There’s more to indie marketing than just Sundance and Toronto. Just because that rotten actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the state’s governor is no reason not to enter or attend one of Southern California’s many film festivals. Sponsored by corporate donors and produced by local nonprofit film societies and volunteers, these usually grassroots events have a better-than-average chance of getting your indie or documentary seen by people who matter in the motion picture industry. Sure, A-list movie stars and directors sometimes show up, but so do development people and studio executives and top tier agents if for no other reason than that they live nearby. Here are 14 local film festivals listed according to the calendar and touted by local filmmaker David Geffner in the latest Westways magazine.
1. Palm Springs International Film Festival (early January): launched in 1990 by the late Sonny Bono, this desert fest 2 1/2-hours outside LA is held at multiple venues in the city of Palm Springs. Lately, big name actors have attended the Gala Awards because of timing so close to Oscars. (A healthy percentage of Academy voters live out here.) Entries include 250 films from 74 countries.
2. Santa Barbara International Film Festival (late January): Everything’s in walking proximity. A lot of films here go on to earn Oscar nods. Big-name actor always honored. Top thesps also hold audience conversations.
3. Pan African Film & Arts Festival (mid-February): Global event showcases about 150 films about people of African descent. Runs during Black History Month in the U.S. based at the Magic Johnson Theaters and the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.
4. The Other Venice Film Festival (March 15-18): Showcases local work from the eclectic Venice Beach arts and music scene in LA. Lots of celebs and dealmaking.
5. Malibu Film Festival (April 13-16): Indies, shorts and documentaries debut from around the world. A lot of major players who live in the neighborhood stop by.
6. Newport Beach Film Festival (April 19-29): Running for eight years, this Orange County fest 1 1/2-hours outside LA is held in seven Newport Beach locations. Beachside location makes it popular. Knack for world premieres and quality indies. Special 18-and-under filmmaker showcase. Gala parties every night of the week allow for lots of audience and filmmaker interaction.
7. Silver Lake Film Festival (May 3-12): Draws heavily from this vibrant arts environs of LA. Focuses on indie films that have little prayer of distribution.
8. Visual Communication Film Festival (May 3-10): LA-based showcase for Asian Pacific American and Asian international cinema. Ongoing for 23 years.
9. Los Angeles Film Festival (June 21-July 1): Based in LA’s movie theater-centric Westwood village, the city closed down car traffic to create a walkable festival. Begun 13 years ago, organizers expect 100,000 to attend this year. Conbined major Hollywood premieres with American indies. More than 100 special events organized over 10 days.
10. Outfest (July 12-23): LA-based annual fest features hundreds of films and videos about, for and by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender artists.
11. Artivist (July 26-30): Highlights films made by international activist artists. Hollywood-based consciousness-raising for various global issues.
12. Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (October): Largest Latino-oriented film festival. Honors major Latino celeb and sneaks important Latino movie fare.
13. Ojai Film Festival (October): Just an hour outside LA, this is a gorgeous backdrop for an up-and-coming film festival. Rep for strong documentary and animated short film programs.
14. AFI Fest (October 31-November 11): Presented by the venerable American Film Institute, this two-decades-old fest is based in Hollywood. Audience members can interact one-on-one with international directors. Famous names abound.