The Newport Beach Film Festival is here again. While time just doesn’t permit that I get to see many of the 450 films being shown during the almost two-week stint, I always get excited that it’s going on – it makes Newport Beach seem artsy and cultured. And I like that in a town.
My favorite part of the Film Festival is the Youth Film Showcase sponsored by Volcom. I like it so much that I wrote about it last year for Coast Kids magazine. I know that part of my affinity to the Youth Film Showcase in addition to the caliber of its films, is that it’s founder, Whitney Ellis, is an alumnus of the school to which both of my children attend. She is actually part of the reason my kids attend that school. My family attended the first Newport Youth Film Showcase almost a decade ago (okay – that is scary!) at which Newport Beach Film Festival CEO, Greg Schwenk, introduced the audience to Whitney. He told the story behind how she approached him to include youth in the newly established Newport Beach Film Festival. He told her funding was the problem. Schwenk then introduced Richard Woolcott, CEO of Volcom, who spoke about how Whitney approached him and Volcom to sponsor the youth portion of the film festival (at the time of writing this blog, I am still trying to confirm that Volcom is sponsoring the event again this year.). Woolcott, who happens to love film, agreed that Volcom would become the sole sponsor. Then Whitney spoke. She was one of the most articulate and motivated 17 year olds I had ever had the pleasure of hearing. And I thought, wow, if this school is producing kids that can accomplish things like this, I need to look into it!
This year, however, I am even more excited because not one but TWO of my oldest daughter’s friends / classmates have films that will be presented in the Youth Film Showcase this coming Sunday. I am sorry, but that is just COOL! So through my daughter, I forwarded some questions to these young filmmakers about themselves and their creations. Tomorrow we will trek over to the Fashion Island Cinemas (April 29th, 12:00 noon – the show is free – get there early) to see the showcase ourselves, but today, big shout out and congrats to Dena O’Dell and Christian Flashman! Both young filmmakers chose to use their medium to portray people of inspiration – those that have faced or are facing adversity and continue to greet each day with passion.
Dena’s film, “Breathe Easy” is about her friend, Carly Lindmeier, who has cystic fibrosis. Moved by her friend’s need to take 28 pills and 3 breathing treatments a day in order to manage her pain and health while still maintaining the lifestyle of a “regular” teen, O’Dell captures Carly’s regiment treatment, but more importantly, her drive to spread social awareness and medical advocacy. Originally a school assignment , the film took Dena about two months to complete. Making movies since age nine, Dena was originally drawn to the medium from her computer software at the time. Nobody else really knew how to use it, so Dena set forth to learn the film editing programs. Her passion for the process and what she could accomplish with it, landed her a spot in the Film and Television conservatory at the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA) where she is currently a junior. While the Newport Beach Youth Film Showcase is the first festival to which Dena has submitted work, the film has also been accepted into the Archer Film Festival where it will be shown in May. (Note: The Archer Film Festival is focused on empowering women in the film industry – pretty cool, check the link!)
Film and Television Conservatory classmate, Christian Flashman is also new to the Film Festival circuit. His first festival submission, “Big Fish Little Pond“, documents local artist Gavin Heath. Originally a South African surfer with promise of making it big in the sport, Heath was forced to leave South Africa in a state of emergency. Now a resident of Laguna Beach, he is an artisan favorite creating tribal influence glass sculptures that reflect his longing for his home country. Flashman’s original artistic interest was in comic books. However, a film editing class in 8th grade changed that path, feeding a new passion to direct films and leading him to OCHSA to embark on his filmmaking journey. The Newport Beach Youth Film Showcase is the first festival to which he has submitted work. Flashman is currently waiting to hear if his work has also been accepted into the LA Film Festival.
Can’t wait to see them tomorrow. Congrats and good luck to Dena and Christian!