 3,000 participating in the ‘Audience Choice’ contest.”

Winners in the “Best Director” categories will receive an opportunity to intern with Sony Pictures Classics, while the School Award winner will also receive filmmaking equipment courtesy of Sony.

This year’s winners and official selections watched at