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Temecula Valley International Film Festival Wraps

Temecula Valley International Film Festival Wraps

Temecula Valley International Film Festival Wraps

by Jerome Courshon

The 4th Temecula Valley International Film Festival came to a close
on Sunday, September 20th, after five days of 30 independent features,
45 short films, workshops, and nightly parties. Temecula Valley is a
small region in Southern California, two hours south of Los Angeles and
about one hour east of San Diego. It’s gained great popularity in the
past decade as a vacation spot, particularly due to its status as
Southern California’s preeminent wine country.

The Film Festival was founded four years ago by Jo Moulton, also founder
and director of last June’s Inaugural San Diego World Film Festival.
Says Moulton, “The Festival was originally created by the Temecula
Valley Film Council as a promotional device to let filmmakers know about
the Temecula Valley as a filming location. We only screened 15 films or
so that first year, and we also only screened romantic comedies. We’ve
grown a lot since then.”

Films were screened at Temecula Valley’s new state-of-the art multiplex,
the Movie Experience. Opening night offered the feature “Frog and
Wombat,” a murder mystery told from the point-of-view of two young
girls, which was written and directed by Laurie Agard. A Black Tie Gala
was thrown on the evening of Friday, September 18th, honoring actor Karl
Malden (“A Streetcar Named Desire,” “On The Waterfront”). The Gala was
held at the Temeku Golf and Country Club, and included clips from Malden’s
numerous classic performances. Producer Gil Cates (“The Academy
Awards” annual telecast) presented the award to Malden. Previous winners
of this award have included filmmakers Carl Reiner, Robert Wise, and
Howard W. Koch.

Winning the Audience Award for Best Feature was Jon Stevens’ “Irish
,” a story about an Irish-American family during a Thanksgiving
holiday. Paul Leaf’s “God, Sex & Apple Pie” took home the Audience Award
for 2nd Place, despite a controversy — apparently, there is a
very large religious community in Temecula, with a number of people
taking issue with the film’s title. This led to the movie’s posters
occasionally being torn down and destroyed. Joseph Bruntsman’s aftermath
of the O.J. Samson trial, “October Three,” received the Audience Award
for 3rd Place.

In the short film category, Ron Krauss’ “Puppies For Sale” starring Jack
Lemmon won the Audience Award for Best Short Film, with Jim Katz’s “Can I
” and Michael Cargile’s “The Light of Darkness” tying for 2nd Place.
Calixto Hakim’s “Distorted Images” was the 3rd Place Winner. Rick
Wilkinson’s “A Short Wait Between Trains” won the Audience Award for
Best Student Film, with Paul Ryan’s “The List” taking 2nd Place honors
and Ronald Eltanal’s “A Good Lie” winning 3rd Place. A couple of other
short films making noise at the festival were Val Keller’s “Winged,” a
sci-fi film with special effects to rival that of a studio picture, and
Corky Quakenbush’s “One Hand, Left.”

Where the Temecula Valley International Film Festival really succeeded
was in creating a hospitable and enjoyable environment for filmmakers to
meet and interact in. The Hospitality Suite was constantly stacked with
food and local wines. The Movie Experience Theaters were terrific, and
all events were located within a few hundred feet of each other. The
film programming was also quite solid, with a combination of festival
circuit faves and brand-new films. The Festival was well-organized and
run, with local papers and radio providing good coverage. Due to its
proximity to Los Angeles, many of the filmmakers and actors were in
attendance. Actress Maria Conchita Alonso came down for the short film
she starred in, “Dillinger in Paradise.” Michael Deluise’s feature
directorial debut “Between the Sheets” brought out brother Peter (who
stars), and their famous father Dom Deluise.

Some of the other features screening were Michael Wechsler and Terry
Keefe’s “Slaves of Hollywood,” Karl Kozak’s “To Hell With Love,” Harry
Bromley-Davenport’s “Erasable You,” Scott Storm’s “Burn,” Randy Wyatt’s
The Next Tenant,” Elliot and Shane Liem-Jacobson’s
Coyote,” Alan Piper’s “Starving Artists,” Australian Robert Carter’s
The Sugar Factory,” and Nadine Bass’ “Mixed Blessings,” which brought
the film’s stars Kelly Curtis (sister of Jamie Lee) in from New York and
Taylor Nichols in from Los Angeles.

The festival’s workshops were diverse and popular, including one given
by filmmaker Roger Avary (co-writer of “Pulp Fiction”) entitled “Making
a Killing out of Pulp Fiction
,” which was preceded by a special
screening of his directorial debut “Killing Zoe.” Other workshops
included writer Kirk Ellis (“The Grass Harp”) on screenwriting, and
director James Napoli doing a shot-by-shot analysis of his multiple award-
winning short film “Nobody Get Hurt.”

The biggest flaw of the festival was in its screenings attendance, which
was sold-out for certain films and very light for many others. The
audience from Temecula Valley was always enthusiastic and film-savvy;
however, it didn’t seem that there were many audience members from
outside Temecula Valley, aside from the visiting filmmakers and other
industry guests. Outreach to cinephiles in the surrounding areas seems a
necessity for future editions of the festival. On the flip side, there
were a few distributors in attendance, which is a rarity at smaller
festivals. All in all, Temecula Valley is a very filmmaker-friendly
festival which really needs to work on filling its theaters better. At
that point, it’s very conceivable that the Festival could just give
neighboring regional fests such as Palm Springs some serious

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