The state of New Jersey is rich in beauty with so much to offer including a safe atmosphere to raise newly budding families. However, reality shows like MTV’s the Grind, The Jersey Shore, or New Jersey Housewives have threatened to taint viewers perspective of New Jersey and even give it’s residents a negative reputation. Meanwhile, many talented actors, writers, producers, directors, singers and artists were born and raised in New Jersey and are nothing like the image or idol’s Hollywood tries to paint with it’s “reality television” trend and cast of dysfunctional characters.

What most viewers don’t realize is that much of reality television is not real, organic or even true. The majority of reality shows have producers and directors behind the scenes that are putting everyday people in scripted situations that just appear to be “reality.” It’s a hoax, smoke and mirrors as some would like to say, and basically all lies. Do the research. Hollywood grosses millions each year on unsuspecting viewers who think they are watching a real life scenario play out in front of them, when in actuality they are paying millions to be deceived.

Further research exposes that the holly wood is a choice piece of wood that magicians, sorcerers and those who practiced magic, witchcraft and deception would use to cast spells. Centuries ago the holly wood was the main source of wood used in their magic wands. Is it a coincidence that an entire industry based off of fantasy would be named after a magic wand?

History shows that the first movie studio was actually founded in West Orange, New Jersey by Thomas Edison in 1893. Since then, New Jersey has continued to birth many successful movies, television shows, independent feature films, short films, documentaries, theatrical performances and even well respected acting schools like The New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts in Bloomfield, NJ.

New Jersey is a humble state that continues to get a negative wrap and no one is able to see what the state really has to offer. In 2015, 67 Feature Films and 19 Television series were filmed in New Jersey. In 2016, 53 Feature Films and 183 Television series were filmed in New Jersey. Even the amount of Independent Film Festivals in New Jersey have grown exponentially in the past 10 years.

One of the film festivals that has gained a lot of positive press lately is The Jersey Shore Film Festival. It took place from August 3 through August 7, 2017 in Asbury Park, NJ. The festival has been around for a while, but last weekend it gained more attention and popularity then ever before. Filmmakers from New Jersey and beyond showed up at the House of Independents to watch films that were thoughtfully selected. Every film had a message that touched on the human condition and almost every filmmaker posted about the incredible time they had while at the festival. The festival was sold out and maxed to capacity to the point where people are already inquiring about the dates the festival will take place next year.

The festival was originally founded by Stevie Doueck who ran JSFF for about 10 years. This year Doueck did one thing differently then years prior, he appointed a staff of about 9 filmmakers from New Jersey to run the festival. Doueck appointed John Hedlund as the director in charge of The 2017 Jersey Shore Film Festival. Hedlund was born and raised in New Jersey where he started acting in local theater and went on to become the Technical Director and Post Production Supervisor for PopSugar’s live web broadcasts and cable television show. He then partnered with Francesco Nuzzi to form Open Iris Entertainment. They produced, directed, and edited the award winning feature film “Star Crossed Lovers” along with many other short films shot in New Jersey. Hedlund was calm, balanced, and loving toward his entire staff throughout the run of the festival. It is that balanced persona that set the tone for a smooth flowing, light hearted, fun filled festival that people have been raving about days after it’s completion. John Hedlund’s wife, Katie Hedlund, served as a major support to John and the JSFF team by helping everything run smoothly behind the scenes and greeting every attendee with a warm smile as they entered the building.

Francesco Nuzzi assisted Hedlund with running The Jersey Shore Film Festival. Nuzzi was raised in New Jersey and worked as an actor in numerous theater companies before appearing on television in shows like General Hospital, Guiding Light, White Collar and Unforgettable. He recently starred in the feature Rambler and played Mercutio in a films adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Nuzzi’s short film “The Writer” screened at the festival and his comedic performance lightened the mood after some heavy films screened in the prior film block. Nuzzi established a sense of family and camaraderie within the JSFF team and made sure that every member of the team was taken care of from beginning to end.

Hedlund and Nuzzi teamed up with New Jersey raised actress Danielle Nicolette Najarian and appointed her the Host of The Jersey Shore Film Festival’s red carpet. Najarian interviewed each filmmaker that attended the festival and allowed them to shine by highlighting their talents and abilities that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Danielle Nicolette Najarian holds a degree in Psychology & the Performing Arts from Monmouth University and is a true humanitarian. She seeks to heal others through the roles she brings to life and the stories she’s a part of. She started acting in theater at a very young age. She then became a back up dancer for major stars like Mariah Carey while in college. Later she moved to LA where she trained and worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood’s like Will Smith, Christian Slater, Felicity Hoffman, Amy Brenneman, Taye Digs, Tim Daly, Emmy winner Rami Malek and many, many others. She’s had reoccurring appearances on TV shows like ABC’s Private Practice and USA’s Mr. Robot. Danielle appreciates independent films and has completed a number of films and television pilot’s since she’s been on the east coast. She is getting ready to star in a feature film shooting on the Jersey Shore at the end of this month.

Keith Bishop was hired as the main cinematographer of The Jersey Shore Film Festival and was born in Upper Saddle River, NJ. He worked alongside Danielle Nicolette Najarian covering footage of interviews on the red carpet, the Q&A panels after each block and he built up and broke down the step and repeat and red carpet each day of the festival. He directed the film, “3 Minutes to Air” and has worked as a cinematographer on numerous independent films. Melissa O’ Donnell served as the festival’s Program Director where she strategically arranged the films in each block of the festival in a way that conveyed a similar message. Melissa appreciates the deeper aspects of storytelling and how it touches on the human condition. Melissa was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She is a LaSalle University graduate with a degree in Psychology and a passion for the arts. She has been in over 40 independent films and studio projects and has worked on the board of other independent film festivals in the past.

Greg Jolley was the head photographer of the festival along with his partner Amber Appleberg on second camera. Jolley was raised in New Jersey and is a professional photographer as well as a director, writer, producer and editor at Open Iris Entertainment along with Hedlund and Nuzzi. He produced and directed the independent film Flare that screened at JSFF. Debbie Higgins conducted the Q&A panels at the end of each film block and kept the crowd engaged and interested by appreciating the work that went into each film. She lives in New Jersey where she graduated with a BA in Music from Monmouth University and has served on the staff of JSFF since the beginning.

The Jersey Shore Film Festival took place in an intimate setting under one roof at the House Of Independents in Asbury Park, NJ. Many film festivals, movie screenings and events take place at the House of Independents throughout the year, but one exceptionally talented team made a positive impact on the indie filmmakers who attended and shined brightly on the Jersey Shore this past weekend. John Hedlund, Katie Hedlund, Francesco Nuzzi, Keith Bishop, Greg Jolley, Amber Appleberg, Debbie Higgins, Melissa O’Donnell and actress Danielle Nicolette Najarian were the team that transformed The House of Independents into a home. These 9 young artists came together like a family and brought heart, soul, healing and love back to the Jersey Shore. The warm, welcoming atmosphere that they created along with the heartfelt films that were shown on the big screen is enough to bring New Jersey a new level of respect and a positive reputation in the entertainment industry. So much so, that actor Dash Mihok from NBC’s Ray Donovan, spent the weekend hanging out with this JSFF Crew and even introduced them to his music. ABC’s 20/20 also showed up to cover the festival and a film that screened there titled, “The Twinning Reaction.” In their first year of working together the JSFF Crew have brought the “New” back to the Jersey Shore and have proven what true New Jersey residents are really made of.