Regarded as one of the best film festivals in the country, New Jersey’s Golden Door International Film Festival returns this year bigger than ever.
The festival was founded and is run by the prestigious Sorvino family – with both Oscar Winner Mira Sorvino and legendary actor Paul Sorvino on the board – notably, acclaimed actor Bill Sorvino (founder) and wife Michele Sorvino (executive director). In the years that Bill and Michele have been running the festival it’s become a hot ticket for the best new independent films and artists.
Submissions for this year’s festival – being held September 22 to 25 – are due June 8.
We spoke to Bill Sorvino.
We know you best as an actor Bill but, from the sounds of it, you’ve got your finger in a few pies. But is acting still first?
Yes it is. Acting is my craft, profession and passion!
How long have you been acting for now?
I attended the wonderful William Esper Studio in NYC back in ’06 through ’07. That was my first experience acting though not professionally. I then attended a series of master classes from ’08-’09 given by John Dapolito a superb acting teacher in NYC as well. I guess you can say Ive been acting professionally since around 2009 but only really started to get a career going in 2012.
What was that first big break?
Hard to say what exactly got things going, I wouldn't say any particular role was my “big break” but I guess a combination of a few earlier works I did caught the attention of some casting directors and filmmakers. I won a few acting awards for my work in Maniac which was a gritty, dark role so I guess that got the ball rolling initially. From there I was cast in 10 films over the course of the next two years 2014-2016 which brings us to the present. I guess you can say I’m just getting warmed up!
And your latest film opened in New Jersey last week?
Yes! “Who’s Jenna…?” had an amazingly successful premiere. Lines around the block and all that craziness. Hard to believe that all happened in Asbury Park, NJ an hour from NYC. I’m nervous for the NY premiere! It was a rousing success, I think the crowd loved the film. There was roaring laughter throughout the whole screening. I think that’s the hardest thing to do in filmmaking. So big kudos to Tom Baldinger the brilliant writer/director.
You’ve a few films due out this year…
I do, the other one that I am very excited about is called “Mommy’s Box”. Written and directed by Johnny Greenlaw. He also stars in the film alongside myself. It’s one of those dysfunctional family dramas that just hits you in the gut. It couldn't be any different from “Who’s Jenna…?” and my character couldn't be more different. I’m so proud and very fortunate to have these two amazing films coming out at the same time. Both really stretched my acting muscles in completely different ways.
Does being a celeb help with boosting the profile of the festival?
I think that is something that perks the interest of filmmakers, and while I wouldn't consider myself a major celebrity, I think being someone who is a full time actor and so emotionally vested in the success of the festival from the standpoint of the film community, the local community just shines through and attracts filmmakers who want experience a festival with those altruistic beliefs.
What’s your role in it all?
I am the founder and sit as board president. My wife Michele is the Executive Director so all the props go out to her for the hard work she puts in to make the festival the shining star that it is!
Who chooses which films play at the festival?
We have a very large team of about 20 and we all view the films and rate them. We basically accept about 150 films out of several hundred. So the cut is made based on the order of quality.
Are there any films in particular you look for?
We welcome any genre. Basically we look for great films. Simple as that.
What’s been your personal favorite film that you’ve screened?
I would say that “Jack of the Red Hearts” which was our opening night film last year would be it. It is a phenomenal film starring Ann Sophia Robb and Famke Janssen. The film centered on an autistic girl who Anna Sophia’s character cons her way into being caretaker of without proper credentials. It’s a beautiful story directed by Janet Grillo who is an NYU Tisch professor and an extraordinary filmmaker and a wonderful person. We dedicate a component of our festival to raising Autism awareness so this film was a perfect fit, but its just a great film.