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As the Los Angeles Film Festival Struggles for Relevancy, a New Director Has Big Ideas For Change

The LAFF is still trying to find its niche in the film festival calendar. New director Jennifer Cochis is adapting the festival to survive.

“Ingrid Goes West”

4. Venues are all over town.

Many LAFF attendees are still reeling from the move from Westwood to downtown in 2010 and back to Culver City last year, which led to attendance figures dropping by 65%. In 2017, while the Culver City Arclight and Kirk Douglas Theatre are still the LAFF anchor, films and events are also taking place at the Arclight cinemas in Hollywood and Santa Monica, as well as the L.A. County Museum and the downtown Ace Hotel.

5. Every movie plays only once.

At the LAFF, you better catch it while you can. Each film plays only once, which eliminates one of the primary roles of a festival: building buzz about popular titles. “Because there is so much going on, you have to put a premium on an activity,” said Cochis. “If you can only see it one time, that makes it special and important. The likelihood is the turnout will be a little higher.”

She’s sticking by her guns, as last year’s By Popular Demand end-of-festival showings were only half-filled. As it’s summer prime time for Arclight, they’re sharing only a few screens with the festival. So the LAFF fills them once and hopes to have more venues for repeat showings in the future.

6. The focus is still on local films and filmmakers.

The festival hung onto the L.A. Muse competition section, “which uses LA as an active part of the story,” said Cochis, “from a neighborhood you’re familiar with, to a judge in downtown LA running a club for homeless people on Skid Row. While we have people coming from all over the world, it is a hometown film festival, and audiences are filled with film lovers and working professionals who connect with each other and find new collaborators.”

One Saturday night gala Competition entry is Participant Media’s East L.A. gang drama “Shot Caller” (Saban Media) starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jon Bernthal, and Lake Bell. Said Cochis: “There are films about LA through the festival.”

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