By SHIRLEY WITHERSPOON
As a matter of disclosure, Kenneth Del Vecchio is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Empire State News. This article was written before he assumed those titles. ESN had published some positive material about him – and some not-so-positive!
In just 10 days after Hoboken International Film Festival Chairman Kenneth Del Vecchio announced that he decided that his mega-event would not be returning to Middletown, the Village of Greenwood Lake swept in and inked a three-year deal with the festival. Several media outlets reported HIFF being in negotiations with locales ranging from Rockland County to Bergen County, New Jersey to Hoboken, the festival’s original site.
The Rockland County Times, an influential, historic newspaper in that community, headlined an article with: “ROCKLAND COUNTY, LET’S GET THIS DONE! World-renowned Hoboken Film Festival looking for new home; Rockland County tops list of desired locations.” Referring to HIFF’s Chairman as “The Great Del Vecchio”, the newspaper added, “The event has attracted stars such as Robert Loggia, Danny Aiello, Jonathan Silverman, Jane Seymour, Billy Dee Williams and Eric Roberts in recent years, while bringing up to 15,000 visitors annually and millions of dollars in economic activity to the downtown center of Middletown. The festival is known for attracting a diverse array of films and has premiered several “National Lampoons” productions.”
The Hudson Reporter, the leading newspaper based in Hoboken, asked, “Hoboken International Film Festival to return” to the mile square, thriving city that borders Manhattan?
The answer to their question is “No.” Now, all of HIFF’s glitz, glamour, and economic stimulation will be brought to Greenwood Lake, New York – which means a sigh of relief to masses of Orange County residents, who feared that the festival would move to a far off location.
The actual lake part of Greenwood Lake is split between New York’s Village of Greenwood Lake and New Jersey’s West Milford which, according to Del Vecchio, is part of the village’s geographic appeal. Del Vecchio said, “The Village of Greenwood Lake has the ultimate geography for Hoboken International Film Festival. In being an Orange County community, it allows me to be loyal to the thousands of residents who have faithfully attended the festival for the last several years. People come from every end of the county to HIFF, and they can just as easily get to Greenwood Lake.”
The local base of festival attendees is expanded by the move to Greenwood Lake, according to Del Vecchio. “Given that part of the lake is in West Milford, we will get a lot more attendance from that cool community, as well as all of Passaic, Sussex, Bergen, and Hudson Counties – because we are closer to them. We already have had numerous people travelling from New Jersey to Orange County because that state is where I founded HIFF, but now with being so much closer to New Jersey, we will get even more. Additionally, Greenwood Lake is only 45 minutes from New York City. That means our New York City audience will naturally grow.”
But Greenwood Lake’s proximity to New Jersey and Manhattan is hardly Del Vecchio’s leading reason for moving his extravaganza event to this small, tourist community. “It’s the stunning beauty of the venue that blew me away. It’s why I moved my family to Warwick last December,” Del Vecchio proclaimed, alluding to the fact that Greenwood Lake is part of the Town of Warwick. “The festival is now going to be held on a beach! A beach that sits on a gorgeous lake, where HIFF’s filmmakers and attendees can go swimming, boating, jet skiing, while at the same time watching movies. This is the ultimate, exciting destination location, and I can’t wait to market it to the filmmakers and fans from throughout the states and around the world, who come to HIFF.”
It’s quite logical that filmmakers will want to see their movies screened on a beach that is nestled on a uniformly agreed-upon beautiful lake. And that attendees, wherever they hail from, will want to dine at restaurants that sit on the water, and sleep at quaint bed and breakfast-style hotels. But where is the theater?
“It’s the beach,” Del Vecchio said, referring to Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park. Del Vecchio advised that the set-up will be very similar to how he ran the festival in Hoboken. There, the city erected a large tent at Frank Sinatra Park, which abuts the Hudson River and is a stone’s throw from the Manhattan skyline. The same design will occur at Greenwood Lake, with the village putting up a tent. Already, there is a stage at the park. Del Vecchio said that a secondary venue in the town will be employed, although he didn’t specify where.
