Now in its 19th incarnation and once again under new stewardship, the Hollywood Film Festival has (September 23-27) successfully distanced itself from the glossy red carpet pageantry it once was.
See good. Do good. Feel good. That’s the motto. “It’s the community’s festival,” CEO & Executive Producer Brad Parks and Executive Director Rod Beaudoin said over a lunch interview. They’ve taken the reins from fest veteran Jon Fitzgerald, whose CineCause acquired the fest in 2014, but who stepped down after two years.
This is not a festival bent on luring world premieres or courting acquisitions. The focus is on socially relevant films anchored in causes and calls-to-action. The Hollywood Film Festival team watched over 3,000 films, via filmmaker submission platform Withoutabox, before settling on a program of 20 fiction films, 27 documentaries and 38 shorts. More than half are directed by women.
With their festival, Parks and Beaudoin hope to shatter the mythology that social impact movies don’t make money or can’t inspire real change. HFF kicks off Wednesday at the Arclight Hollywood with a night of industry hobnobbing to introduce participating filmmakers, who are global in scope, to a pool of industry professionals and distribution partners.
The opening night film is musical comedy “Pearly Gates” starring Uzo Aduba, Peter Bogdanovich and Illeana Douglas. Among the fest’s highlights is the world premiere of “F For Franco,” a multimedia exploration of the mind of the titular multihyphenate. HFF will also roll out the red carpet for Penny Marshall, recipient of this year’s Social Impact Cinema Icon award.
But that’s as starry as this fest gets. Parks, a former Army guy who hails from Iowa, and Beaudoin, a Wisconsin native who founded a film festival in his hometown Beloit, have bigger plans in mind. That includes a partnership with Apple that will offer fest filmmakers a digital distribution platform, in addition to the fest’s already strong ties to AMC-owned VOD outfit ShortsHD.
HFF also has an investment fund with Morgan Stanley up its sleeve to help raise money for cause-seeking indie filmmakers. A partnership with China’s Hanhai Studios, a Chinese movie production incubator with real truck in California, is also in the works to expand the festival’s international reach.
The fest is also stepping up its diversity game, with a special “Female Friday” event on September 25 that will showcase a selection of female-directed films, and turn discussion toward the issue on everybody’s mind: women in the industry today.
“Can dreams still come true in Hollywood?” Parks says yes. “If we bring a real accountability model to the filmmakers,” which is what the fest aims to do through its industry bull sessions and programming, “these filmmakers can change the world, and have a better chance of making good content.”