Interview with Kevin McLaughlin, Founder Boardwalk Film Festival

The First Annual Boardwalk Film Festival with be premiering in September
of 2016 in Asbury Park at the beautiful New Jersey Shore. The BFF promises to be one of the key events on the film festival circuit. They will kick off a long weekend of films and events that is sure to become a must-attend festival for filmmakers and film lovers far and wide.

Kevin smallerWriter/Director Kevin McLaughlin founded the Boardwalk Film Festival, an annual 4 day event taking place in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Go to and learn more about the festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What is the festival attempting to accomplish for filmmakers and the attendees? 

Kevin McLaughlin: We want to give filmmakers and film fans everything that any good festival does: First, we offer a great screening experience in a quality venue and the opportunity to see new and unknown works and meet the people behind them.  Secondly, we’re making sure that there are numerous opportunities for networking and making connections, both personal and professional. And most importantly, we want the festival to be a fun, welcoming event that people will want to put on their calendars year after year.

Matthew: There are a lot of film festivals out there. How will the Boardwalk Film Festival separate itself from the pack with its first annual festival?

Kevin: The BFF will be different from most festivals in several ways. First, we won’t be showing any films that glorify or

trivialize violence.  There are a lot of great films being made that don’t involve blowing people’s heads off, and we want to insure that they have a venue in which to be celebrated.  We’re also honoring storytelling, and the people who do it well.  Unfortunately, a lot of indie filmmakers will create a beautiful-looking film that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  We’re more interested in a well-told story that entertains and informs.  Finally, we intend to honor the filmmakers above all.  I think it’s important to remember that if it weren’t for the filmmakers, there would be no film festivals.

I also think it’s important for the festival to give a true picture of the community to which it belongs.  There are other festivals in the region that have a festival director and a programming staff, none of whom live in the state. How could they possibly represent the community?  We’ll do that much better because we are truly a part of this community, and most of us have been for all our lives.

Matthew: How did the festival get started? 

Kevin: As a veteran filmmaker, I’ve screened my films at a number of festivals, I’ve attended several major festivals, and I’ve worked at a couple of festivals as well, and I’ve always thought that I could do it better. Too often, festivals are run by bankers and businesspeople who just want to boost the economy of their town. I thought it was important to have a festival run by filmmakers who understand the needs of the indie filmmaker. So I gathered a number of people I’ve done productions with over the years, and started this festival from the ground up.  We’re adding more people to our team all the time, and as we gain sponsors and supporters, the team becomes more rounded and broad-based, but at the core is a group of people who understand and revere filmmaking and that will be reflected in this event.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival in 5 years? 

Kevin: I’d like to see our festival become an important date on the calendar of every filmmaker and film lover. I know we’re not going to be challenging Sundance for the top spot anytime soon, but I think that east-coast filmmakers and film lovers will come to know us as a must-see festival every September.

Matthew: How is the film scene in Asbury Park?

Kevin: The arts scene in general is booming in Asbury Park.  In a city that’s best-known for its music scene, artists of all stripes are a key component.  The city has numerous art galleries and there is a small community of filmmakers as well.  There’s another film festival in town – the Asbury Park Music in Film Festival, which only shows films about music (that’s why we DON’T show music films) and while they just launched last year, they’re off to a great start.  There’s no limit to what can happen here.  Travel & Leisure magazine recently named Asbury Park among the ten best places to travel to in the whole world!

Matthew: How many films do you anticipate showcasing at your 2016 Film Festival?

Kevin: We’re still working out the details of our screening schedule, but we will probably be showing about 30 feature-length films and around 70 to 80 short films.

Matthew: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect for the 2016 Festival?

Kevin: FUN!  That will be the most-used word you’ll hear on the boardwalk that weekend.  We’ll have films, parties, the beach, and lots of great people coming together to celebrate their love of film. We have some great sponsors that will be hosting events in some of the city’s famous venues right alongside the Atlantic Ocean, and in mid-September, the crowds are gone but the weather is still beautiful.

Matthew: What do people living at the Jersey Shore think of that infamous reality show based on the area?

Kevin: I’m so glad you asked that. There is no doubt that the LEAST popular TV show in this area is MTV’s Jersey Shore.  A fact most TV fans are not aware of is that NONE of the people on that show were from New Jersey, and the image they present is not remotely what The Shore is about. Visitors to the Boardwalk Film Festival will see an environment that bears no resemblance. You’ll meet people who are educated and articulate, who go TO THE BEACH when they want to get a tan!

Matthew: What’s the best place to eat at the Jersey Shore?  

Kevin: Well, a lot of people don’t realize that the Jersey Shore is an area over 140 miles long, encompassing hundreds of little towns, each with its own personality and hot spots.  In Asbury Park, where the Boardwalk Film Festival takes place, you’ve got a small town with over 60 restaurants, clubs, and brew pubs.  That includes five-star spots like Moonstruck and Porta, along with more casual places like The Wonder Bar or Johnny Macs, where you get free pizza anytime you buy a drink! There’s even a food truck park where, in one spot, you can get Korean Tacos, Peruvian food, and New Jersey’s favorite guilty pleasure, Pork Roll and Cheese!  The festival shuttle bus will stop at a lot of these spots, so you can judge for yourself which one is the best.

Matthew: How are people in New Jersey reacting to your Governor, who is currently running for president?   

Kevin: I myself was never a fan, and I think since he’s been running for president, Chris Christie has lost many of the fans he did have here. His approval rating is down around 33 percent.  Don’t mention his name to any teachers here unless you want to hear a tirade of negative sentiment.  He’s no more popular among filmmakers, since he killed the tax credit program the state had for film production.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life? 

Kevin: That’s a tough one, since there are a number of old favorites that I’ll watch over and over again – The Wizard of OZ, The Graduate, The Jerk, Citizen Kane, The Grapes of Wrath, A Christmas Story, Rocky, Blade Runner… the list goes on and on. Any time Titanic pops up on my TV, I just can’t change the channel!


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is a multiple award winning short filmmaker. He is currently the CEO of the weekly WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival.

Interviewee Kevin McLaughlin graduated from Seton Hall University, earning a Master’s Degree in Television and Film from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

His credits include everything from elementary school science programs to America’s Most Wanted and The Uncle Floyd Show. He most recently served as Head Writer and Supervising Producer on Where Health Works, a 3-part series created for PBS TV.


The Boardwalk Film Festival was created to bring arts, culture, commerce, notoriety, and good public relations to the New Jersey Shore.  The annual festival will provide a platform for exhibition of a wide variety of films, some of which would not otherwise be available to the local population.  The BFF will have a special emphasis on well-told stories that don’t rely on violence for their dramatic energy.