By Gordon Meyer
Last weekend, the second annual New Media Film Festival was held at the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood. The festival promotes itself as “honoring stories worth telling.” Although brief (this year’s fest ran Friday night and all day Saturday), it provided both a showcase for a wide variety of filmmakers plus fascinating panels on the Who, What and Why of New Media, and Distribution and Monetization (VERY important!).
As for the films themselves, festival director Susan Johnston and her team which includes Artistic Director David Kleiler, Director of Programming Noel Lawrence and Content Coordinator Sarah Leners, showcased 3D shorts, Webisodes, Apps, Digital Comics, Animation, Shorts, films made for Mobile, LGBT-themed films, Music Videos, films with Socially Responsible Content and films shot on the RED. Whew!
For both me and the festival judges, one of the highlights was a 26 minute Fosse-esque musical written and directed by longtime film editor Jay Kamen called “It’s Not Your Time.” Kamen literally mortgaged his house to finance this very funny short starring Jason Alexander and featuring cameos by people like Sally Kirkland, Kathy Najimy, producer Jack Rapke, writer/director Amy Heckerling and studio chief Amy Pascal in his autobiographical story of a staff film editor with aspirations to write and direct and the lengths he’ll go to for his break. Interestingly enough, because “It’s Not Your Time” was so professionally produced (it has the look and feel of a multi-million dollar production), it was rejected by festivals like Sundance because the judges had a hard time believing it was really an independent production.
As good as the New Media Film Festival is as a showcase, perhaps one of its biggest strengths is the way it provides networking opportunities. Johnston and her team set up lounges specifically for that purpose, along with opening and closing night receptions that were very conducive to making new contacts. In addition, festival entries were seen by judges from Pixar, UTA and ILM. Plus winning entries were offered distribution deals with festival sponsor GoDigital.
Since this is only the festival’s second year, it’s still a relatively modest affair both in duration and attendance. However interest has been strong enough that Johnston already has a Silicon Valley edition scheduled for this November in San Francisco at the Viz Cinema on Post Street. Meanwhile, she’s already accepting entries for next year’s festival in 15 categories. Knowing the way Johnston works, don’t be surprised if the New Media Film Festival over the next few years evolves into as much of a “must see” showcase for new talent as festivals like Austin and, dare I say it, Sundance.