When the weather’s cold, few things are more enjoyable than a day inside at the movies. In the case of the Gold Coast International Film Festival – which has a series of events running from Nov. 9th through 15th – there are plenty of opportunities to stay indoors and catch exclusive entertainment not available anywhere else. Launched in 2011, the festival is spread among Long Island venues on the North Shore including theaters in Great Neck, Roslyn, Port Washington and Manhasset.
The festival is the brainchild of the Gold Coast Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) multi-arts organization that has promoted and supported the arts for the past 20 years. Aside from the events announced for Nov. 9th through 15th, the Gold Coast International Film Festival is unique from other area festivals in providing year-round programming. This includes a free public art gallery, a monthly concert series, an arts-in-education outreach program, and a long-standing film screening program. Recent examples of this have included a recent Family Film Day, a Baz Luhrmann-attended screening of The Great Gatsby, a performance by comic Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, and a Bill Plympton-taught master class.
I had the privilege of conducting Q&A with festival director Caroline Sorokoff on behalf of Downtown. Within her responses, Caroline interestingly informed me of how local government helped make this festival a reality. Also, she revealed a lot of the celebrities who will be attending and/or part of screenings. As Caroline noted, “everyone’s invited,” and more information about this year’s events can be found at http://www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org.
To someone who hasn’t heard of the Gold Coast International Film Festival, how would you describe it?
Caroline Sorokoff: We are a general festival in that we don’t focus on one specific genre of film – like documentaries — or an aspect of filmmaking – like screenwriting – but we do truly have something for everyone. Our tagline is “everyone’s invited” and we take that very seriously. We offer films that appeal to the wide demographic that lives and works in our region, including families, seniors, young adults, parents looking for “date night” films, music lovers, foreign film lovers, documentary fans…plus we screen films from countries with strong representation in our region. For example this year we have several Israeli/Jewish-themed films, a film about Chile by a Mexican director, a Peruvian film, as well as films from Japan, Italy, France and Holland.
What inspired the founding on this festival? Was there a particular festival that it is modeled after?
C: The Festival was founded by The Gold Coast Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) multi arts organization that for the past 20 years has been dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach. To fulfill that mission we have a School for the Arts, a free public art gallery, a monthly concert series, and arts-in-education outreach program and a long-standing film screening program that for the past 20 years has screened previews of the best new independent and festival films for one night only, with each screening followed by a Q&A. The Festival was an outgrowth of this year-round series. It was something our Executive Director Regina Gil always wanted to do because there was clearly a demand in our region for this kind of content, and because film is such an accessible medium. Several years ago the festival became a reality when we met with Nassau County – specifically Judi Bosworth who was then our Nassau County Legislator – and [County Executive] Tom Suozzi, and they were looking for something to help draw visitors and tourists into the region which could also be a great thing for residents and businesses. Two years later, with the Town of North Hempstead as our founding sponsor, under Jon Kaiman, we launched and now here we are – five years later!
Long Island has several other prominent film festivals. Do you look at those festivals as competition? Or do you see yourself as working together to make Long Island more of a destination for the film business?
C: We have great relationships with the other festivals on Long Island. We all have somewhat of a different focus so we are not necessarily competitive. Rather, we are working together to create new audiences for film in our region. There are a lot of people living and working in our region. The more arts programming we can all offer, the better it is for all of us.
Your festival attracts a lot of stars and a lot of movies that aren’t on the usual festival circuit. Is there a method behind it, or is that the product of luck?
C: It’s a little bit of luck and lot of hard work and perseverance. Also, we have a track record of working with many influential filmmakers and artists through the Arts Center and they tell their friends and colleagues what a great time they had at our Festival and Arts Center events. For example, past honorees and special guests of the Arts Center include filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola, Hugh Grant, Baz Luhrmann, Brian Dennehy, Paul Sorvino, Ed Burns, Bruce Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Eli Wallach, Gabriel Byrne, Marc Lawrence, Bill Plympton, Phil Donohue, Phylicia Rashaad, Joan Allen, Jay McInerney and Michael Cuesta, as well as composer Morton Gould, artists James Rosenquist, Oleg Cassini, Edwina Sandys and Bob Gruen, comedian Susie Essman, Broadway stars Kelli O’Hara, Melissa Errico, Ruben Santiago Hudson, and Savion Glover, and four-time Oscar winner for production and costume design Catherine Martin.
Who are some of the notable people confirmed to attend the festival this year?
C: Filmmakers scheduled to attend include award-winning director, producer and screenwriter Morgan Spurlock, actor Lou Diamond Phillips, star of Showtime’s Homeland Navid Negahban, Patricia Riggen, the director of the new Warner Brothers film The 33, which stars Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Lou Diamond Phillips. Also there’s Michael Cuesta, who is also executive producer of Homeland, Rick Goldsmith, a two-time Academy Award nominee, Yael Melamede who produced an Academy Award-winning short film, and Andrew Horn. Plus WNBA superstar Chamique Holdsclaw, several members of the band Twisted Sister, who will join us for the U.S. premiere of a new film about their rise to fame, Emmy-winning journalist Kristin Thorne. Plus many more filmmakers and special guests, including the subjects of several of the documentaries we are screening. We are also screening films starring Richard Gere, Oliver Platt, Rene Russo, Jason Sudeikis, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Walken, Amber Heard and many more industry stars, plus award-winning feature length and short films from the world’s most prestigious festivals like Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, and Tribeca.
What is the criteria for someone to apply for your Young Filmmakers Program?
C: You have to be in grades K-12 and your short film has to be under five minutes. It also has to be PG in content. Other than that, we are very open to the kinds of submissions we accept. This year – our first year of the YFP – we had close to 100 submissions and we are looking forward to getting even more films next year!
What is the biggest challenge of organizing a festival like yours?
C: It is very hard to market so many events in one week. People are bombarded by e-mails, social media, radio and TV ads, etc. There is so much media vying for their attention that it is hard to break through. Also, being right outside New York City, there is so much happening for the media to cover and buying media is very expensive.
When you’re not busy with the festival, how do you like to spend your time?
C: I am an amateur cabaret singer, so I try to sing as much as I can. I also love hiking and being outdoors. I try to go see as much music and theater as I can all year round.
What’s the most recent film that you saw in a theater?
C: Probably Inside/Out with my kids. I absolutely loved it! I thought it was intelligent, sensitive, funny, an all around great movie. I have recommended it to friends without kids too.
Do you have an all-time favorite movie?
C: I love movie musicals, so Singing in the Rain and West Side Story are definitely up there.
Are you a subscriber of Netflix or a similar service?
C: YES! Netflix has enabled me to see a lot of movies I would have never heard of and wouldn’t have the opportunity to see now that I do not live in New York City. I love how you can search by genre. But there is still nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
C: Try to experience the arts in as many ways you can. Listen to all kinds of music – not just Top 40 — visit museums, go see a play, take a ceramics or dance class, make a short film on your iPhone…the options are endless. And don’t be afraid to try something new. The arts are essential for people of all ages. The more you experience them, the richer your life will be.
-by Darren Paltrowitz