Newport Beach Film Festival

The festival allows a pre-screening of up and coming artists’ work in film. (Stephanie Silverman)

Stephanie Silverman

Every year around this time, an event occurs that brings together filmmakers from across the globe. The Newport Beach Film Festival, held April 23- April 30, is a place for experienced professionals and budding amateurs alike to showcase their films. This year, the festival celebrates its tenth anniversary.

With approximately four hundred entries, this year is packed with plenty of “must-see’s.” The films fall into different categories like Features, Documentaries, Action Sports, Shorts, Family Films, and Spotlight Films. After each film, the audience has the opportunity for a question and answer session with the filmmakers.

“Being able to ask questions directly to the filmmakers was a really good experience. It was interesting to hear all the things that happened behind the scenes that the audience would normally not be aware of,” said Rachel Gibson, 20, communications.

Saddleback College shorts premiered on Saturday. ” Pug,” “Starlight,” “Chalk,” “Complex: John,” and “Toychest Eternity” were some of Saddleback’s impressive entries.

“Our better pictures such as ‘Pug’ and ‘Starlight’ from this year were on a par with these two heavyweights of the film-school world. Next year’s line up is already looking so strong that we should be on roughly an even par with them as we were last year,” said Film Instructor Charles Myers.

Many other schools with highly competitive film programs also participated, including Chapman University, University of Southern California, California State University, Long Beach, and University of California, Irvine.

“As usual, Saddleback easily outpaced all the public universities and we were far stronger than all the UCs and CSUs. While not as strong as, say, last year, it was a very credible showing,” said Instructor Charles Myers.

“I would point out that we are competing against four-year university productions made by seniors and graduate students who are also given anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 plus in cash, plus extensive donations to make their shorts. I received $1,000 from the foundation to fund all the Saddleback productions for the year, and yet we compete and win. Our students are usually younger and taking a full load of [general education] classes and working a part-time job compared to their competition and yet we win. It is all about one thing: our students simply work harder than others and this is reflected in their success. We are all very, very proud of them,” Myers said.

One of Saddleback’s best entries was Gregory Pratt’s film, “Pug,” a story of an underground fighter stuck in a life he has been forced to accept, had already won an award at the 2008 Washougal International Film Festival. Pug was made entirely by a Saddleback crew; it was produced by Aaron Berry and edited by Sean Dunlap. “Pug” was clearly a hit with the audience. “Pug” stars Saddleback student Reymond Villasenor, 23, undeclared.

“Working on ‘Pug’ was great experience. I was working with good people and it was exhilarating because I really got to fight and took some real punches.” said Villasenor.

“Saddleback didn’t just provide the equipment, but the opportunity. It would not have been possible without Saddleback,” Villasenor said.

The festival’s accessibility to young, aspiring filmmakers communicates the possibilities for everyone. In an industry that so often is filled with rejection, the Newport Beach Film Festival opens doors by just allowing films of hopeful individuals to be viewed.

“The after-party was exactly like you see on TV. There was a red carpet, free drinks, the whole nine yards. We were partying with Hyde from ‘That 70’s Show’ [Danny Masterson] and Rob Dyrdek! We’re just Saddleback students who started out with an idea for a story. I can’t believe how far we’ve come,” Villasenor said.

Although purchasing tickets to the festival is money well spent, the cost of each individual showing can add up quickly, especially for the average college student. Luckily, the festival also boasts a few free events, which in this economy, is always an incentive.

MySpace Records presents the official Music Lounge of the Newport Beach Film Festival. The event is held on multiple nights at Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach.

Many spectators enjoyed the free seminars on Directing, Screenwriting, Animation, and Film Music Composition, which were hosted by experts in each field on Saturday. It was a unique opportunity for those interested in each area to hear first-hand advice and tricks of the trade from those who know best.

“It was really interesting to hear what these experts had to say. The screenwriter from Iron Man, Mark Fergus, was there and a lot of other experienced people. It’s just a good opportunity because it’s not too often you get a chance to talk to people like them,” Jake Owens, 19, undeclared, said.

Also on Saturday was a free John Wayne screening. Fans flocked to the showing of “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” the classic John Ford production which was enjoyed by all.

The Youth Film Showcase, sponsored by Volcom, is an exciting way for filmmakers under 18 to receive some recognition. Short films from a vast assortment of genres were screened on Sunday for no charge. The Youth Film Showcase is in its fifth year at the Newport Film Festival and continues to support creativity and free expression in our youth.

Many feature films sold out quickly and many others are almost sold out, so clearly the festival has been a hit again.

“I couldn’t even get tickets to ‘Street Dreams,’ but it’s good to see so many people coming out to support the filmmakers,” said Matt Walsh, 22, business.

The Closing Night Celebration on April 30 will be showing “500 Days of Summer,” starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The screening begins at 8:00 p.m. at the Lido Theater in Newport Beach.

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