New NYC festival to celebrate and nurture first-time filmmakers


First Time Fest (FTF)—a celebration of first-time filmmakers—will take place in New York City March 1-4, 2013. The new festival’s mission is to discover and present the next generation of great cinema by first-time screenwriters, producers, directors, editors, composers and cinematographers. FTF is currently seeking submissions for its inaugural event.

First Time Fest will be a four-day, multi-faceted event based in New York City’s Gramercy Park at the celebrated Players Club, founded by Edwin Booth and Mark Twain, the oldest and most exclusive arts organization of its kind. Films will be screened at the Loews Village VII in New York’s East Village.

First Time Fest represents a hybrid between a traditional film festival and a motivated audience participation event. The featured films of First Time Fest will embody the work of 12 finalists, selected from a submission pool of potentially thousands of films. Each of the 12 finalists will have his or her feature screened during the festival before an audience of industry professionals and the general public. A panel of five jurors will then decide the Grand Prize winner. Four of these judges will come from the film industry, while the fifth judge, unlike any other festival in the world, will be the collective “Voting Public” or "VPs." These VPs—120 on each of the festival’s days—will be selected by lottery from the thousands of moviegoers expected to attend First Time Fest. Additionally, 12 special VPs will be selected in a nationwide contest to represent the country at large.

The Grand Prize winner of First Time Fest will be presented at an exclusive gala on the final day of the festival, and will receive an offer of theatrical distribution arranged through a partnership between First Time Fest and Cinema Libre Studio. Cinema Libre has produced over 15 award-winning international films, and has distributed more than 100 films in its 20 years of operations. Beyond distribution, the winner will be provided international sales representation by Cinema Libre and will receive other prizes. First Time Fest will also present other prizes during the awards ceremony, including “Outstanding Direction,” Outstanding Screenplay,” “Outstanding Cinematography,” “Outstanding Editing” and “Outstanding Score.”

Each of First Time Fest’s 12 finalists will receive a one-year, high-level industry mentorship. This mentorship will involve regular contact with prominent members of the independent filmmaking community: producers, distributors, sales agents, talent representatives, lawyers, consultants and, most importantly, proven filmmakers.

First Time Fest will also include a series of panels called “How They Did It,” in which a diverse group of filmmakers will moderate case studies spotlighting movie masters.

In addition, First Time Fest and the Players Club will present the first John Huston Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema to an individual who has made s significant contribution to the art of cinema.

Johanna Bennett and Mandy Ward serve as co-founders of First Time Fest. Mitch Levine, former CEO and executive director of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, is serving as an advisor to the team. David Schwartz, artistic director and head curator of New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, has come aboard as director of programing.