Posted by: Drew | March 27, 2008

30 Minutes With Diane Raver, Co Founder GSFF.org

I was privileged to have an interview with Diane Brown Raver, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Garden State Film Festival, now in its 6th year. She truly exemplifies the heart and character of the Jersey Shore.

No stranger to the entertainment industry, Diane Raver has been instrumental in the creation and execution of The Garden State Film Festival which is held in Asbury Park, NJ every spring. Due to her solid relationship with members of the film community, the people of the Jersey Shore, and, most importantly, corporate sponsors, the Festival continues to grow larger each year. Diane’s experience in film production and being the first woman president of a commercial production company, gives her a unique perspective on creating a destination event.

The Garden State Film Festival

The Garden State Film Festival has grown into a destination event for New York and Philadelphia as well as the great Garden State. With a full series of events stretching out over the entire weekend of April 4th-6th 2008, now only about a week away Diane likens the bedlam to being on a large film shoot. When asked what kind of challenges has the Garden State Film Festival has faced, Diane emphasized ” Every single one you could think of…” from dealing with unique personalities to the unexpected losses of Co Founder Robert Pastorelli (in 2003) and then the personal loss of her husband, noted cinematographer M. Carroll Raver this past year. She added “There hasn’t been a challenge we didn’t take head on…it’s what you do in production”. Diane has been instrumental in creating a lasting legacy for the filmmakers that can in some terms be traced back to Thomas Edison and the first movie studio in New Jersey. It will be a legacy that will continue to give young independent filmmakers a venue to be seen and heard here in the Garden State.

Asbury Park Connection

If you think Asbury Park isn’t the first place that comes to mind for a statewide event, then you haven’t been to Asbury Park lately. Diane explained, “When I was a child every single cultural event was in Asbury Park.” “My kids are fifth generation Jersey Shore”, she added. While she lived and worked in New York for over twenty years a point came when it was time to come back to the shore. What she found was not the Asbury Park of her youth, it had changed and she wanted to do something to help reawaken that cultural fire that was still lying dormant. The Festival is one of the many reasons Asbury Park has seen a continued revitalization.

Growing Audience

From its humble beginnings with only about 3,000 attendees, the festival has grown to 10,000 people mainly from North Jersey and New York. With the ongoing revitalization of Asbury Park, part and parcel with Madison Marquette and the City of Asbury Park, the participation will assuredly continue to grow. The Festival has even started to pull the elusive South Jersey and Philadelphia market. This may be due to two of the films Greetings from the Shore which has already garnered 17 awards at other Festivals and Bricktown both featured this year at the festival. Diane likes to joke, “There is life above the Manasquan River“, hoping to see a record turnout this year, given that both films were shot in Ocean County. To enforce that point members from the Cape May Film Festival will be in attendance for the first time this year.

Lending Support

Funding for a Nonprofit can be a challenging issue. Diane is quick to say, “We are very blessed to have the finest arts council in the state. The Monmouth County Arts Council. I can’t sing their praises enough!” The Festival has been able to remain solvent due to a rising attendance, a small grant from Monmouth County, the efforts of a volunteer staff, as well as Diane’s industry experience as a sales rep and producer. With state budget cuts that keep trimming funding for the Arts Diane feels that the private sector may need to step up to the plate at some point.

While she won’t be specific, a certain famous New Jersey native and supporter of Asbury Park has shown support in a big way to the Monmouth County Arts Council when the state cut their program budgets. For the most part “there are no warm and fuzzys” with many of the New Jersey celebrities, which is a loss for everyone. She does caution “I’m not even asking people for money, but to just send a letter or a drive by as it would mean a huge amount to any of the arts organizations”. It seems that the New Jersey music industry is much quicker to lend their name back to the state then film personalities.

Greetings from the Shore

Diane is very excited this year “We actually have more movies this year from the immediate area and the state, of the finest quality than we have had before,” she continued “…part of our mission was to stimulate production in the state” and as we all know that “brings economic vitality”. This past year there were several Shore productions including “Greetings from the Shore” filmed in Lavallette, NJ and “Bricktown” filmed in Brick, NJ.

Some Advice

“Keep it short and sweet” she says, since the biggest complaint she hears about independent films is that they drag on. You should find a good editor and use them. Also, she warns “Anytime I see a film come through where they are writer, director, producer, cameraman, and editor … I know we are in trouble.” Traditionally all in one operations tend to fall in love with their own footage and they really need to diversify and let someone else cut it. She also advises “First of all you need to have a foundation of a decent script, there’s got to be an idea there, a beginning, a middle and an end”. “What happens is something that should have been a 20 minute film, they turn into a 60 minute film”. She finishes that “The person directing really should not be doing the editing, occasionally it works, but for the most part you fall in love with the footage for the wrong reasons”. Solid advice considering Diane founded two companies, The Madison Group and Proximity Films, serving as the President & Executive Producer for both organizations.

Down the Road

Diane’s real concern with the festival is that “I don’t want it to turn into one of these festivals that really has nothing to do with Indies (Independent Films) anymore”, she continued “…one of the things I am most proud of is the fact that we are a community based group and we celebrate the independent film genre.” Diane is proud that there is this legacy for Robert Pastorelli and her husband Carroll. “Isn’t it wonderful that they didn’t pass through this life with out being able to give something back.”, she said. How can anyone disagree with that?

The Rest Of The Story

Most people “in the know” are familiar with the story about how Diane and Robert Pastorelli  met in a grocery store in Sea Grit, NJ. That story has been downplayed although it truly has the makings of an adult coming of age movie. Diane recounts, “It was one of those defining moments in your life that changes everything” After spending some time in Southern France and being at Cannes she realized that a film festival could be a great way to bring Hollywood to New Jersey. The question was how was she going to do it?

After returning to New Jersey, one night while shopping for a dinner party, she saw former TV star Robert Pastorelli standing in the store dressed in a leather jacket and sunglasses. Picture it, every woman’s nightmare, you run out for a few things not expecting to meet anyone and someone crosses your path that could change your life. For her and many filmmakers history was about to be made. She had to stop and think about what she was going to say and then she decided as a former film rep, makeup and heels or not she would take a shot and approach him. After chatting on and off for four aisles she invited him to the dinner party the following night. New Jersey is a small world after all. It turned out she was neighbors with his sister and their families became fast friends, a friendship that continues to this day. On the topics of that chance meeting and The Garden State Film Festival she says, “I found my soul, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world”.

By Drew King

Another fantastic interview from 2007 can be found at Prime Woman Magazine
I would also like to thank PR Agent Nanette Lenoard for arranging this interview.

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Responses

  1. […] News – Red Bank NJ – Relay for Life – Diane Raver – 5pm – 10am Join Diane Raver Co-Founder of the Garden State Film Festival and Wife of the late famed cinematographer  M. […]


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