Making people truly laugh is usually a tougher feat for entertainers than making their audiences dwell on the melancholy troubles in their lives. This was the recurring theme during the third annual Gold Coast International Film Festival (GCIFF). The festival ran from October 21-27, 2013, in conjunction the Gold Coast Arts Center and the Town of North Hempstead, on the gold coast of New York’s Long Island. GCIFF, which has become the “go to” festival for film fans, and is the last major film festival on the East Coast before awards season begins, has brought the latest Hollywood hits and favorites favorites to the Gold Coast.
Several legendary actors, including Paul Sorvino of ‘GoodFellas’ fame, and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ co-star Susie Essman, were among the performers who were honored during this year’s CGIFF, in conjunction with the head of the festival’s comedy programming, Jeffrey Gurian. During the Annual Benefit Gala at the brand new venue, The Space at Westbury, on Wednesday, October 23, Sorvino received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Gala also honored Essman with the Artist of Distinction Award for Comedy.
Sorvino appeared in one of the films that played at CGIFF, the recently released comedy ‘How Sweet It Is.’ The actor starred as an alcoholic theater owner, nicknamed Big Mike, who needs to put together a successful musical in order to pay off his mob debt. However, problems arise when the Mafia wants to cast their friends in the production. The movie, which was co-written and directed by Brian Herzlinger, screened on Tuesday, October 22 at the Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington. Sorvino flew in from Los Angeles to discuss the story during a Q&A following the screening.
Essman, who was connected to GCIFF through the efforts of Gurian, also brought her brand of standup comedy to the festival’s gala. This year’s Benefit Gala brought in a different theme than previous festival parties, which were held at Oheka Castle in Huntington, with the help of the actress bringing off-color jokes to the club-style space. The change in this year’s festival tone is part of GCIFF’s growing emphasis on comedy and expanding the appeal of film.
Reflecting on his storied and celebrated career, and the growing appeal of the movies he has appeared in, Sorvino said it’s fitting that he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at GCIFF. “I started my career here on Long Island, at the Westbury Music Fair (now called the NYCB Theatre at Westbury), when I was 19. I was in ‘South Pacific.'”
While many up-and-coming stars quickly find their seemingly overnight success hastily wane after they appear in one blockbuster film. television series or play, Sorvino has continuously appeared in movies and on shows since 1970, with numerous upcoming projects lined up. The ‘Goodfellas’ actor, who has made a name for himself in gangster movies, noted that he didn’t seek out the genre, as the roles always seemed to find him.
Despite his knack for portraying such ruthless leaders as mob boss Paul Cicero in Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed 1990 American crime film, Sorvino said he “doesn’t know what it takes” to guarantee a successful acting career. However, the key that helped him maintain his career is to regularly prepare for his roles, and “have my homework under my arm.”
“Acting is a matter of study. The best way to study is to find a good teacher,” the Screen Actors Guild Awards-nominated actor offered as a word of advice for anyone striving to break into Hollywood. “Acting is a work of art. Try to get into films and plays, or write a role for yourself,” Sorvino added.
Looking ahead at his upcoming movies, Sorvino said his next film is the comedy-drama ‘Last I Heard,’ which was written and directed by Dave Rodriguez. “That will hopefully be released by the end of this year or early next year, at the latest. It’s a wonderful, wonderful project.”
Essman also expressed her happiness of being honored by GCIFF with the Artist of Distinction Award for Comedy, for her work with the charity Tuesday’s Children. The comedy actress said she joined the organization “because they asked me. I saw they did really good work.”
Tuesday’s Children was formed to help launch every child affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001 into productive adult lives. The organization provides support for the children of the victims of the attacks, with such services as counseling, career guidance to teens and preteens and parenting and life management programs for adults.
Essman added that she’ll continue bringing comedy and laughs to Long Island on Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9, 2013, when she returns to Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown. She’ll then make her last New York appearances of the year on Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7 at Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan.
“I think they asked me here because I’m a good worker,” the comedienne said of her honor at the gala. “I just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, during stand-up comedy for war veterans and soldiers. Comedy is important, and it helps save people’s lives.”
Watch a clip of Essman discussing GCIFF and her comedy work on YouTube.