2024 Honorees

Honorary Chair

Janice Kovach first was elected Mayor of Clinton, NJ in November of 2011. She was sworn in for her fourth term in January 2024, and remains a strong vocal advocate for her residents and residents of other NJ communities.  In 2021 she served as the President of the NJ League of Municipalities representing all 565 cities, towns, and villages.

From 2006 to September 2010 Janice was Director of the New Jersey Division on Women. Janice believes women will be underrepresented in business and government until women become part of the decision-making process. She happily mentors women who want to run for office.

In 2017, she and her business partner established the River Town Film Festival, (RTFF) a non-profit in Hunterdon County that explores the theme of community through independent films. She has also worked with the Hunterdon County Economic Development to establish the Hunterdon County Film Commission, which she chairs. 

In 2019, Janice was appointed by Governor Murphy and received Senate confirmation as a member of the NJ Motion Picture and Television Commission where she assists productions navigating local NJ government.

Janice has served on various boards and advisory committees such as: Girl Scouts, Heart of NJ and the Women’s Heart Foundation, the United Way Women’s Leadership Council, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ, and the Global Advisory Board for Honor Diaries as well as being an executive board member and chair of the Education & Training Committee of the NJ Women’s Political Caucus.  She has also served in leadership roles with NatWest Bank and Prudential.

She, her husband Stephen, their two boys Zachary and Hunter and her Portuguese Water Dogs Sadie and Reign, live in Clinton while her daughter Taylor, son-in-law Joseph and grandson Bastian live in Colorado.

Lifetime Achievement for Cinematography

Ron Vidor

Ron Vidor’s envious career in cinematography spans five decades and twenty-seven westerns, setting him apart as a landmark artist, still active in his craft. Ron says, “I will never give up that ride until dying in the saddle.”

His numerous movie credits include Rocky III, Stand by Me, Lethal Weapon, Romancing the Stone, Boogie Nights, Revenge of The Nerds, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Grease II, The Sting II, Mean Streets, Carrie, Jaws, Pretty Woman, Hello Dolly, Funny Girl among others.  His television career includes gems such as The Waltons, Charlies Angels, Star Trek-(The original 1966 series) Hitchcock Presents, ER, Dallas, The Green Hornet, Batman, and The Lucy Show to name a few. Check for a great deal more on Ron’s IMDB listing.

Ron was the only cinematographer to become a union member of all three camera union jurisdictions in the U.S. at the same time and has worked in all genres of camera including features, TV, commercials, music videos, documentaries, news, specials, reality shows, and Multi Camera Sitcom. He has worked with over 101 different types of cameras from film 16mm to 65mm to video AND digital. Ron is noted to have specialized in all cinematography related specialty venues.

Throughout his storied career, Ron has worked with many notables including five different Steven Spielberg projects, and with numerous directors including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, John Huston, Robert Zemeckis, Rob Reiner, Mel Gibson, Mel Brooks, and many more. 

Ron was one of the first four Steadicam Operators in Hollywood. He helped design the first Panaflex Camera at the request of the original head owner of Panavision. His honors include cinematography nominations and awards including Academy, Oscar, Emmy, ASC, and TV Commercial and Documentary Awards. In 2018 Ron was awarded the rare “Honorary Lifetime Member- Gold Card” of the I.A.T.S.E and International Cinematographers Guild. We are honored to add Lifetime Achievement Award for Cinematography from The Garden State Film Festival to that prestigious list!

Independent Spirit Award

Ron Perlman

Golden Globe winning actor Ron Perlman can currently be heard in the Academy Award nominated film PINOCCHIO directed by Guillermo del Toro and seen in POKER FACE for Peacock.  Prior to that, he was in NIGHTMARE ALLEY opposite Bradley Cooper & Cate Blanchett and Adam McKay’s DON’T LOOK UP opposite Leonardo DiCaprio & Jennifer Lawrence.

Next, he is set to star in the latest iteration of the Transformers franchise TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS for Paramount and the reboot of MR. AND MRS. SMITH for Amazon studios.

Prior to this, Ron can be seen in Paul WS Anderson’s MONSTER HUTER for Screen Gems as well as the incredibly popular film FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM for Heydey and Warner Bros, written by JK Rowling, and based in the Harry Potter world.   

