As I mentioned in my post of September 19, 2013 (scroll down), I recently was fortunate enough to attend the New York International Film Festival -- LA Edition at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles, CA. This is one of the largest independent film festivals, and started in 1993. It's known as the "voice of independent filmmaking." I arrived on Friday, September 20th in time to participate in the Red Carpet. The congenial Director of the Festival, Rich Rossi (pictured above interviewing my friend and actress Lindsay Thomas) was kind enough to interview me. Good practice having things switched up and being the interviewee for once! Mr. Rossi kept the evening moving along nicely, and several interesting films were screened (capsule reviews appear below). It all happened at the beautiful and exciting Raleigh Studios, a wonderful and upscale location for a film festival.
I met several wonderful filmmakers, actors, and industry executives; and generally had terrific time. Afterwards several of us went out to the historic Canter's Deli on Fairfax, and I enjoyed their rugula as usual, yum!
I couldn't see all of the films screened at the festival, but did my best to see as many as possible, some notable ones are reviewed below.
HOUSE CLEANING Directed by Julia Camara. A very short, hysterical film about a nude house cleaner for hire. One of the funniest shorts I've ever seen, and believe me I've seen more than my share. Right on target. Keep your eye on Ms. Camara for future work, I expect good things from her!
A WASTED NIGHT Directed by Filippo Capuzzi Lapietra. A Brazilian short that is diverting and amusing, a fresh take on the usual date night movie.
A TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD: EUROPEANS IN LOS ANGELES, 1926-56, PROLOGUE Directed by Antonello Villani. My friend Mr. Villani (pictured below) originally informed me about the film festival, and I was thrilled to see his work. This film is an artistic, beautifully photographed documentary about Hollywood's early years. Mr. Villani's Italian sense of design and beauty comes through nicely. The film explores the architecture of Los Angeles, influences of Europe, and other factors that made our town the fascinating place it is today.
The next night, Saturday, September 21st, was the closing night of the film festival. I arrived early enough to catch some of the very informative seminars given by the owner of the film festival, Stuart Alson. Mr. Alson is among other things a film distributor and generously gave his expertise to the filmmakers and others on how best to market a film and find an audience, both here in the United States and worldwide. It's a great public service that he provides, and very much appreciated by those in attendance.
Then it was time for more movies, briefly reviewed below.
Thursday's Speaker Directed by Gary Hebert. This feature-length film is a funny and sad story of a twelve step speaker who himself is badly in need of an intervention. Deftly directed by Mr. Hebert, who keeps the story moving along through laughs and tears.
Chez Upshaw Directed by Bruce Mason. Familiar face Illeana Douglas anchors this amusing dark comedy about a bed and breakfast where you check in, but never check out. Funny and original, very nicely done. Ms. Douglas can handle drama, comedy, anything, and is spectacular in just about anything she does.
Femme Directed by Emmanuel Itier. Sharon Stone appears along with many other women in this inspiring and lovely feature length documentary about how women and female energy will heal the world. Although it has a singular point of view, the interviews and research behind the film is very uplifting and beautifully presented. The original music by such notable musicians as Annie Lennox, Yoko Ono and Rickie Lee Jones enhances the beauty of its message. A movie of the heart, reminiscent of a calming spiritual retreat.
During the film festival, I was able to corner Stuart Alson, the fascinating owner of the film festival, and ask him a few questions about the festival and filmmaking in general. The interview appears below, edited for clarity.
Mr. Alson said he started the festival in 1993 as a way to distribute and publicize a film he made in 1993 and had difficulty distributing. He decided to start his own company distributing films and running film festivals, thus giving other filmmakers a much needed opportunity to have their films find an audience. He enjoys being in charge and putting on festivals when and where he wants. In the past they have had film festivals in several cities in any given year, but now they primarily focus on Los Angeles and New York City. He lives in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and also publishes Independent Film Quarterly magazine. (This guy is amazing, does he ever sleep?)
His main focus however is film distribution through his company ITN DIstribution. He said the film festival is in itself not a money-making venture. They hire Raleigh Studios, etc., which must not be inexpensive. When they started in 1993, the festival would accept nearly all films submitted, but now they can be much more selective. The acceptance rate now is between 30 and 40 percent.
The independent filmmaking industry is lucky to have people like Mr. Alson who go above and beyond to provide this service to help educate, screen, and distribute the films so many independent filmmakers struggle to produce.
I look forward to many more film festivals from Mr. Alson and Mr. Rossi's efforts, and would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hospitality and service to independent film and filmmakers everywhere.
By the way, this film festival is open to the public, and as film festivals go, is very comfortable, at a gorgeous studio setting on a working movie lot, with plenty of parking, open seats available, and very friendly folks running it. Not always so at these things, trust me I know! Just remember to bring your own candy or snacks for the movie, as they don't have a snack bar in the screening rooms.
This festival does, however, have lovely parties that everyone is welcomed to attend. There you will bump into lots of filmmakers, actors, screenwriters, friends of the same, family members, and casting and industry executives and such. And I know you will feel good about supporting independent film and filmmakers. Who knows, you might just spot the next Sofia Coppola at the festival!
Be sure to go up and let your favorite filmmaker know if you like his or her work, it would likely mean the world to them! Filmmaking is one of the hardest endeavors on the planet, it's expensive, time-consuming, and fraught with challenges at every step of the way. Your support would be very much appreciated.
For more information about the film festival, visit nyfilmvideo.com; for information about ITN Distribution, visit itndistribution.com.