Kaua‘i columnist hits Calif. film fest

An hour south of Los Angeles on the famed Pacific Coast Highway you’ll find a beautiful city named Newport Beach. It hosts one of the best film festivals in the business.

The Newport Beach Film Festival set a perfect tone for the week by hosting a spectacular red-carpet event, with actors like Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Peter Fonda (“Easy Rider”) and Tom Sizemore (“Natural Born Killers”). I felt at home with such professionals, making sure everyone’s press needs were met. Los Angeles Times reporters and bloggers were shown equal respect.

Fonda and Hall were there to support the opening-night film “East Fifth Bliss” directed by Mike Knowles.

Knowles, Hall and Fonda were incredibly humble and gracious with their time when I spoke with them (Knowles even made time for me weeks after the event). Knowles shared with me his process of making a big movie with “movie star” actors.

He said, “Due to my own experience as an actor, I worked with Michael and Peter the way he’d work with any other actor.”

That is rare in this business, where the standard is to treat “stars” different. If you ever meet them, you will quickly learn Hall and Fonda do not act like “stars.”

“East Fifth Bliss” will be available in limited theatrical release with DVD release in 2012. Check imdb.com.

The after party was held at the gorgeous Fashion Island (shopping plaza) with an incredible L.A.-like fashion show. I met film director Kate Connor (episode of “Lost”) and Andy Hirsch (multiple episodes of “Beverly Hills 90210”). They were there for the center-piece film “Ft. McCoy” (Konnor directed/starred, Hirsch co-starred with Eric Stoltz). Stoltz (“Mask”) also co-produced the film.

Their film is a drama based on a true story when the Stirn family lived next to a Nazi POW camp in Wisconsin during WWII. The film’s director has family ties to the story (Google it). Konnor, Hirsch and Stoltz were wonderful with their time, giving a great Q&A after the centerpiece event.

“Ft. McCoy” has played Shanghai and won Best Independent Drama at Cannes Film Festival. The film will be released to DVD once negotiations are complete.

Aside from the filmmakers, the staff make the NBFF fantastic. I’ve attended film festivals as a filmmaker, a judge, festival delegate, board member, ran a student film festival and as audience. This was my first time as press.

NBFF CEO Gregg Schwenk said, “I think we are truly a filmmaker’s film festival. I hear it from filmmakers around the world who say they’ve been to the big festivals with budgets ten times our budget. Our festival is one that has heart and most of all has a passion, a true passion, for screening works of quality and caliber. That has been a true hallmark of what we want to do here.”

This event will take place in 2012 and I highly suggest attending, whether you’re planning a trip to Disneyland or seeing relatives in L.A., San Diego or really anywhere near Southern California. NBFF gives you what you want and leaves you wanting more.

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