Ron is a classically trained actor whose career spans over 30 years, having worked with George RR Martin on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and Nicolas Winding Refn in the hit film, DRIVE, opposite Ryan Gosling, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, and Michelle Williams. Ron was famously the lead of Guillermo del Toro’s hit HELLBOY franchise for Columbia Pictures and also starred in Guillermo’s highly-successful film PACIFIC RIM for Warner Bros, which grossed over $400mm worldwide. In addition to his studio film success, Ron has also starred in acclaimed independent features including STONEWALL for Roland Emmerich, a Jon Robin Baitz scripted pic about the 1969 police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village that became the flashpoint for gay rights.

On the TV front, Ron has worked on many successful projects, including the hit BBC One spy thriller, THE CAPTURE, and Kurt Sutter’s hit show for FX, SONS OF ANARCHY, which ran for 7 seasons. Ron was also a series regular on Sony Crackle’s STARTUP opposite Adam Brody and Martin Freeman. His performances always bring a fresh and unique take on his role and his passion for film is why he continues to be one of the most sought-after actors in the business. Ron has an incredible ability to transition from playing a superhero to common man, allowing audiences to not only enjoy his performances but immerse themselves in his films.

lifetime achievement FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Donald B. Kravitz

Photographs are the universal language of our era.  Mastering a tool that calls our attention to the things we miss in our everyday lives and our attention to events and people at a great distance from our own section of the universe.  Photographers are dedicated, passionate individuals who bring a vision we would otherwise not see.

The work of Donald B. Kravitz, has been showcased around the world in publications including Rolling Stone Magazine, USA Today, NY Post, NY Daily News as well as billboards and on buses and hundreds of additional magazines and newspapers. Among Don’s collection includes celebrities such as Mary J. Blige, Sting, Foreigner, Usher, Pitbull, Slash, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Billy Idol, Heart, Jason Aldean, and many others.

After completing service as a Green Beret, Don became a professional performance and special event photographer. He began photographing Miss America in 1994, a project he still photographs. He has been a photographer for Getty Images Entertainment since 2003 and the South Jersey native proudly photographed the Philadelphia Phillies from 2008, through their World Series winning 2012 season. He is a popular photographer of the Atlantic City Casino industry as well.

Over the years, Don has volunteered his services to non-profits such as The New Jersey Special Olympics, The Sunshine Foundation and the Heart Of Surfing where he is a Board Member, the Children’s Miracle Network and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Don and his wife Carol have been married for 36 years. Both Don and Carol have been great supporters of the Garden State Film Festival over these many years and it is our great pleasure to honor Don.

See some of Don’s work here.


Kenny Vance

Singer, songwriter, music producer, actor, film director– Kenny Vance’s multi-faceted career started when he was a teenager in the 1950s, as an original founding member of the iconic rock group Jay and the Americans. The group released fifteen albums, with many singles hitting the top 10. They also opened for the Beatles at their first American show at the Washington Coliseum, as well as the Rolling Stones, at Carnegie Hall, in their first American tour. Kenny’s work spans music supervision of films, solo album projects and TV, where he was Music Supervisor for Saturday Night Live and brought legendary talent including James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Prince onto the show. His music supervision in film includes, among others, Animal House, Hairspray, the breakthrough film, The Warriors, credited as the first rock & roll full-length feature soundtrack, as well as Eddie & the Cruisers, a New Jersey classic. His collaboration with the young Walter Becker and Donald Fagen is considered foundational to their emergence as the group Steely Dan.

Kenny’s recordings and live performances with his group, Kenny Vance and The Planotones, express the heart  and soul of Doo-Wop, and  Heart & Soul: a Love Story, his debut as a film director, continues his mission to illuminate the makers and the magic of the midcentury bedrock of rock & roll.

Don’t miss Kenny Vance’s film, “Heart & Soul: a Love Story”, about the legendary artists and impact of mid-century Doo-Wop music screening on Saturday at Asbury Lanes! Congratulations Kenny! You are certainly the Spirt of New Jersey!

