By Stephanie Meditz
On Feb. 11, the Astoria Filmmakers Club (AFC) recognized the winners of its first ever film festival, the Triborough Film Festival, with the Astor Award Ceremony at The Chian Federation.
A playful spin on the Academy Awards, the Astor Award Ceremony presented 16 awards in categories such as Best Actor and Best Production Design.
The evening consisted of several pop-up vendors, followed by the awards ceremony and a VIP after party.
“[The nominees] push boundaries of genre, of dialogue and storytelling where it’s not cliche. They range from as small as less than five minutes to an hour in length. Every single story that got nominated left you wanting more. And there were not…from a craftsmanship point of view, loose ends,” Phillip Cappadora, AFC founder and president, said.
The nominees included a range of films and topics, including a musical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” and a documentary entitled “The Carousel Man” about a Brooklyn man who built a carousel.
The film “There Goes The Neighborhood,” which discusses New Yorkers’ fight against gentrification, won the Astor Award for Best in the Borough.
“Those are the types of stories I like to see because that’s New York. There’s so much talent in this city and filmmaking is a vessel to shine a light on it,” he said.
When Cappadora founded the Astoria Filmmakers Club in 2019, he never thought it would be as well-received as it was.
“Things kind of just fell into place this year, where we wanted to just do our own festival just to see if we could do it, but have it just be exclusive for New York City filmmakers. So that’s what we did,” he said.
The Triborough Film Festival was a two-day battle of the boroughs in which New York filmmakers submitted their films to be showcased at the festival.
“What we’re creating is the minor leagues before they’re really ready to play in the big league, and the only way you can actually get to that point is with experience, and that’s what we’re looking to create,” Cappadora said. “Just a platform for people to collaborate, get the experience, showcase everything at the festival and go from there.”
In the future, Cappadora hopes to extend the festival to a month-long event.
The AFC’s mission is to bring community, creativity and joy to New York City’s community of filmmakers.
The club was founded when, after ten years in the industry, Cappadora began to wonder what he could do differently and decided to take creative control.
“I thought, how cool would it be if we literally went back to basics and recreated just the idea of a club where it’s all of us just figuring it out, making it up as we go, surround us with the most talented people in their field and then just make something?” he said. “And that’s how it all spawned.”
He posted on Facebook to ask if any Astoria residents would be interested in a filmmakers’ club, and he was shocked that the community gave a positive response.
“I came to Astoria by accident, it just happened. And it turns out everyone in the industry lives there, but nobody actually knows each other,” Cappadora said. “The next thing you know, I just start doing meetups…we had almost 100 people come…next thing you know, we’ve got a Facebook group. It went from 60 people, and now we’re way over 700 in just three short years, through the pandemic. And now it’s growing even faster because everybody wants community. Everybody wants to be creative.”
“It’s very similar to a chamber of commerce exclusively for the filmmaking industry,” he continued. “Because what we do and what we’re capable of doing is a form of ministry work. Because we can provide all the financial grants for any film, maybe anywhere…there’s not a single filmmaker that would not qualify for the finances we could potentially provide.”
Cappadora got involved in film “by accident:” he worked in construction after he graduated from high school, but an injury prevented him pursuing it further.
He then went to college to study business, when he took a film class as an elective.
“I got bit by the theater bug, and next thing you know, I took an acting class. At first, I thought maybe it would do well if I knew how to talk in front of people as a business person, so I figured, alright, I’ll give it a shot,” he said.
After he got recruited for many different acting projects, Cappadora did his first independent film, which got accepted into the Black Bear Film Festival.
Soon afterwards, he came to New York to study film.
“It kind of just gave me a life that I never knew I would ever have, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.
Cappadora said that the AFC is something he needed in 2012 after he finished acting school.
“This is the space I wish I had ten years ago,” he said. “And I think that’s exactly how it got to where it is right now, because it’s the standard I need in order to have a sustainable life and job that’s easily duplicatable for everybody else.”
In 2024, the AFC hopes not only to expand the Triborough Film Festival, but host a parade in Queens.
The AFC intends to be a crowdfunding resource, and before they shoot a movie, they will give the community an audio presentation as to what it is about.
If community members are interested in the plot, they can make a donation to support the project.
To support the Astoria Filmmakers Club, learn more about their events and watch a recording of the Astor Awards, visit their website at https://www.astoriafilmmakers.org.
The club will start to accept submissions for next year’s Triborough Film Festival in April.