RED BANK – The Count Basie Theatre’s PROJECT FX, the statewide student film festival, has once again located and awarded some of the Garden State’s brightest and best student filmmakers.

“Regression,” a film from Old Bridge High School’s Nicholas Zolfo, took top prize in the high school category, while “Writer’s Block,” a film by Montclair State University’s Nick Capra, captured the top collegiate prize.

Each will enjoy an internship experience with Sony Pictures Classics in Manhattan and have their films screened at this summer’s Indie Street Film Festival, July 6-10th at the Count Basie Theatre and other venues throughout Red Bank, NJ.

Winners and runners up in each category are viewable now at the official PROJECT FX Facebook page at

“This year’s lineup at PROJECT FX was incredibly strong and these six aspiring filmmakers have great futures ahead of them,” said Tom Bernard, Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics.


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“I’ve always loved making movies, since I was little,” college winner Capra said. “It’s great to have an opportunity like PROJECT FX, somewhere that isn’t LA or New York. It opens up a lot of opportunity for people to get their work seen, and to be heard.”

“This is exhilarating,” high school winner Zolfo added. “The reason why I do this is that I love getting an emotional reaction from people. We did this in six hours and we were able to make a story people responded to.”

Runners up in the high school category included the animated “Painted Cranes” by Middletown High School South student Sage Levine, and the documentary “Victor Grasso” by Genna Contento, a student at Charter Tech High School For The Performing Arts in Somers Point. Contento takes home a $500 award while Levine will win a high-end digital video camera courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment. 

First runner up in the college category was the documentary “Jimmy Scalia: An Honest Portrait” by Anthony Scalia of Ramapo College, while “Across Dystopia” by Rutgers student Jeanpaul Isaacs took home the second runner-up prize of $500.

In addition to a public vote on Facebook and votes tallied at the festival itself last Sunday, films were reviewed by a panel of esteemed adjudicators, including Sony Pictures Classics Co-Founder / Co-President and Middletown resident Tom Bernard; Oscar winner Timothy Hutton; Oscar nominated screenwriter James Schamus, legendary broadcast journalist Dan Rather, Clerks and Mallrats star Brian O’Halloran, United Talent Agency Independent Film Group head Rena Ronson, Breaking Bad cinematographer Peter Reniers, True Detective producer Carol Cuddy and others.

For the second straight year, PROJECT FX was presented by Bank Of America.

“Bank of America remains committed to the arts both nationally and locally as they help enrich our community,” said Bob Doherty, New Jersey president, Bank of America. “The Count Basie Theatre has advocated for arts and film education in New Jersey for the past 80 years and the PROJECT FX competition brings together some of the most talented students in the state for a unique opportunity to learn from some of the best in the film industry.”

This year’s PROJECT FX competition received more than twice the entries as last year, and Count Basie Theatre President and CEO Adam Philipson says PROJECT FX will return in 2017, with hopes that more New Jersey students and films gain recognition in the process.

“Seeing the number of submissions grow substantially in year two, matched with the outstanding quality of films, signifies the importance of this festival,” said Adam Philipson, President and CEO, Count Basie Theatre. “We appreciate our sponsor, entrants and judges and look forward to next year’s PROJECT FX.”

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...