Winners announced in the 2021 Count Basie Center Teen + College Film Fest


(RED BANK – APRIL 14, 2021) Winners of the 2021 Count Basie Center Teen + College Film Fest were announced on Wednesday, following an online industry panel which allowed all officially-selected festival filmmakers to hear from experts working in television and film.

In a tumultuous year for students and artists alike, 2021 saw a near-record number of entries for the statewide festival. With eligibility granted to all New Jersey middle and high school students as well as Garden State college students studying afar, the festival saw entries from all over New Jersey, and as far away as California.

In the end, 29 titles earned “Official Selection” status, of which ten took home prizes in the annual competition:

Middle School:

  • Best Animation: “The Aliens Of Titan Episode One” (Charlie Cosgrove, Grover Cleveland Middle School, Caldwell)
  • Best Documentary: “Beneath The Skin” (Portia Cina / Melia Hillman, Grover Cleveland Middle School, Caldwell)

High School:

  • Best Direction / Best Documentary: “Ripples in Time…A New Museum Comes to Cape May” (Eleni DeSantis, Cape May C0unty Technical High School)
  • Best Narrative Film: “Growing Pains” (Jennifer Ruiz-Gonzalez, East Brunswick Tech – School of the Arts)
  • Best Acting Performance (Edward Sambucci as “Donald” in “Only A Fool” by Gabriel Werts, East Brunswick Tech – School of the Arts)
  • Audience Favorite: “The Lighthouse-Italian Ice” (Tyrone Shields / Joe Guzzone, Middletown High School South)


  • Best Direction: “The Bet” (Dave Ambrose, Montclair State University)
  • Best Documentary: “The Mayor” (Carlie Falotico, Montclair State University)
  • Overall Highest-Rated Film: “Not So Alone” (Veronica Tullo, Dodge College of Film & Media Arts / Chapman – CA)
  • Best Acting Performance – College: Kenneth Shook as “Wes Richards” in “Braindead” by Ian R. Baker, Montclair State University)

Middletown High School South, the school with the highest cumulative score from festival judges, took home the annual “School Award” and will receive camera equipment courtesy of Sony.

Each of the “Official Selection” filmmakers were invited to a virtual online roundtable with industry executives, including Sony Pictures Classics Co-Founder, Co-President and Basie Center Board of Trustees member Tom Bernard; Writer / producer Casey De Stefano (The Secret World Of Alex Mac, Even Stevens); Producer Kim Allen (Call Me By My Name, The Departed); Sorya Sean Sorei, Crowd Technical Director, Industrial Light & Magic; Martin Scorsese script supervisor Martha Pinson, and 42West Senior Marketing Executive Scott Feinstein.

“The entries for the Count Basie Film Festival this year were so impressive,” said Sony Pictures Classics’ Bernard. “As a local New Jersey resident and a studio head, I am really excited about all of the talent coming out of Grover Cleveland Middle School and looking forward to seeing what they do with it next.”

“Despite a year of turmoil and uncertainly, we saw a near-record number of submissions, with a level of quality that continued its upwards ascent from Garden State student filmmakers,” said Adam Philipson, President and CEO, Count Basie Center for the Arts. “With New Jersey quickly establishing itself as a home for film and television studios and productions, these are students we’re hopeful will find homes for themselves on any number of the ongoing and upcoming productions which will take place here in the coming months and years.”