LA Film Festival 2018
The LA Film Festival is an annual film festival held in September in Los Angeles, California. It showcases independent, international, feature, documentary and short films, as well as web series, music videos, episodic television and panel conversations. Since 2001 it has been run by the non-profit organization Film Independent, which since 1985 has also produced the annual Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica. Presenting Media Sponsor is Los Angeles Times. Official Host Venue is ArcLight Cinemas. Platinum Sponsors are American Airlines, EFILM | Deluxe, HBO and TikTok. The University Sponsor is Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television. Official Screening Partner is Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Festival Supporters are Directors Guild of America, eTech Rentals, Kona Productions, TREETI and Visit Seattle. Festival Affiliates are 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion, ATK Audiotek, Konsonant Music, SAGindie and Writers Guild of America West. Additional support provided by National Endowment for the Arts. Stella Artois is the Official Beer. IMDbPro is the Official Industry Resource. CITI is the Official Credit Card. The LINE, NoMad Los Angeles and Freehand LA are the Official Hotel Partner. Essentia Water is the Official Water. Hillersden Estate Wines is the Official Wine. Getty Images is the Official
LA FILM FESTIVAL 2018 FINAL EVENT REVIEW & THE NEW ROMANTIC FILM REVIEW:
I must be honest that when I went to this year’s Los Angeles if I had known itwas going to be the last LA Film Festival then maybe I would have seen more films and shorts. But I did not know this was “The End” and honestly, I am not really surprised by the way I was treated as a LA Film Festival 2018 journalist.
When I first arrived at the 2018 LA Film Festival at the Arclight Cinemas Culver City, like I had previously done for the past couple of years, I went to the festival main box next to the theater. I asked for my press pass and was promptly told that all the press passes were not there, and I had inexplicably to go to the Film Independent office on Wilshire to pick them up. This was a stupid and silly suggestion since every time before I picked up my LAFF press pass at the main theater that was showing 90% of the films, docs and shorts. I also told the LAFF 2018 staffer that the documentary shorts program was about to begin and was not going to leave and miss the program just to get my press pass that should have already been at the Arclight Culver City. I was told by the LAFF 2018 staffer that a compromised was reached and I was given a guest LAFF pass while someone at the Wilshire office would bring over mine and several other presspasses. I then asked where the LAFF Filmmaker’s Lounge, so I could visit it later in the day. I was then sharply told that this year the LAFF Filmmaker’s Loungewas restricted and limited and a LAFF 2018 press pass no longer guaranteed that we as the working press of the festival can go hang out and interview directors, actors and producers. This was beyond silly and highly insulating to us as press.
So, I then went to the theater with my guest LAFF pass and started watching the documentary shorts program. I can say that all the short docs I saw were great and extremely informative. The best two I saw in Shorts Program 5 were Black 14 by Director Darius Monroe and Skip Day by Director Patrick Bresnan. Black 14 was especially relevant now in the bat crazy Donald Trump Era as the short documents fourteen black players on the 1969 University of Wyoming football team who protested about civil rights and were instantly kicked off the team and their scholarships were revoked. The same clueless folks at the University of Utah in 1969 are eerily just like the many clueless Donald Trump supporters who do not respect, care or understand why blackballed NFL quarterback Colin Kapernick started taking a knee to protest police violence and deaths of African- Americans. It should also be noted that a month before I saw this Black 14 short Boots Riley, director of Sorry To Bother You, had been publicly clowning and trolling Spike Lee on Twitter. Boots was sweating Spike about his Golden Globe nominated BlackKklansman being to pro-police and calling its lead character, Ron Stallworth, a villain for his past with snitching and hurting black activists.
The point being is that Boots was trying to question Spike’s true motives to makeBlackKklansman and whether he still deserves to be the rep of being ‘pro–black”or being a “real activist.” But what Boots stupidly did not know is that Spike is a producer of Black 14. That fact alone of Spike putting his “pro-Black” careerhighlights of School Daze, Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Get Off The Bus, etc., etc., behind Black 14 only helps this timely short of a very obscure civil rights incident get major media attention by being in the Los Angeles Film Festival and other major international film festivals. What I particularly liked about watching Black 14 was that many of the University of Wyoming’s football fans were “tone–deaf” and could not understand why the 14 Black UW players were protestingand supporting their fellow UW Black Student Union activists. Even though this film was made in 1969 you could find similar “clueless” Trump supporters who do not condone or understand why NFL players are “kneeling” at NFL gamesduring the national anthem to protest the unjust and illegal police violence and police shootings against African-Americans and people of color.
Another short documentary I greatly admired was Skip Day because it was about an annual tradition of high school seniors from Pahokee, a small mainly Black town in central Florida driving in mass to the beach the Monday after prom. I felt Director Patrick Bresnan’s film was a very natural and uncontrived. And I think it was more of an accident that many of the white beachgoers suddenly got up and left when the loud and energetic seniors arrived. But there was a simple purity and honesty with watching these seniors visit a mainly white and tourist driven beach that they probably will not be visiting anytime soon or even later. My other short documentary “Honorable Mentions” were Earth is Humming by Director Garrett Bradley, Lotus by Director Mohammadreza Vatandoust, One Leg In, One Leg Out by Director Lisa Rideout, Room 140 by Director Priscilla Gonzalez Sainz, Shift by Diector Elivia Shaw by Director Paloma Martinez andWild Wild West: A Beautiful Rant by Mark Bradford by Director Dime Davis.