Exceptional Women in Film

Carla Raij was born in Minneapolis to Argentinian immigrant parents, the youngest of three daughters. She began her film career in 1994 in New York as bilingual office assistant on the film I Like It Like That, shooting in the Bronx. From this experience she built a long and successful career as a sought after East Coast based DGA Location Manager, on multiple productions such as the Academy Award® winning film The Departed, Kate & Leopold & The Day After Tomorrow, among others. After the birth of her first son, she returned to work as a Director’s Guild Unit Production Manager. After her first production management job working for Martin Scorsese on Shine a Light, her UPM career took off as she continued working on films such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Tower Heist, Fast and the Furious 8 and the Academy Award® nominated films Bridge of Spies and The Post from the mind of Steven Spielberg.  In addition, she added to her resume yet another film for Martin Scorsese, The Irishman and the amazing reimagined story of The Joker by Todd Phillips. However, it is her work on West Side Story, for Amblin Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Disney that she currently the most proud of as Latinx Woman in the film industry.

She recently wrapped production with Steven Spielberg again, on The Fabelman’s for Amblin Entertainment.  She is married to fellow filmmaker Stuart Dryburgh, and together they have two sons, Joaquin and Mateo, and live happily in Brooklyn.


Born and raised in Lincroft, NJ and has lived in Monmouth County entire life. Graduate of Christian Brothers & Rollins College. Started his Insurance career in 1985 and continues today as owner of Heritage Benefits Group, started by he and his late wife Donnalyn Giegerich. The Agency was recognized by the Rothman Institute as a Semi Finalist as Family Business of the year.
An award winning photographer who started his second profession 10 years ago, Tom has supported the GSFF for several years. 
Beside assisting non profits with photography, Tom’s Community involvement is extensive. Fostering Rescue Dogs, Hosting Fresh Air Fund kids, Red Bank Rotary, Kick Cancer Overboard.
Other Awards and activities include: EMACC Spinnaker Award Winner, Red Bank Rotary President, Girl Scouts Good Neighbor Community Award.Rollins College Alumni Service Award.

Rising Star Award


Sophia Lucia Parola is a first-generation Liberian and Argentinean, born and raised in New Jersey. She is an actress, writer, model, professional host, and reiki practitioner. Since she was five, Sophia knew wanted to be a performer. But with no idea how to begin, and no other performers in the family, she grew up thinking it was just a dream and majored in Mathematics following high school. After taking her first acting class at Brookdale Performing Arts Center, (and tutoring a kid in math who ended up doing worse), she and inner child fell in love again and she never stopped acting since.

Sophia graduated from Brookdale Community College with an A.A in Journalism, and Monmouth University with a B.A in Radio and Television Communications. During her studies, she trained as an actor and performed in plays, local films, and as a host for Brookdale TV. She also won a contest to be the next MTVU Video Jockey in 2017. Following college, she studied acting privately, at Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Kimball Studio, the Neighborhood Playhouse, and many more. She strongly believes in continuous learning and always adding to her craft and skillset as an artist.


You can see Sophia in Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpireFBI: Most Wanted, and in Hed PE’s music video, “Waiting.” She has numerous indie film credits including, “Marijuana Minutes” which you can watch on Amazon, and “Last Known Location” that will premiere at the 22nd annual Garden State Film Festival. She has also performed at NJ Repertory Theater, Hip to Hip Theater, Brookdale Performing Arts Center, and others. Check out her IMDB for further and future credits, or her website, www.sophiaparola.com

Educator of the Year


Since 2008, David has been handling dual roles at Spectrum360, teaching TV Broadcasting and as the Program Director of FilmAcademy360.

Prior to joining us, David traveled the world as a TV producer/director interviewing sports figures, politicians, authors and actors. David held various roles at Rizzoli New Media, Sky Italia and RAI, the Italian national broadcaster.

David is an active member of The Student Television Network, New Jersey Educational Computing Cooperative (NJECC) and presenter at the Producers Guild of America. He’s most proud of founding a program that has impacted the lives of many students.

David earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics at Rutgers University and Master in Education from Wilkes University. When he’s not behind the camera or directing his students, you can find David hiking or traveling frequently to Italy where his bi-national and multilingual kids are currently in school.


Each year GSFF recognizes an organization that uses the art of filmmaking for the greater good. This year, we are proud to present it to our friends at NJ Natural Gas in recognition of their Annual Conserve to Preserve® (CTP) Kids and Conservation Video Contest. These delightful videos stress energy conservation and protecting our environment.  There is no greater good than that! The CTP Kids and Conservation Video Contest is open to all fifth-grade students in NJNG’s service area. Students are encouraged to use their imagination to illustrate energy-saving ideas for a chance to win. Many have been selected to screen at GSFF! Well done NJNG!

