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Garden State Film Festival Adds Three to Board of Directors

originally published: 10/21/2022

Garden State Film Festival Adds Three to Board of Directors

The Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) has announced the addition of Paul Perkowski, Doreen Sayegh, and AJ Swirz to its board of directors. They join current board members David Angstadt Sr., Eric Ascalon, Heather Brittain O’Scanlon, Ming Chen, Stephanie Clineman, David Holtzman, Charlene Horne, Robin Kampf, Diane Raver, Joseph Sernio, David Schoner Jr., and Brian J. Sheehy Sr.

GSFF presents all categories of film, screenplay competition and was the first festival to introduce the movie music competition to an audience of film executives and buyers, journalists, film fans and filmmakers. Along with screenings, there are seminars, workshops, and parties to allow everyone the chance to share their passion for film.  In 2020, GSFF believed in the opportunity to venture into a new digital frontier to serve as a blueprint for festivals worldwide. 

Garden State Film Festival Adds Three to Board of Directors

Paul Perkowski - Mr. Perkowski is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 40 years of experience in auditing, accounting, and taxation. His career began with Ernst & Young, becoming a senior audit and tax manager. After 15 years, he started his own accounting firm. He retired in 2020. He has extensive knowledge of public and private industries, as well as individual and business tax planning, consulting, and compliance. Currently he is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the New Jersey State Society of CPAs, and various other organizations. He and his wife Beth have lived in Spring Lake, New Jersey for over 30 years and vacation in Palm Beach, Florida. They have two children and two granddaughters. His interests include spending time with his family, fishing, classic cars and reading.

Garden State Film Festival Adds Three to Board of Directors

Doreen Sayegh - GSFF is very proud to congratulate board member, Doreen Sayegh for her most recent accolade! ShowEast and the National Association of Concessionaires 2022 honored Sayegh with the ShowEast Icon Award, credited with leading the NAC and the exhibition industry out of the pandemic and into recovery.

From a young age, Sayegh developed the passion for the movie theater industry through her mentor and father, Jesse Y. Sayegh, Independent Movie Theater Owner. Growing up in a family of theater owners, Doreen learned everything firsthand about the business: selling concessions, daily operational management, strategic marketing, and national partnerships. She is an independent owner today. Holding a BA in Marketing and an MBA in Business Management, Doreen worked in the corporate industry for the circuits and consulted for a few years as well on distribution of alternative content. Although Doreen worked her way up the ranks in the corporate arena, her passion was serving her community. She decided to renovate The Cranford Theater in 2019 and bring Cranford’s hometown theater back to life for people of all ages to enjoy.

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The unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic impacted everyone and after the Grand Opening of The Cranford Theater in November 2019, Doreen was forced to shut the doors like most business owners. Doreen immediately pivoted into selling On-the-Go Concessions and creating at Home Movie Packs and Holiday Gift options for sale. Simultaneously, Doreen began the design and execution of the Cranford Theater Drive-In, which was wildly successful and created a place to not only create memories but a safe place where friends and families could gather in a socially distanced and safe manner. This was her way of giving back and helping others, which brought the community together at a time of complete uncertainty. During its run, the Drive-In also conducted outreach programs to further support families facing hardships as a result of the pandemic including several food, school and cleaning supply drives, holiday gift wrapping supply assistance, raised money for Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and partnered with the Cake Boss to raise money for the Children’s Specialized Hospital.

Garden State Film Festival Adds Three to Board of Directors

A.J. Swirz - A.J. is a New Jersey native that graduated from Stockton University in 2007 and immediately jumped into film and television production. Over the last 14+ years he’s accumulated credits on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, St. Vincent, The Girl on the Train, Fate of the Furious, the upcoming feature The Goldfinch, Severance, the Emmy-Winning series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and more. After spending the bulk of his career in the Locations Department, A.J. has begun producing his own projects. In the bit of spare time he has, A.J. enjoys painting and writing.

GSFF has been showcased in major international media outlets such as Variety, Vogue Global Network/Condé Nast, Deadline, IndieWire, ET Canada, News Entertainment and others.  Submission information can be found on the festival’s website at  The deadline for 2023 submissions is November 1, 2022. 

“We are pleased and grateful to have added a depth of talent and wisdom to our board of directors this year,” said Lauren Concar Sheehy, executive director. “We’re in a very pivotal stage of the festival’s growth, and the leadership of these new members will be valuable in shaping both next year’s festival and the future of our organization.

“Every year,” Concar Sheehy said, “we see even greater growth and recognition as the premier film event both in New Jersey and at the Shore. The well-rounded nature of our board of directors brings enormous talent and expertise to lead continuous improvement of the festival to the benefit of film enthusiasts, the entire state of New Jersey and the Jersey Shore community.”

The Garden State Film Festival was born at a kitchen table by the award-winning film industry veteran Diane Raver.  Creativity and passion catapulted Ms. Raver along with Robert Pastorelli to bring an all-encompassing event to the State of New Jersey.  It premiered in 2003 and was immediately deemed a huge success.

Since that time, industry notables such as Glenn Close, Christopher Lloyd, Batman producer Michael Uslan, Matthew Modine, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Kevin Smith,   Austin Pendleton, Kurtwood Smith, James Gandolfini, Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, Lainie Kazan, Diane Ladd, Laura Dern, Bebe Neuwirth, Armand Asante, Sally Struthers—and our biggest supporter Ed Asner—as well as others have lent their support.

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GSFF has extensive year-round outreach for youth groups, schools, seniors, military, and other nonprofits.  They Develop media literacy, create cultural awareness, and global understanding for a lifelong appreciation of cinema.  GSFF programs are aimed to cultivate imaginations, introduce students to filmmaking careers and expose all of us to the very best the cinematic arts have to offer in a media-saturated world.

“The fundamental goals still remain to develop strong relationships with established and emerging filmmakers and to accelerate our support of community educational initiatives,” Concar Sheehy said.

GSFF is currently guiding other film festivals on how to navigate the future, preparing workshops, and gearing up for its 2023 festival bringing together a live, diverse audience to experience true independent films.  Save the date for the 21st annual GSSF in March 23-26, 2023.




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