After watching Shorts Program 5, I rushed back to retrieve my LAFF 2018 press pass and one for journalist David Velo Stewart of HHBMedia.com. We then jumped in a car and raced from Culver City to the Writer’s Guild of America’sTheater in Beverly Hills to go to the We The People Inclusion Summit:
We the People is a summit committed to advancing inclusion within the entertainment industry by serving as a solution-oriented call to action. All panels at the summit are completely FREE.Taking place September 22 and 23 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, We the People will feature free panel discussions anda keynote conversation.
The conversations range from the state of the entertainment industry’s inclusionefforts both on screen and behind the camera, in addition to how women,immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ+, Native Americans, people with disabilities andpeople of color continue to be systemically marginalized or not represented. In our24th year, we at the LA Film Festival are committed to advancing the inclusion conversation.
Films helmed by, and featuring underrepresented groups had an amazing 2017 andthe trend continues in 2018. The myth that films which accurately reflect complexand diverse realities don’t traditionally perform at the BO, both domestically andinternationally, is being dispelled. We examine how films made for diverse audiencesisn’t a trend, it’s good business. With receipts in hand, the audience is crying, “Moreof this please. Now.”
Previous years we covered LAFF’s important and well attended free DiversityConferences, but that was when they were smartly held near the main LAFF theaters. That way one could still easily park at one venue and walk from films you want to see to the talks you wanted to hear. But inexplicably the LAFF 2018 was spread out all over LA this year. LAFF 2018’s main office in Mid-Wilshire, they were showing films at the Arclight Culver City, Arclight Hollywood, VR film projects at LMU in Playa Vista and the We The People series in Beverly Hills. This absurd and unpractical plan of spreading LAFF all over LA was a waste of time, resources and ultimately diminished the overall attendance of the LAFF 2018. Which is bad for filmmakers who all want big crowds at LAFF 2018.
Anyway, if you want to see the entire, We The People Inclusion Summit: We Got The Receipts Black Panther And Beyond Panel, then go to the many links below:
Best and Last of LA Film Festival 2018 – We The People Inclusion Summit – Black Panther & Beyond Panel Part 1 – Kumail Nanjiani, Leah Daniels-Butler, Franklin Lenoard, Kay Cannon, Marc Bernardin & Emily V. Gordon – HBO Sponsor – Writer’s Guild Theater
My intuitive opinions on how to achieve diversity in Hollywood would take another five or ten pages. So, instead I will just say that the Black Panther Panel myself and Dave attended and filmed was quite satisfactory and addressed many of the burning questions that have been exploding through Hollywood since the #OscarsSoWhite, #MeToo and #TimesUp movements started. During Oscar week I will write a detailed piece about how Black Panther has forever changed Hollywood by destroying every myth and fears that all-Black casts cannot be mega-profitable in international markets and why Black Panther alone cannot be the sole diversity panacea that saves Hollywood from reverting back to the past.
We could not really hang around the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills and do any extensive follow-up reporting with the diversity panelists. I really wanted to see the film The New Romantic back at the Arclight Culver City. So, we raced back through Westside traffic and we parked again, and I headed to the theater.
My hectic day at LAFF 2018 only got crazier when I got to the Arclight theater showing The New Romantic and I was told by the LAFF staff that I could not go inside early and get a seat like members of the press always get to do. The three inexperienced LAFF staffers told me to wait around for a while and then they will let me enter the theater closer to the screening time. So, while I was waiting, I charged my phone and checked my emails. But then ten minutes before thefilm’s screening starts, I quickly went back to the theater to go sit down before the audience started coming inside. I was then rudely told by the LAFF 2018 staffers that I had a press “General” pass and that now did not entitle me tocome in early. I had to go back outside the Arclight Culver and go to the end of the line of the patrons waiting to see The New Romantic. I tried unsuccessfully for several minutes to explain to the dense LAFF 2018 staffers that the one of the sole purposes of having a press pass is so that journalists can see multiple films in multiple theaters because they can cut the lines. If every journalist had to wait in lines to get good seats to see films at film festivals, then journalists would just see less films, shorts or events at the Los Angeles Film Festival. I also told them that I was let in early to the Shorts Program 5 a few hours earlier in the same exact theater with just a guest pass and not even a press pass. But someone’s Granny said “stupid as stupid does”. So, I had to walk away from the theater and found myself with other press members who were blindsided by this new policy treating the LAFF 2018 press as if they were a joke and did not deserve advance seating.
