Fourth annual NY FEST connects film industry through tournament

IMAGE, NYFEST

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Brookyln, N.Y.— Soccer continues to be a unifying game. It was once again for those in the film and entertainment business as NYFest kicked off their fourth annual tournament this past Saturday at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“We started NY FEST in 2011 as an opportunity to bring together the entertainment community through the conduit of soccer and from the onset, it was always well-recieved,” said Co-founder Jeff Saunders.

The charity event is held yearly, with this year’s proceeds going towards City Soccer and the Claudio Reyna Foundation.

The tournament attracted 45 teams from across the industry, accommodating 500 players under a variety of different umbrellas, including representatives ranging from YouTube, Comedy Central, Law and Order, Upper 90 and many others. The event also held a youth showcase and has a celebrity game sandwiched between the group stages and playoff rounds. 

During the youth showcase, coaches from NYC FC among others, were out guiding the youngsters. As part of their five borough outreach, New York City FC were a main sponsor of this year’s event.

The idea sprung forth after Saunders and fellow Co-founder Dylan Leiner would spend time at international film festivals talking more about soccer than the films. They combined that interest with influence from other festivals around the world.

“There’s a game in Cannes every year, which is Europe versus the rest of the world,” Saunders said. “So everyone in the film community is avid soccer fans and we wanted to capitalize on that and do an event that highlighted that interest and connection.”

The event was held for the first time at Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is also an LA FEST that started last March and both festivals will be run during the same year.

As far as who comes out to play, the event draws many of the same teams each year. However, it is a first-come-first-served basis on entrants. A noticeable group was the “Comedy Group of Death,” featuring staffs from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and Comedy Central.

Although Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were not in attendance, Oliver was in participation with his team. Unfortunatel,y their schedules wouldn’t allow them to make it out to NY FEST either in the team matches or the Celebrity game according to Saunders.

Several of the players took part in both the tournament play and celebrity game. Jimmy Conrad was one of those doing both. Other celebrities included Reyna, Thomas RongenTony Sanneh and Ethan Hawke.

“It’s an opportunity for me to catch up with old friends when I get to play in the 5-a-side and I get to play in the celebrity game so the stakes are different and you’re just playing, trying to be entertaining because a lot of people are watching so it’s a different mind-set, but when you play in the 5-a-side it get’s pretty serious,” said Conrad.

“So multi-tasking, but I made sure, I slept, ate, drank a lot of water, so I was prepared.”

Conrad also played the Celebrity game’s first half with a small camera in hand and then conducted halftime interviews for Kick TV.

For the tournament, there is three divisions. Just For Fun, Intermediate and Competitive, each with a trophy for the winner. Throughout the event, there has been some rivalries that have blossomed.

“I always like the Grassroots Soccer, Sony Pictures Classics rivalry. That’s probably the biggest rivalry we have right now,” said Saunders. “Grassroots Soccer has won it twice, Sony Pictures Classics has won it once and they always talk a lot of smack before.”

Sony Pictures Classics (with Conrad) ended up on top winning the Competitive bracket, while BlackBear Pictures took home the Just For Fun trophy and Visit Films/ mTuckman Media won the intermediate bracket.