All-Star Lineup Set for FIRST TIME FEST at Players Club, Kicking Off Today


Harry Belafonte, Gay Talese, Michael Shannon and Ellen Burstyn have joined Christine Vachon, Fred Schneider, Sofia Coppola, Todd Solondz, Barbara Kopple, Scott Foundas, Eric Kohn, Emily Russo, Jenny Lumet, Darren Aronofsky, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hal Hartley, Peter Saraf, Nancy Savoca, Amy Ryan and Martin Scorsese as participants in First Time Fest.

Belafonte & Shannon will each be appearing onstage in the FTF's "Stand Alone! - Conversations with the Outstanding" series, one-on-one interviews with notable cinema artists.

Renowned author Gay Talese will join Christine Vachon and the B-52s Fred Schneider as another of the FTF's five jurors (the entire live audience at each of the 12 competition films will be the 5th juror). Together, the jury and audience will ultimately select a Grand Prize winner, which will be offered theatrical distribution for their film and full international sales representation from the renowned American film distributor, Cinema Libre Studio.

Acclaimed actress Ellen Burstyn, who has worked with both Scorsese and Aronofsky will serve as the host of the FTF Closing Night Awards program. As part of that festive evening, Martin Scorsese will add his illustrious presence and belief in the art of cinema to present the first John Huston Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema to Darren Aronofsky. John Huston was one of the most prolific and versatile directors in the history of cinema. And with his mesmerizing debut film, Pi - made independently on black-and-white 16mm film - Darren Aronofsky was instantly recognized as a uniquely gifted new talent. His subsequent films: Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler and BLACK SWAN, have more than fulfilled that promise.

In addition, FTF has announced that a special presentation of Andy Grieve and Lauren Lazin's documentary about the band The Police, CAN'T STAND LOSING YOU, featuring Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers will be added to the Fest's slate.

On an exciting party note, and in conjunction with FTF's presentation of the Australian/Mongolian documentary MONGOLIAN BLING on Sunday night, First Time Fest and Hip Hop Saves Lives presents "Project Haiti," an album release party for Zing Experience at Webster Hall. FTF is selling tickets to the screening, the party or a special combo pass for both.

First Time Fest (FTF) - a celebration of first time filmmakers - is a new and unique film festival taking place in New York City from today, March 1 through 4, 2013. FTF is set to discover and present the next generation of great cinema artists.

Representing a hybrid between a traditional film festival and a highly motivated audience participation event, FTF will present a dozen Competition Films, which will be judged by a panel of industry luminaries and the FTF audience. All competition screenings will be followed "hot-seat" discussions between the jury and filmmakers, and all audience members will vote on the films as well. Together, the jury and audience will ultimately select a Grand Prize winner, who will be offered theatrical distribution for their film and full international sales representation from the renowned American film distributor, Cinema Libre Studio. It will truly be a contest of the best emerging filmmakers competing for the Ultimate Audience Award. COMPETITION FILMS - (visit
for competition films, descriptions & times)

In addition to the Competition Films, FTF will present First Exposure, a series of first films from now prominent filmmakers. Joining the line-up - and mostly attending the fest - are our exciting Opening Night presentation of Sofia Coppola with The Virgin Suicides, Todd Solondz with Welcome to the Dollhouse, Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket, Barbara Kopple with Harlan County, USA, Melvin Van Peebles with The Story of a Three-Day Pass, PI from Darren Aronofsky, The Maltese Falcon from director John Huston, Poison from Todd Haynes, Jack Goes Boating from director Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth, and True Love from Nancy Savoca. FIRST EXPOSURE FILMS - (visit, for First Exposure descriptions & times)

First Exposure will also include a 60th Anniversary Tribute to Morris Engel's The Little Fugitive, a cinema vérité classic from 1953 that was shot on Coney Island and has inspired countless filmmakers, from Jean-Luc Godard to the Coen brothers. The tribute will include a panel hosted by film historian Foster Hirsch including Mary Engel, daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, and James Sanders, author of Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies. In addition there will be a Special Presentation of Everardo Gout's thrillingly over-the-top action thriller Days Of Grace (D?as De Gracia), which won the Mexican Academy of Film's prestigious Ariel Award for Best First Feature and was nominated for the Camera d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

First Time Fest will also include a series of panels called "How They Did It," in which a diverse group of award-winning filmmakers will moderate filmmaking case studies and spotlight some of the most successful and accomplished masters of the industry.

First Time Fest is a four-day, multi-faceted event hosted in New York City's Gramercy Park by the celebrated Players (16 Gramercy Park South), the club founded by Edwin Booth, Mark Twain and John Singer Sargent, the oldest and most exclusive arts organization of its kind whose membership includes the greatest stars of stage and screen. Each of First Time Fest's twelve finalists will receive high-level industry mentorship and a one-year membership to The Players. The Players will be the location for all FTF panels and events as well as the Filmmaker and VIP Lounge. First Time Fest's screenings will be held at the Loews Village VII on Third Avenue (on 11th St. & 3rd Ave).

For Tickets, Passes and additional Festival Information - Visit The Festival Website at

JohAnna Bennett and MAndy Ward are the co-founders of First Time Fest. As an accomplished philanthropist, actor and social entrepreneur, as well as the daughter of singer Tony Bennett, JohAnna Bennett has immersed herself within the entertainment and artistic community her entire life. MAndy Ward has worked in the film industry for the past decade in varied capacities, namely as a film producer of several projects. Mitch Levine, CEO of The Film Festival Group, is producing the festival. Through his company, Mitch offers consulting services and expertise to film festivals, film commissions, distribution companies and filmmakers around the world, and was formerly the CEO and Executive Director of the renowned Palm Springs International Film Festival. The Festival's Director of Programming is David Schwartz, the Chief Curator of Museum of the Moving Image.