Winners announced in the 2023 Count Basie Center Teen + College Film Fest


Count Basie Center Film Fest(RED BANK | MAY 2, 2023) Winners in the statewide 2023 Count Basie Center Teen + College Film Fest were celebrated this past weekend during the festival’s annual screening and networking event in Red Bank.

Dozens of films were entered into the competition, which announced its official selections in March and showcased each title during screenings last weekend at Basie Center Cinemas in Red Bank. On Saturday, students, parents, teachers and administrators gathered for a Q&A panel with industry experts, a networking reception, and – of course – the revelation of who took home the top prizes:


In the high school categories, Rockit! The Making of a Musician from Holmdel High School’s Arielle Borges, took home the Best Documentary trophy. The high school Best Narrative Film nod went to Score, a film by Chris Zhou of Bridgewater-Raritan High School. True to its title, Score also tallied the festival’s highest-overall scoring from industry evaluators. Middletown High School South’s Maura Catherine Collins and Mia Dimitry took home the high school Best Director category with their film Panic, while Jack Vaughn, an actor in the high school film Love, Aaron, took home the High School best Actor Award. Love, Aaron, from Howell High School’s Vinny Albano and John Stillwagon, also scored the publicly-polled Audience Favorite award.

Middletown High School South, whose films tallied the highest-average score, took home the annual School Award.


For Lonely Nights from Veronica Trullo, a Mountain Lakes High School graduate studying at Chapman University, took home the college division’s Best Narrative trophy, while that film’s lead actor, Sophie Lachman as “Lily,” grabbed the collegiate Best Actor nod. Knocking On Doors, from Rumson-Fair Haven High School’s Cameron Spector, took home the Best College Director award. Spector currently studies in Germany at Filmuniversity Babelsberg Konrad Wolf in Potsdam.


The annual Count Basie Center teen + College Film fest offers students the opportunity to hear from and meet industry experts via an onsite networking event and industry Q&A. On hand for this year’s event were Count Basie Center board member and Sony Pictures Classics co-founder and co-president Tom Bernard, New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission Executive Director Steven Gorelick, producer Kim Allen, director / writer / producer and One Oh! One podcast founder Kate Forsatz, producer and documentary filmmaker Kyra Knox and film editor Meredith Veach.

“It’s important that students get opportunities to hear from those of us in the industry and to have their films showcased at events like this one at the Count Basie Center,” said Tom Bernard, co-founder and co-president, Sony Pictures Classics. “There are more opportunities than ever in New Jersey for students who are interested in working on film sets and getting a foot in the door, so to speak. It’s always a pleasure to offer knowledge and insight into what it takes and how they can get there.”

The 2024 Count Basie Center Teen + College Film fest will begin accepting entries in the fall.