Thomas Morahan Waterfront Park can accommodate 3,000 – 4,000 people, a sizable increase from HIFF’s last venue at Middletown’s Paramount Theater. Del Vecchio also cited the “artistic community” vibe of Greenwood Lake and Warwick as an added benefit, when making the decision to move to Greenwood Lake. And he described Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer as being important reasons for picking Greenwood Lake over the many others in the hunt to snare the festival. “Jesse Dwyer is a young, innovative guy. He’s very smart and easy to get along with, and he understands what HIFF will mean to the residents and businesses in his community. He has an understanding of effective governing that goes well beyond the reaches of most elected officials that are twice his age,” Del Vecchio said in talking about the town’s mayor. “And Steve Neuhaus was a primary reason why I chose to stay in Orange County in the first place. The county has been an integral sponsor of the festival. Steve has personally been an important part of the festival, a welcomed face who my guests look forward to seeing every year. He is an economic-boosting machine. And that’s exactly what Orange County needs.”
On Dwyer’s Facebook page, he posted, “We have some BIG NEWS coming to Greenwood Lake next Monday. Come out to the Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park to hear this exciting announcement. Press conference will begin at 1:30 p.m. promptly on Monday, July 25th.” He connected to the post a media alert that stated, “On the film set of Kenneth Del Vecchio’s newest movie, PUPPETS, Hoboken International Film Festival, the Village of Greenwood Lake, NY, and Orange County, NY will be making a very special announcement that will bring substantial economic stimulation and excitement to this beautiful lake community and surrounding Orange County.”
No doubt that this festival will bring Greenwood Lake significant economy growth, as well as all of Orange County. HIFF – called “One of the 10 biggest film festivals in the world” by media outlets such as FOX and Time Warner – and Del Vecchio’s movie productions have been credited with infusing millions of dollars into the local economy every year, and creating hundreds of jobs. Already, Del Vecchio has begun bringing the economic and Hollywood bonanza to Greenwood Lake. On the same day as Monday’s press conference, he is shooting scenes from his newest project, “Puppets,” a TV pilot comedy created by Hudson Valley lawyer Larry Weissman. According to a media alert and confirmed by Del Vecchio, appearing on Monday at Thomas P. Morahan Park, the venue of both the press conference and the film shooting, will be some of the TV pilot’s stars, including Martin Kove (The Karate Kid; Rambo), Julie McCullough (“Growing Pains”; Sharknado), Margaret Reed (“As the World Turns”), and HIFF Opening Night Host Buddy Fitzpatrick. Gilbert Gottfried is the perennial host of HIFF’s Gala Awards Ceremony.
Del Vecchio, who has written/produced 30 movies that star several Academy Award and Emmy winners and nominees which are distributed by likes of industry giants NBCUniversal, Anchor Bay, and Screen Media Films, is also a best-selling author of both novels and legal books. His criminal codebooks, published by Pearson Education/Prentice Hall and ALM, are considered the best-selling criminal law books in the nation. He’s also an attorney and former judge and prosecutor. Del Vecchio is the producer of “Puppets” and he did some of the script’s writing, along with Weissman, who he describes as a “very talented and funny writer.” The project is directed by Del Vecchio’s longtime filmmaking partner Dylan Bank, who just landed the director position of the upcoming Netflix Original Film, Stone Cold Hitman. Joining Del Vecchio and Weissman as executive producers of “Puppets” are two other Hudson Valley lawyers, Carol Barbash (Legal Director of Social Services in Rockland County) and Scott Ugell (New City Justice). Del Vecchio said he “loves the idea of working with other lawyers who are passionate about film. This group is exceptional. They’re all great people.”
Now, will everyone in Greenwood Lake think Del Vecchio is a great person? The man with the Renaissance Man background has, as previously reported in Empire State News, been described by detractors as conceited, loud-mouthed, rude, bombastic, and having a penchant for making inflammatory remarks. He is a tough, hard, perhaps brash, person. Some say that he is obnoxious and outlandish. He refers to people as “nude” if they are “cool”, and “non-nude” if he thinks they are “not cool.”
To that, Del Vecchio says, “This is cool for Greenwood Lake and Hoboken International Film Festival. And those who don’t like me, well, they are not cool.” Guess he skipped saying “nude” in the interview for this article. Fortunately for Greenwood Lake, it seems that many more people think of him and his film festival as very “cool.” Watch the HIFF highlights reel here, and listen to what superstar actors like Paul Sorvino, Joyce DeWitt, Charles Durning (and even U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer) have to say about HIFF and Del Vecchio personally.
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