dan_ratherBroadcast news legend Dan Rather joined Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton and other esteemed adjudicators for PROJECT FX, the Count Basie Theatre’s annual competition for New Jersey student filmmakers. The winning entries receive a free public screening this Sunday afternoon, April 17.

Project FX logoThe revolution that placed pro-grade videography and editing tech into the hands of aspiring filmmakers everywhere — and the social media mechanism that allows neighborhood auteurs to have their work be viewed by mass audiences — is at the heart of Project FX, the Count Basie Theatre’s statewide film competition for students of New Jersey high schools and colleges.

Sponsored by Bank of America and presented in partnership with Sony Pictures Classics, the contest collected hundreds of short-form narrative and documentary entries between October 2015 and March 2016 — and on Sunday, April 17, the winning films will be showcased on the big Basie screen during a second annual Project FX Festival that also features workshops with film industry professionals.

Finalists were selected from the field of entries by a panel of judges that included screen star Timothy Hutton (an Academy Award winner for Ordinary People), TV news legend Dan Rather, and actor Brian O’Halloran (of the Clerks franchise and other Kevin Smith projects). They joined Sony Pictures Classics co-president (and Middletown resident) Tom Bernard, TV sportscaster Bonnie Bernstein, Shore Flicks owner TJ (Brustowicz) Bryan, Basie CEO Adam Philipson, and Basie board member Maureen Van Zandt among many other local luminaries, in assembling the slate of submissions that unspools beginning at 2 p.m.

Finalists in the High School category include one from the greater Red Bank Green area — Painted Cranes by Sage Levine of Middletown High School South — among the field of ten entrants. A grand prize winner in both High School and College categories will be announced at the event, with those entrants awarded a paid internship at Sony Classics. Second place winners in each category will receive Sony video cameras, while third-place finishers will receive a $500 cash prize.

All finalist films are available for preview at and (the public can have their say by “liking” or “sharing” the films on Facebook, which will figure into each film’s final score). The public is also welcome to attend the Project FX Festival free of charge and in person; take it here for (required) tickets, and here for a full rundown of the finalist entries.