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Business Opportunities for Local Merchants at The Gold Coast International Film Festival

Festival could attract 40,000 people to North Hempstead.

The countdown has begun. There’s less than two months until the . And that makes Ian Siegel a very busy man. Siegel heads ’s Business and Tourism Development Corporation, a major sponsor of the film festival, which runs June 1 - June 5.

From now until May 31, the festival’s opening night party at the Hempstead House, festival organizers work in high gear as they finalize details. Tuesday morning they spoke at a BTDC breakfast at in Port Washington to explain to local leaders how to maximize business opportunities during the festival. Potentially 40,000 people are expected to attend various screenings in Port Washington, Roslyn, Manhasset, Great Neck and New Hyde Park, mostly at Clearview Cinemas.

Referencing the Toronto Film Festival, which started out as a weekend event but now runs over the course of two weeks, Siegel said, “All of the hotels are booked, all of the restaurants are booked, all the stores are crowded. And there is all this residual activity that happens because of the film festival.” Here, he was referring to people who visit a community for a festival, enjoy themselves, and return.

He continued: “We really hope this becomes an institution, an annual event that expands and all the businesses get involved and that we really put the North Shore and the Town of North Hempstead on the map.”

A total of 64 features and shorts will be shown from 9 a.m. to midnight during the course of the festival. The films and panels – featuring musicians, actors, directors, composers and more ­– will be announced by the end of April.

Currently, films are being considered from Iran, Korea and other parts of Asia, Israel and more, said Regina Gil, the executive director of the Great Neck Arts Center, and one of the organizers.

With the Long Island Rail Road a partner, the Manhasset train station will act as a hub. Visitors can stop in at the hospitality office directly across the street. A looping bus service will deliver filmgoers into the local downtowns where they can see movies, dine and shop.

Local businesses have opportunities to list their organizations in a published guide. As sponsors, they can have the name of their business printed on film tickets, or t-shirts worn by an estimated 300 volunteers.

Some questions from the audience warranted one-on-one discussions with the panel after the breakfast. For example, Corinne Doria, director of sales at the Andrew Hotel in Great Neck, wanted to learn how her organization could get involved with the festival.

Others asked about volunteer opportunities. Alan Lehrman, volunteer coordinator, said he was looking for licensed drivers with valid licenses to greet people at the airport; coordinators to escort talent to events; public relations and marketing teams to spread the word; and more.

Siegel pointed to the positive impact the festival can have on the community: namely that industry professionals and festival attendees alike may return to North Hempstead to do business and enjoy its downtowns.

He noted that as soon as the festival ends “we’ll plan next year's, and learn from our mistakes so next year is bigger and better.” 

“We hope to deliver you a world class film festival and are open to ideas and suggestions,” he said.

“It takes time to develop,” said Stewart Small, president of the , after the panel ended. “It’s a learning experience. These things take a few years, but they can grow exponentially.”

For regular festival updates or to volunteer, visit goldcoastfilmfestival.org.

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