May 8, 2012


The Catalina Film Festival wrapped this Sunday after three days of screenings, panels, parties, and island living! Some of our favorite moments were captured on the red carpet where we had the chance to talk with established and aspiring filmmakers whose entries competed in this year’s program.

The festival kicked off with a mixer for filmmakers where media, talent, and production could mingle and scope out their competition. Then it was off to the red carpet that preceded the opening night gala and the films. We kicked off the festival with two shorts- Trotteur and First Kiss. The former was a French metaphorical tale of adversity in which a young man races a locomotive (and mentally his real-life tormentors). It was a highly stylized, cinematic piece. Its images captivated the audience with awe but for some, its message seemed lost.  I personally was impressed and I guess so were the judges as it went on to win the shorts competition!

Next up, was First Kiss, a clear crowd favorite from the start. A simple tale about a guy and girl attempting to lock lips and coming up against unforeseen obstacles- meddling roommates, strangers attempting to steal their parking spot, neighbors moving, even a poor dog who is just at the wrong place at the wrong time! The audience was laughing throughout and the short did a good job of poking fun at itself. We spoke with Director Charles Hood on the red carpet who talked with us about his own experiences that inspired the short and casting leads Joseph Mazello (The Social Network) and Brenda Song (The Suite Life of Zach & Cody). We also caught up with actress Natalie Victoria (Deadheads) who cameos in the film as the dog walker.

The night also debuted its first feature with The Magic of Belle Isle directed by Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Masden. Unfortunately, the cast was not present to field questions on the carpet. The film follows Wildhorn, a famous western writer who struggles with alcoholism and takes solace in a lakeside summer cabin where his developing friendship with the family next door sets him back on the right path. It was received to mostly positive reviews, despite a slow pace that irked some festival goers who were anxiously awaiting the evenings high impact film, The Avengers.

But before that screening, the night entertained a gala and a special awards presentation to Marvel Comics creator and legend Stan Lee, who was given the Ronald Reagan Great Communicator Award. The award is given to those who “communicate important ideas to young people” and was given to Lee for his contributions in cinema and his philanthropic support of education.  A screening of The Avengers followed, and while the movie was a clear success, the audience could not have been more excited to be sitting in the historic Avalon theater alongside Lee as it screened. It was an experience not many people can claim. We spoke with Stan Lee on the red carpet about creating these iconic characters and what it was like to finally have them all in one film. The result was lots of action, comedy, and pure mindless enjoyment for comic fans and newbies alike.

The red carpet gave us the chance to chat with other filmmakers whose work screened on Saturday and Sunday. Brotherly Love, which premiered closing day, is a socially conscious film that focuses around a young man who is bullied both in and outside the home and is forced to commit a crime that affects his entire family. It takes a look at how three brothers deal with this occurrence and really brings the seriousness of bullying to light. Although the film already took home the grand prize at the San Diego Black Film Festival for Best Short, writer-director-actor Choice Skinner and actor Farley Jackson assured us it was equally exciting to screen their work at Catalina. Brotherly Love debuted in the Shorts: Reel Life- Reality Bites Category at Catalina and we talked to Scott Thompson writer-actor of The Immigrant, another film in this category. This short follows the life of  once-famous comedian, Bob London, who is deported back to his native Canada and enlists human smugglers to help sneak him back across the US-Mexico border. Thompson, best known for The Kids in the Hall, told us this was his second time seeing the film on the big screen and he looked forward to all the great work this festival attracts.

We spoke with legend Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond, The Rose, For the Boys, and James Dean) about receiving the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He told us it was like a double-edged sword because he was both honored and bewildered (as with most recipients) because in his eyes he still has a lot of work left to create! He confirmed some up-coming projects but was hesitant to announce details just yet.

Not all the top prizes went to films on the big screen. In addition to Best Feature, Best Short, Best Documentary and a slew of other prizes, there was a top screenplay prize for the best script. We spoke with finalists for the film “Boarders” which went on to win it its category. “It has a double meaning, Boarders does. It’s about an island that we are on, it’s about a man who wakes up to find the Spanish land he’s lived on is no longer his anymore. And this begins to wreak havoc.”

Other PPLA favorites, include the short film Strange Date. We spoke with team behind this project, who stood out on the red carpet by literally ‘stamping’ me with there Strange Date information. Director Peter Castagnetti and writer-actor Jeff Lorch explained that they intended to use the stamp on their business cards but instead decided to just stamp everyone they spoke to! A ‘strange’ promotion indeed but quite fitting and memorable, just like their film. The short explores a second date in which Jarod opens his door to learn that his date Scarlett is too ill to attend but has sent her male friend as her proxy. The most awkward date between this male duo ensues. The film explores a bromance in a humorous way and I certainly give it my stamp of approval!

In the feature category, Nesting explores the ide of “what ever happened to Generation X” according to writer-director John Chuldenko. It follows the story of a couple who is stuck in their mundane life (having made the transition from hipster to yuppie!) and decide to take a road trip to rekindle their relationship. The pair end up at their old apartment where they decide to squat for a few days (complete with a raging housewarming party a la their 20’s).

James Scott (Days of Our Lives) was also on hand to take part in the evening’s awards presentation, honoring film preservationist David Kiehn as part of the Centennial Celebration commemorating 100 years of filmmaking in Catalina (D.W. Griffith shot the first scripted film on the island in 1912) and to support a friend’s entry in the documentary competition.

Speaking of documentaries…Catalina is an island with a strong focus on preservation and eco-consciousness. Thus, it was no surprise that the Documentary Category was filled with excellent films including Anew which was in the Take Action block. We spoke with director Adam Steel who’s story focuses on former interior designer Rosie Tourje who quits her prestigious career to devote her time to make sure used furniture and carpet find it’s way to charities and non-profits and not into our landfills (currently holding 4 billion pounds of such waste every year).

The weekend’s Centerpiece Film was Broken Kingdom by writer-director Daniel Gillies, starring Rachel Leigh Cook. The feature follows two stories that transpire between the slums of Bogota and the Hollywood Hills. A teenage prostitute and an American writer strike up a peculiar relationship, while a day-care teacher in Los Angeles fights the weight of a tragic secret.

Panelists at the festival included: Alex Barkaloff, Executive Producer for Digital Media at Lionsgate; Mike Rotman, Emmy Award nominated writer/ producer and Head of Production at Big Frame; Berkeley Breathed, a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, screenwriter, and novelist; Alex Schwartz, currently producing Mr. Peadbody & Sherman for Dreamworks Animation and former Head of Development there; Fonda Snyder, producer and president of Alchemy Ink, a management company for authors and illustrators; Joe LeFavi, a producer and master strategist at branding and cross-platform integration; and writing duo Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich who co-created more than forty scripts including animated works for Disney, Sony, and Dreamworks.

While it was an action packed three days, the Catalina atmosphere somehow slowed down the pace the pleasant feel of an tropical excursion. We can’t wait to return next year and visit this nearby getaway throughout the season. Check out the Catalina Island Conservancy for more information on ferries, lodging, Jeep excursions to the island’s interior, and activities that range from zip-lining to glass bottom boats!

Be sure to watch our red carpet video (apologies for some tech issues in the audio, at least you get to see what the craziness of the carpet is really like!) and check out our full photo gallery here.