12th annual Garden State Film Festival April 3-6

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Award-winning performers and other guests will be feted at the 12th anniversary Garden State Film Festival April 3-6 in its new home of Atlantic City.

At the April 4 opening night party, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will cut the ribbon to mark the festival’s Atlantic City debut. She will accept an Impact Award for Promoting Business and Arts Alliance.

The festivities will begin with cocktails at 7 p.m. in the Ballroom of Resorts Casino Hotel at 1133 Boardwalk, followed by a presentation and premiere screening in the Superstar Theatre of “How to Make Movies at Home,” an independent comedy set in small-town Maine where novice filmmakers come face to face with Hollywood. Tickets are $25 for the cocktail party and screening and $12 for the screening only, available in advance online and at the door.

Former GSFF Lifetime Achievement winner Diane Ladd will present the 2014 Independent Spirit Award to her daughter, Laura Dern. The awards dinner closes the festival and will be held at the Trump Taj Mahal Tiara Ballroom 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Dern’s work includes dozens of films, from “Mask” in 1985 to “The Master” in 2012, as well as blockbusters like the “Jurassic Park” series. She will soon be seen playing the protective mother of a teen suffering from a rare form of cancer and grappling with first love in “The Fault in Our Stars,” based on The New York Timesbest-seller by John Green.

Dern is the daughter of Bruce Dern, who was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his performance in “Nebraska.”

Television, film and theater actress Bebe Neuwirth will receive the 2014 Wave of Excellence Award. A native of Princeton, she graduated from The Juilliard School where she majored in dance. Known for her portrayal of Lilith on “Cheers,” Neuwirth has won two Emmys, two Tonys, two Drama Desks, an LA Drama Critics Circle award, an Astaire Award, and an Outer Critics Circle award, among other honors.

At GSFF, Neuwirth will debut her short film “Jerome’s Bouquet,” which she co-directed with her husband, Chris Calkins, to be screened with a block of films 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Superstar Theater at Resorts Casino Hotel.

Margate native Scott Neustadter will be presented with the 2014 Spirit of New Jersey Award. With partner Michael H. Weber, he adapted “The Fault in Our Stars” for the screen. Their first hit, “(500) Days of Summer” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, was nominated for best feature - comedy at the Golden Globe Awards and earned an Independent Spirit Award and a Golden Satellite Award for best screenplay of the year. They were nominated for that award again for “The Spectacular Now,” starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who plays Dern’s daughter in “The Fault in Our Stars.”

Each year the festival pays tribute to its co-founder with the Robert Pastorelli Rising Star Award in recognition of an up-and-coming actor or actress from New Jersey. This year’s recipient is Hazlet native Paul Castro Jr., who recently appeared in “The Skeleton Twins” with Bill Hader and Ty Burrell, shown at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. His other recent work include “Black Dog, Red Dog,” directed and produced by James Franco, as well as the lead in “Buffalo Boys” directed by Raymond Guarnieri, which was named the best coming of age film at the 2013 Manhattan Film Festival and best Crime drama at the 2013 Indie Gathering in Cleveland, Ohio.

Several other awards will be presented to professionals associated with films appearing in the festival, including a Home Grown series for New Jersey filmmakers in all categories plus honors in cinematography, music and screenwriting. The best screenplay is read by professional actors and this year will be directed by Diane Ladd. Ed Asner participated in the 2012 reading of “Two Ton Tony” written by Ken Pisani about the boxer Tony Galento.

Awards dinner tickets are $125 and must be purchased in advance; see www.gsff.org.

Festival weekend passes provide access to most events and are available for $60 at www.gsff.org and at the festival box offices on site.

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