Beacon Award

Gail Barringer

Gail Barringer is a television producer who began her career in production accounting. She produced over 175 episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit” and seasons 2-4 of “Person of Interest” before jumping into the Marvel world with “The Punisher” and “Luke Cage.” Barringer then went on to produce Netflix’s revival of “Tales of the City,” Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” and most recently season 1 of “Emergence” for ABC.

Screenplay Winners

Short Screenplay Winner

BTB by Colin Hickey

Born on Long Island, NY. Lived in Valley Stream and Garden City. Graduated from Chaminade High School in 2005. Attended Drexel University before transferring to Hofstra University. Graduated from Hofstra with a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies & Production and a Masters of Fine Arts in Documentary Studies & Production.

Teleplay Screenplay Winner

A Feminist Fairytale by Deborah Rayne, Catherine Eaton

Deborah Rayne was born and raised in Pennsylvania, moving to NYC to pursue a career in the arts. She graduated from Hofstra University, gaining invaluable experience in classical theater, as well as broadcast radio, film and television. Always evolving, Deborah added “Producer” to her resume, launching Rainy Day Productions in 2012. This start-up production company focuses on developing world premiere plays, as well as indie television series and film projects from emerging writers. Deborah and her company are particularly interested in amplifying the voices and stories of women, as they champion female led narratives featuring female- identifying writers and directors. Contributing to these goals, Deborah has begun writing feminist scripts as well. Her award-winning pilot script, “Flawless: A Feminist Fairytale” tells contemporary feminist versions of all your favorite fairy tales… and asks us to examine what happens AFTER “Happily Ever After”. Her feminist historical pilot “Kingmaker” tells the extraordinary true story of Marion Keisker: the Civil Rights activist, Feminist Icon and Sam Phillips’ ‘secretary’ who just so happened to discover Elvis Presley and changed the world.

Catherine and Deborah

Feature Screenplay Winner

The Dude Is Legit!
by Dan Clemens and Laurie Clemens-Maier

Dan Clemens
Executive Producer, Co-writer

Dan’s unbelievable path to professional baseball is the genesis for his multiple award-winning screenplay, The Dude Is Legit!.  A two-time all-state baseball pitcher, he earned a D-1 scholarship and was off to a promising start until shoulder surgeries derailed his competitive career.  Three decades later he got the call of a lifetime, offering him the chance to make his pro debut at 51 years old.  Dan eventually became the oldest player in Pecos league history to win a game as a pitcher, get a hit and an RBI, and score a run.  Based on his earlier experiences coaching his son, Dan authored the book, A Perfect Season: A Coach’s Journey to Learning, Competing, and Having Fun in Youth Baseball. He was also a high school baseball coach for five years.

When not playing or writing about baseball, Dan is a project manager, business consultant, and professional writer. A veteran of several Fortune 500 companies as employee and consultant, Dan has mastered the art of corporate storytelling, helping leaders and employees communicate more effectively up, down and across the organization. He’s managed communications and change management aspects of complex, multi-million-dollar projects and initiatives in both the public and private sectors. He has a Master of Humanities degree from the University of Colorado at Denver, and his undergraduate work is in Speech Communication at Colorado State University.

Laurie Clemens-Maier

A Colorado native, Laurie is an award-winning writer and actor. Her script, I Met Her at Birkenau, won Best Feature Screenplay at the Golden Pen Script Awards and features strong female characters discovering what they’re willing to do to stay alive. A Lily So Fair, co-written with Dennis Crowder, a finalist in The Monthly Film Festival, shows another strong female protagonist struggling to survive at the turn of the century Chicago. Pink Boa is an insightful and disturbing look at sex trafficking told from the female perspective.

Laurie has also written, directed, produced, and acted in several shorts, including Deadvolt, Gift, and Stand Up. Most recently, On Top of Me, which she wrote, starred, directed, and produced, won best short in the San Diego Independent Cinema Awards.  A teacher for 30 years, Laurie taps her passions for history and current events for her feature screenplays on historical subjects. An avid reader, she also was a high school gymnast and played softball.