Eventually, I got into the theater and did not sit in the seats or rows I wanted to sit in if I had been let in earlier. What pisses me off the most is that I really wanted to see Carly Stone’s The New Romantic almost more than any other LAFF 2018 film. Sometimes finding new and quirky indie romantic comedy is the type of rare pleasure of film festivals. The description for the film is below:
The New Romantic is a 2018 Canadian romantic comedy-drama film, written and directed by Carly Stone. It stars Jessica Barden, Hayley Law, Brett Dier, Avan Jogia, Timm Sharp and Camila Mendes. Blake, a young woman who is frustrated by the lack of romance in her life and scared by her impending graduation from journalism school, agrees to experiment with becoming a sugar baby to a wealthy older man in the hope that writing about her experience will win her the $50,000 prize in an upcoming journalism competition.
What I really liked about The New Romantic was that this was a film about a young woman making sexual and personal dating decisions from a young femaledirector’s perspective. We live in a highly transactional society and so it should not be a surprise that young women can legally be “Sugar Babes” that sell their time and body to men “Sugar Daddies” in exchange for gifts or money. The best parts of The New Romantic are the awkward moments of Blake played smartly by director Jessica Barden as she tries to work out and rationalize becoming a sugar babe. “Riverdale’s” Camila Mendes said during the film’s Q&A that she only had two days off her hectic shooting schedule to be in The New Romantic. But Jessica makes the most of Camilla’s time because she is highly convincing as Morgan a semi-spoiled maternalistic diva that knows exactly what she wants in life and what she is worth to various men to make it happen. Camila Mendes as Morgan projects confidence and competence which makes it very easy for Blake to ditch her pathetic and dull collegiate dating life and want to emulateMorgan’s exciting and lucrative life as an escort. Blake is also encouraged to take more chances in her love life by Nikki, Blake’s whimsy, fun, smart, sexy and carefree roommate. Nikki is played by another great “Riverdale” alumnus Hayley Law. And at some point, in the film I wondered if Nikki would also joinBlake as a “Sugar Babe” because she was highly supportive of Blake’s suddendecision to trade her body for bucks. But Nikki already had her own swag andcool persona, so she didn’t need help snagging a boyfriend or lover.
The New Romantic will also be fondly watched by many Millennials who are probably craving for genuine romantic heroes in a world that promotes quick and meaningless soulmates that one finds by swiping left or right. Or they can look up to young women and men competing with other youngwomen and men to win the heart of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”.
I also wondered where women, like Blake, at the end of the film, go to getback their reputation if their friends and family find out they are a “Sugar Babe.” I know I should ask that same question about Ian, Blake’s “SugarDaddy”, but successful men who pay for lovers or escorts are rarely viewed by society as losers or desperate. One can easily say that even our currentpresident Donald Trump bragged about being a “Sugar Daddy” in his life.Even the notorious and pathetic womanizer Harvey Weinstein tried to justify his illegal and unethical sexual assault and rape of women by saying
that he was merely trading roles in his films for sex. So, while watching The New Romantic you will laugh at a great indie rom-com while also deeply questioning the reasons that Millennial women justify being “Sugar Babes”.
Now if you want to learn more entertaining facts and stories about the making ofThe New Romantic than one can go to the links below of the film’s Q&A that took place with film’s cast and producer. If had gotten a better seat as a press memberI would have been able to film the Q&A better and the sound would be better. Ialways film Q&A’s of films I watch at any film festival. That includes the LA Film Festival because there are usually unique insights and personal experiences from directors, producers and cast members that only happens after a screening.
Best and Last of LA Film Festival 2018 – The New Romantic Q&A Part 1 – Director & Writer Carly Stone – Camila Mendes, Jessica Barden, Hayley Law, Brett Dier, Avan Jogia and Timm Sharp – Producer Kyle Mann – Drive Films – Evalation Pictures
Best and Last of LA Film Festival 2018 – The New Romantic Q&A Part 3 – Director & Writer Carly Stone – Camila Mendes, Jessica Barden, Hayley Law, Brett Dier, Avan Jogia and Timm Sharp – Producer Kyle Mann – Drive Films – Evalation Pictures https://tinyurl.com/y8r5kmd2
My final and overall thoughts about attending the last LA Film Festival must start with whether Netflix, Hulu. iTunes, YouTube and Amazon have now made major film festivals irrelevant. I truly think we have a new DVR generation that does not care if new films premiere at film festivals or premiere first on their TV. The LA Film Festival closing is a major setback to the large Los Angeles indie film community because Hollywood is primarily fixated with making and pushing blockbusters to filmgoers. Film festivals if properly run and promoted can be lifesaver to indie films and filmmakers that need a special event to reward the hard work of the cast and crew. I will truly miss the LA Film Festival and hope it comes back. But until then I predict more indie filmmakers will stop relying on film festivals to be their cinema savior. And as Los Angeles goes surely other cities may follow suit and shutter their film festivals. #RIPLAFilmFestival.
LAFF 2018 & New Romantic Film Review • David L. $Money Train$ Watts • @MoneyTrain • FuTurXTV/Metacafe.com • www.hhbmeedia.com