A Love Letter to Asbury Park

Discover Jersey Arts - A Love Letter to Asbury Park: The APin3 Film Challenge

Asbury Park, NJ, a modest-sized, historic city of sixteen thousand with a rich tapestry of history, “punches above its weight” artistically and culturally. Founded as a premier seaside resort destination and connected to New York City (and the world) by rail, it drew countless visitors to its boardwalk and beaches even before the age of the automobile. The city faced significant economic challenges during the latter half of the 20th century, leading to urban decline and disinvestment. But, the resilient spirit of its community has been evident in its recent revival, as major efforts have been made to rejuvenate its cultural attractions, restore historic sites, and foster economic development, all while navigating the complexities of gentrification and maintaining the city’s unique character.

Sponsored by the Asbury Park Arts Council (APAC), the APin3 Film Challenge is not so much a “film festival” as a community filmmaking challenge in which budding directors and filmmaking teams create a 3-minute short film highlighting aspects of, and shot entirely within, the city of Asbury Park. The challenge asks filmmakers to include a supplied theme and line of dialogue, a prop native to Asbury Park, and one specific location within the city – the prompt keeps all the contestants on a level playing field. With its rich history and coastal allure, the city provides ample material for gripping narratives and documentaries. In essence, the APin3 Film Challenge aligns perfectly with Asbury Park’s artistic legacy and the potential for cultural celebrations that use the film short in unforgettable ways.

APAC president Mike Sodano said: “Last year was our first year, and we set up the auditorium for about, oh, 40-50 chairs. We got close to 100 people to attend! The reception was overwhelming. It was so much fun and very heartwarming. When the filmmakers get up and give their one-minute pitch as to why they did what they did, it’s an insight into the filmmaking process that audiences don’t really get a chance to hear very often. Each story becomes a different kind of love letter to Asbury Park. It’s a different perspective on the city. Filmmakers manage to find locations in the city and document them on film – places that a lot of people never even knew existed. You go ‘gee whiz! Where is that? I’ve never seen that from that angle.’ It’s a unique interpretation of the city. Seeing Asbury as illustrated in a 3-minute film really opens the eyes of the audience. It’s incredibly enjoyable.

“The goal of the challenge is really to elevate filmmaking in Asbury Park. The city is known obviously for music. Bruce Springsteen, and all the groups that came out of it, and it’s known for other visual arts. But we’re trying to give the art of filmmaking in Asbury Park a focus and a spotlight. We give the filmmakers a theme, a line of dialogue, a prop that must be included in the film. The film has to be no more than 3 minutes long and shot over the course of the three-week challenge.”

We asked APin3 organizer Nancy Sabino what makes the perfect APin3 entry: “I think it’s a combination of addressing the theme, getting in all the elements, and doing it in the most clever way possible,” she said. “It’s the use of the techniques and filmmaking that really sings to me personally. The use of exceptional editing techniques and a variety of storytelling- that’s how you get your 3-minute story across. I think it’s a great opportunity for filmmakers who never tried their hand at making a film to venture into this world and team together and play with film.

“Everybody who we’ve talked to who’s entered past or present has said it’s a lot of fun, and they really enjoy doing it. We think it’s a great match between our love of Asbury Park and filmmaking. Filmmakers who may not have experienced that yet get to put the city they love on screen. It’s a combination of texture, community and opportunity,” continued Sabino. “It’s an incredibly welcoming city. You’re able to walk the streets and go into shops and just start talking to people. You get an incredible sense of community. If you have an idea, Asbury Park is a great place for growing that idea because you get immediate feedback, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent! It’s an incredible breeding ground for creativity and opportunity.
“The judging is sort of like a casting session. You know you know it when you see it, and it hits you over the head as being one of the best. This year, we were very fortunate, and we got a lot of great selections that were really clever and creative. For us, that’s humbling. To know that so many people could get it right and do it differently because each selection has a different slant to it.
“We are looking forward to welcoming the entire community into this event. Everyone can come. It’s a free event, and tickets will be available soon. Come meet the storytellers of the future and those that are applying their trade currently. It’s a wonderful thing to see Asbury Park interpreted in so many different ways on the big screen, and we hope to continue the challenge with the support of our amazing community.”

The films will be screened at the House of Independents on October 22. The event is free, but reservations are required. The top three winners, and an audience favorite entry chosen by the assembled audience on the premier night, will be given prizes. It will also be a networking event for local filmmakers, a test of creative skill, and a source of feedback for filmmakers. If you’re a filmmaker, sound tech, actor, director, or simply love film, don’t miss it.