Festival Briefs for the week of 12/14/98
Compiled by Eugene Hernandez, Kevin Dreyfuss and Andrea Meyer
>> LAIFF Set to Expand in 1999
The fifth anniversary of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival next
spring will be marked by an expansion of the increasingly influential
event. For its 1999 edition, the Festival will add a day of film
screenings to accommodate audience demand. The event, which will run April
15 - 20, 1999, will again unspool at the Directors Guild of America,
Laemmles Sunset 5, the Harmony Gold Preview House and the Laugh Factory on
Sunset Blvd. in LA.
In 1999, the LAIFF launched an array of notable indie films, including
Bennett Miller's "The Cruise" which was acquired by Artisan, "Shadrach"
which was nabbed by Columbia/Tri-Star, and Scott Ziehl's Best Feature award
winner "Broken Vessels."
According to organizers, over 75 films (features, shorts and documentaries)
will be screened, along with 17 seminars, the annual New Media Forum, and
the popular Indie Music Night. Last year's fest boasted an attendance of
21,000 according to organizers -- with the expansion attendance is expected
to top 25,000. [Eugene Hernandez]
[Submissions to the 1999 LAIFF are being accepted through Friday, January
For further information on submitting call (323) 951-7090.]
>> U.S. Comedy Arts Festival to Feature Comedic Film Showcase
The fifth annual U.S. Comedy Arts Festival (USCAF), which is slated to
take place March 3-7, 1999 in Aspen Colorado, is featuring an exhibition
of films for the first time. The new "Discovery" program, will showcase
independent comedic shorts and features. The festival's film advisory
board includes Cassian Elwes of William Morris Independents,
wirter/directors Nora Ephron ("You've Got Mail"), Carl Franklin ("One
False Move") and Rob Reiner ("Stand By Me," "The American President),
Good Machine co-topper Ted Hope, uber-attorney/rep John Sloss and triple
threat actor/writer/director Ben Stiller.
In addition to the film program, the Comedy Arts Festival will include
film seminars, two of which have already been scheduled. One is a panel
discussion inspired by Peter Biskind's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,"
exploring the evolution of the filmmaking process from the 1970's until
today. The other seminar, "1999 Summer Comedies," will cover the
marketing and promotion of comedies.
In addition to seminars, forums, and Q & A's, the 1999 USCAF will
present over 60 performances from all of the comedy arts, with an
emphasis on new artists and alternative comedy. Scheduled events
include: an AFI Star Award presentation honoring "Seinfeld" co-creators
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Both will attend; a tribute to Neil
Simon, who will be receiving the second annual USCAF Writers Award; an
awards presentation honoring James L. Brooks; a tribute to the comedy
sketch series, "The Ben Stiller Show"; and an SCTV cast reunion,
featuring original members Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin,
Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, and Dave
Thomas. Additional events will be announced.
Sponsors of the USCAF include HBO, Comedy Central, AFI, Amstel Light,
Hyundai, Turner Classic Movies, Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood
Reporter, Variety, and the Cartoon Network.
Applications for the film showcase can be obtained by calling (323)
463-6646 or visiting the USCAF web site at www.uscaf.com. The submission
deadline is December 22. For additional information or to purchase
tickets to the event, call (800) 778-4633 [Andrea Meyer]
>> P.S. 99: Same Great Taste...Without the Phat!
The highly successful Phat Shorts Festival has been scuttled and reborn
as P.S. 99, and is now accepting submissions from any and all short form
filmmakers. This year's festival will be held in downtown Manhattan each
Monday night in April (5th, 12th, 19th, 26th).
Last year's Phat Shorts Festival was their most successful iteration
yet, including some provocative, hilarious, and always singular shorts
from around the world, such as Tanya Hamilton's stunning coming-of-age
piece "The Killers," Academy Award nominee "Old Lady and the Pigeons"
from French filmmaker Sylvian Chomet, Greg Pak's controversial black
comedy "Mouse," and the hands-down winner for Most Killer Title, "Melvyn
Schmatzman, Freudian Dentist."
Shows were sold out every night, "to the point where the fire marshals
were sent down because there were so many people, "according to founding
member Kelly Markus, exaggerating only slightly. But with the
festival's critical and commercial success came tension -- all was not
well in Phat-land. A rift developed between Phat Shorts' partner
Packawallop Productions and the festival's founding members Markus,
Jorge Aguirre, Andre Hereford, Byrd McDonald, along with current
co-producer Ryan Werner. This self-described "mom-and-pop operation"
found their amicable partnership with Packawallop falling apart, with
vituperation and nasty threats of litigation flying back and forth.
Once the dust settled, Phat Shorts was no more, but the original
founding producers have reconstituted themselves as P.S. 99, continuing
the festival with the same focus and drive to bring the gospel of short
films to the masses, without a slavish industry insider focus. "We broke
away so that the ownership of the Festival would be democratic. We
wanted everyone to have a piece of it," says McDonald. This year's
version will follow the same successful formula as past festivals.
Namely, no awards, no theme nights, no star fucking, a focus on emerging
filmmakers, and an insistence on programming the shorts as if they were
DJ's spinning tunes at a club. "Programming the material being the most
important thing for us," notes McDonald, "We're not going to group films
via category...we feel that putting together an evening of shorts is
akin to editing a film. You have to give it pace, give it texture, and
make it a whole viewing experience." With new sponsorship already on
board from Eureka Pictures, FILMMAKER Magazine and the Village Voice,
and with submissions piling up, the founders of P.S. 99 are looking
forward to a successful resurrection. [Kevin Dreyfuss]
[For more information and applications ($15 fee), contact P.S. 99 at
212.253.5907, or visit their Web site, www.ps99.com.]
>> Palm Beach Fest Names New Director
The Palm Beach International Film Festival has chosen a new Executive
Director, John Paul (J.P.) Allen, to oversee day-to-operations of the
festival. Allen comes from a position managing the Nortel Palm Springs
International Film Festival, and also created and directed that
festival's Short Films Festival. Prior to that, he held positions with
the Seattle International Film Festival and ABC television. The Palm
Beach International Film Festival is a non-profit event, with all
proceeds going to deserving film school students. The 1999 festival
will take place April 9-18. [Kevin Dreyfuss]