Ever wish you could attend Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes…maybe even all in one year. Well now, in a way, you can! This week, Press Pass LA attended the first ever Film Festival Flix, a local film festival that will take place one night a month in over 25 different cities across the nation, bringing the best film festival films to your local community.
The premiere line-up included a few opening short films followed by two features- The Holy Land of Tyrol and Secret Promise.
I arrived at the Laemmle Noho 7 for the first ever Film Festival Flix. The premiere night included two venues, the Laemmle Theater in North Hollywood and the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.
The night opened with a series of festival shorts including my favorite Moon Yale, that explored the idea that an asteroid from space was quickly approaching (target Yale University) and the student groups of Yale must submit a video as to why their student club should be permitted entry into the exclusive Yale University campus Moon Yale (a secret lunar campus that had been in the works for years!). This funny short even includes cameos by film star James Franco and TV’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family).
Next up was the feature film, The Holy Land of Tyrol from first time feature writer-director Phillip J. Pamer. The film tells the story of Katharina Heimstedt, who in the year 1809 must escape her home in Bavaria to Tyrol with her husband who accidentally murdered a French soldier. The story takes place among the backdrop of political turmoil and war between Bavaria and Tyrol, during the time of Napoleon. This foreign film, in French and German with English subtitles, is at its heart a love story. The audience instantly forgets the film is not in English because you are swept up in the stellar performances by lead actors Inga Birkenfield and Wolfgang Menardi. Despite being a period piece, the audience can easily identify with themes of adjusting to a new marriage/ in-laws, political animosity, discrimination based on nationality, loss, and love. It is no wonder the film won the Audience Award at the Munich Film Festival.
The second feature, A Secret Promise, is a romantic comedy which follows billionaire businessman and playboy Ferro Olivetti (Victor Alfieri, Angels & Demons) as he enjoys the privileges and perks of his social stature. But on his father’s deathbed, he promises to obey his father’s last wish and spend one month away from his identity and money. The film also stars Ione Skye (Say Anything) as the love interest.
After the festival we spoke with Bejamin Oberman, CEO of Film Festival Flix and distribution company MouseTrap Films about the festival.
PPLA: Why did you start Film Festival Flix and what are your plans for the festival?
OBERMAN: Film Festival Flix started first and foremost because I was making films and traveling to festivals, and more often than not, I saw great films that won awards and then never got seen again. I knew their had to be an audience for them, if only somehow we could connect the two together. I started the company MouseTrap Films to acquire the films’ rights and then bring them to audiences. What I discovered to be the big problem or obstacle was this: how do you market a film that’s just good but it doesn’t have A-list stars necessarily, and it wasn’t based on a best-selling novel, and you don’t have $15 million to throw at a marketing campaign? Even if you could go to say Sundance or Tribeca, most people don’t have the time or the money to travel and go all over the country or the world. But what I did learn about film festivals is that people will come out to see a film- even if they don’t know what it is called, or what it is about, or who is in it- because they just liked that it was a festival. They at least knew that it would be an interesting experience. So we aim to take the best parts of what works about a festival and then bring that to local audiences on a regular basis instead of one time a year. This way you don’t have to take off a week of your life and pay lots of money and travel. Instead, one night a month you can come out, and we will bring you three films from festivals from around the world. You will have a very global selection, and we are going to bring those filmmakers in to interact directly with the audience. It provides an insider access that you can’t get at home.”
PPLA: You have two very different selections here tonight- a foreign period piece and a romantic comedy- what do you hope to offer in the future?
OBERMAN: Our goal is not to be just art house or just comedy or just late night…it’s to be independent film. So with all the different types of films that we bring in, that is the common thread. In the future we will also have a late night cult film playing. We plan to hit lots of demographics. So for people that just love filmmaking, they can come see a very diverse night and others can pick and choose and see just a foreign art film, or a cute romantic comedy, or a terrifying horror film.
PPLA: Tonight you are kicking off in both North Hollywood and Pasadena…where to you plan to take the festival from here?
OBERMAN: We are opening 25 of these events across the country every month. It will be further augmented by simulcast and broadcast events through the Spectacast Network which allows us to take our 25 and get our films to about 200 screenings. Also through a relationship we have with Tugg we are going to have what we call ‘theatrical on demand’ so in cities where we don’t have a presence, an individual can go on their website and say, “I want a screening”. Tugg will help them get enough people together to launch a screening and the event can happen.
PPLA: What cities are you traveling to this month with the festival?
OBERMAN: For the first eight we are here in California in North Hollywood and Pasadena then we have New Orleans (Louisiana), Montgomery, (Alabama), Miami (Florida), Dubuque (Iowa), New Haven (Connecticut) and Salt Lake City (Utah). So that is our tour for this month. I am traveling to half the locations and our VP of Theatrical Distribution Jlill Savarese is covering the other half. Then we will continue throughout the summer months and plan to add Denver (Colorado), Austin (Texas), San Francisco, (California) and a lot of other cities across the country where Film Festival Flix will become a monthly event that audiences can enjoy. For those that can’t come to the theater, they can go to FilmFestivalFlix.com and find the films on our website and learn more about the film and filmmakers. They can buy a DVD, download and stream a film, comment and chat about movies, and become part of the Film Festival Flix community. Film Festival Flix is about independent film in general beyond the titles that we are distributing. We want independent filmmakers to promote their films and talk about their films. It’s about a community and about independent filmmaking.
For this event, Film Festival Flix brought in Director Phillip Pamer, The Holy Land of Tyrol, who participated in an audience Q & A after the film. It was his first time to the United States and it was all thanks to this festival. We had the chance to interview him, look for that article soon! We look forward to next month’s screenings.
Watch the trailers for Holy Land of Tyrol and A Secret Promise and find a screening near you.