HIFF ’16: HIFF Series Intro

First in a series by Lisa Iannucci explaining film festivals from the insider’s POV. Part One: Kenneth Del Vecchio’s brainstorm!

Special for FF2 Media by Lisa Iannucci


It was 4 o’clock in the morning and Kenneth Del Vecchio’s wife was sound asleep, but not for long. “I woke her up and told her that I was going to start my own film festival,” said Del Vecchio, who has written, produced and directed nearly 30 feature films that star 100+ film and TV stars (including multiple Academy Award and Emmy winners and nominees).

“I had just gotten enraged that most of the film festivals out there were of no substance,” he says. “They did nothing to promulgate the reason why the filmmaker wants to get attention for their movie and for distribution.”

Del Vecchio said that the three ingredients you need to start a film festival are quality films, star power and business partners. “The first year the festival took off, but there were very few sponsorships,” he says. “But I got some star power and quality movies.”

Now in its 11th year, the Hoboken International Film Festival (HIFF) has been called “one of the 10 Biggest Film Festivals in the World.” This year it will run from June 3 through June 9 at the historic Paramount Theater in Middletown, New York (where it has been held over the last four years).

Just last week, the screening committee (which includes yours truly) finished looking at more than 1500 submissions. “The committee is a mixed bag of ages and backgrounds,” says Del Vecchio. “There’s a young girl who just got her master’s of education. There’s another young man who’s graduating from a SUNY school as a filmmaker and another who is an actor. It’s an eclectic group of people who watch movies. I’m not looking for art house traditional films, I’m looking for films that people would want to pay money to see at the movie theater.”

Each movie is watched by two of the 30 screening committee members who rank each flick from 0 to 5 (5 being the best). “I rely on my screening committee and their comments,” says Del Vecchio. “After all the scores have been tabulated, the jury is locked into my house and we’ll watch all of the movies that have scored high from the screening committee and pick the winners. I also read every questionnaire and letter that the filmmaker submits telling us why the movie was important.”

Del Vecchio says that any movie that scores a 4.5 and up automatically gets into the finals. “I will look at why the screening committee doesn’t like a movie too, because it might still be a well-made film. I’ll think about what an audience wants, whether it has star power, where the filmmakers are from and whether it’s an international or local film. It’s a balancing act when it comes to picking the final movies.”

Once the final films are chosen, Del Vecchio takes three days to put together a film festival schedule. Aaccording to Del Vecchio, HIFF costs $1 million to run and takes more than 500 volunteers to put together. “We don’t have that kind of cash, so we rely on contributions,” he says.

The Gala Awards Ceremony on Opening Night–June 3–will be hosted by comedian Gilbert Gottfried. The 2016 HIFF Award for Excellence in Film & the Arts will be presented to and personally accepted by actor DANNY AIELLO. (Aiello received an Oscar nomination for his performance in Do The Right Thing, and was a key cast member in the the beloved Oscar-winning film  Moonstruck.)


For more information, visit http://www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com/.

In my next article, I will talk to another jury member to find out what he looks for in each movie and why he would score one movie a 5 and another a zero.

Bottom Photo: Danny Aiello as “Johnny Cammareri” in Moonstruck © 1987 – MGM

Tags: Danny Aiello, Do The Right Thing, HIFF Award for Excellence in Film & the Arts, Historic Paramount Theater, Hoboken Film Festival, Hoboken International Film Festival, Ken Del Vecchio, Kenneth Del Vecchio, Lisa Iannucci, Middletown NY, Moonstruck

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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