fof crew 2019PHOTO:  The volunteer crew behind the successful FilmOneFest

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – Even record high temperatures couldn’t deter the crowds who gathered for the 11th Annual FilmOneFest held at the Atlantic Highlands Marina on Saturday. More than 1,000 viewers attended the iconic international “one-minute” film festival, which takes place every third Saturday in July. “There was a nice breeze over the water so it was surprisingly pleasant for the show which is projected onto a giant outdoor screen once the sun goes down,” remarked Corinna Thuss, Director.

The event kicked off on a high note at 6:00 p.m. with musical accompaniment from local acoustic duo, Double A, as food trucks opened for business amid picnic tables. Several non-profits were in attendance, including the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council who sponsors FilmOneFest.  A henna painter turned sweaty hands into works of art, and the mood was celebratory despite temperatures in the 90s.

New Jersey band Zoochie was up next with original songs highlighting stellar lead vocals. Emcees Jon Crowley and Marie Jackson, provided introductions and background information for the crowd. Crowley, famous for shows such as “Impractical Jokers,” had flown in a few hours earlier to assure that he was on hand to continue his record of emceeing every FilmOneFest to date.

Musical entertainment was capped off with headliner Cranston Dean Band, named for the Atlantic Highlands native at the helm. His originals are a local mainstay and the 45-minute set was well received as the crowd swelled and people filled in lawn chairs that had been set in place as early as 7:00 a.m.  

fof cranston dean band 2019PHOTO:  Cranston Dean Band performed at FilmOneFest

A total of 43 films were selected for the screening from a field of 2,350 from over 100 countries. “The first year, we had 60 film submissions total, so it was much different,” Crowley remarked from the dais. “In the past couple of years we have had a Selection Committee, headed by Director of Submissions David Salowe this year. He did an amazing job of winnowing it down to 200 films for the committee to select the top 40.” Winners of earlier events, a 24-Hour Film Slam in April and FilmYoungFest student competition, were automatically included in Saturday’s screening.

In addition to Judges’ Choice Awards chosen by each of the seven judges—Jon Crowley, Holland Farkas, Johnny Grasso, Susan Littenberg, Robert O’Connor, Gedney Webb and Victor Zak— “Imagine” by Keegan Larwin was chosen as the top film for the Gartenberg Memorial Award with a $250 prize named in memory of co-founder Julie Gartenberg.

Audience members voted live by phone for their favorite film, honoring local filmmaker Mike Boylan with the $100 Audience Choice Award for “Come Here Often?” which also won the Victor Zak Jury Award.

Several filmmakers in attendance were invited onto the stage for recognition. “Filmmakers were telling me how they love our event because we make them feel so special and appreciated,” Thuss said.  Swedish Filmmaker Ramon Arango who won the Holland Farkas Jury Award for ‘Rudolph” couldn’t thank us enough.”

Thuss remarked on the high quality of movies this year. “The audience feedback for the films was amazing,” she said, particularly noting the three-part alien story created as interstitials for the event by locals The Bagsville Initiative. “Our new collaborator 5-Second Films submitted seven films that were a huge hit!”

The crowd stayed hydrated with cold beverages that had been donated by PepsiCo. “We always appreciate Pepsi, but especially this year,” said Janet Peterson as she set up coolers with ice in the VIP area. Peterson is herself a sponsor, and produces events for FilmOneFest with high school friend Kevin Smith. (The next is scheduled for Friday, April 24, 2020 at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre.)

The big event started on Friday night with a Launch Party where 75 filmmakers, sponsors and friends mingled and celebrated at the Atlantic Highlands Arts Gallery. Press representatives were in attendance, including local educator and YouTuber Ryan Moore who is featuring FilmOneFest in his series about film festivals. “I grew up nearby and life guarded right up the beach, so I’ve been aware of the festival since I was a child,” he explained.

Robert O’Connor, the co-founder of FilmOneFest who stepped down last year, was honored at the Launch Party with the Community Service Award. “This award I hold in my hand should be so much bigger considering your immeasurable contributions, not only to FilmOneFest but to our town and to the world at large,” Thuss said as she presented the award to her long time collaborator.

“Ten years ago, I thought of a small way to bring the community together around the arts,” O’Connor remarked after the award was presented.  “It was amazing to watch it grow into an international phenomena, but now I am gratified to see it continue on without me. I am always amazed at the talented people like Corinna who have helped it grow, and this year I see a lot of new faces who are doing great work. I would say it’s now truly a bonafide film festival.  By that I mean filmmakers see FilmOneFest as a legitimate forum for their work and one that they now seek out instead of the other way around.”


Volunteer and Sponsor Supported

More than 50 people work as volunteers every year to stage the event. FilmOneFest is 100% volunteer-produced, and proceeds support the Atlantic Highlands Food Pantry, and collected donations at both events.

FilmOneFest thanks its corporate sponsors Secret Stash, PepsiCo, Blue Bay Inn, Alice Kupper, PE, Atlantic Cinemas, Janet Peterson, Monmouth University, and JBL Trinity Group for their generous support. FilmOneFest is also grateful for the continued support of Tom Bernard and Sony Pictures Classics.

Individuals can make donations via Venmo @filmonefest or by visiting, scrolling down on the home page and clicking on the “Donate Now” button!

FilmOneFest is a project of the Atlantic Highlands Arts Council, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen community through the arts. For more information, go to

This program is made possible in part by Monmouth Arts through funding from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and The New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

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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...