Newport Beach Film Festival - Day One: Five Things We Learned
Nestled in sun-soaked Southern California, Newport Beach is a paradise of salty, stylish sea-bound activity, luxury shopping malls and gorgeous, neon-lit, plushly decorated cinemas. The perfect place, really, for a glitzy, star-studded but characteristically laid-back film festival. Specifically, The Newport Beach Film Festival.
Over the next few days we'll be bringing you all the main talking points at this year's festival, so here are our first impressions on day one and a rundown of what you can expect for the rest of this week...
We love the Newport Beach Film Festival. You’ll come to love it too.
A relatively young festival, now in its 18th year, the cinematic shenanigans that unfold annually in Newport Beach are masterminded by co-founder and executive director/CEO Gregg Schwenk, a man whose friendly, welcoming disposition and obvious, infectious enthusiasm for cinema, Newport Beach and the growing audiences who flock there every year, sees the festival stand out as something truly special and worthy of close attention.
The fun kicked off on Thursday, April 20th, and runs till April 27th, during which time more than 50,000 excited movie lovers are expected to descend upon the awesome Orange County location, soaking up not only the sunshine, but also more than 350 diverse and fascinating films and nightly gala events so very glamorous they give Cannes and the like a run for their money.
It’s our pleasure, then, to bring you daily reports from the festival, starting with this one!
Since it’s a Film Festival, we’ll have lots of films to talk about.
The first being Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, a appropriately oceanic, revealing and visually spectacular documentary detailing the tempestuous life and thrill-seeking times of legendary big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. The film that kicked off the festival, “It’s a universal story about human potential,” says director Rory Kennedy. “About striving. About the power of the individual to overcome limits, and about the ability we all have to create our own destiny.”
It’s also about waves. Enormous, daunting, gnarly waves, and the man who figured out how to ride them. Though we admit, prior to the screening, we’d never heard of Laird, we were assured by a local surf retailer called Jimmy that “Laird’s the sh*t”. Which he meant, we believe, warmly, positively and with great respect for the man who attended the West Coast premiere of his movie wearing flip flops. Because that’s what you do when you’re a cool surfer dude.
Oh, the cinemas…
We have to mention the cinemas. At least the one we attended last night to see Take Every Wave. Peppered with palm trees and warmly illuminated by a tsunami of Vegas-topping neon, Edwards Big Newport is the sort of cinema we see when we close our eyes and think happy thoughts. The sort of cinema you’d ask a genie to create with the first of your five wishes. Only this cinema goes way beyond magic. Picture a huge auditorium with state-0f-the-art sound, a crisp, gargantuan screen and, instead of traditional, passé sit up seats, La-Z-Boy-style, reclining leather armchairs so incredibly comfortable and comforting, it’s like sitting on a cloud, watching movies in Heaven. We wish we lived there.
Next, congratulations are in order…
A while back, via purehmv, we ran a competition to attend the festival and enjoy the many sights, sounds, exciting smells, tastes and feelings of Newport Beach. The winner, who’s attending with a friend and couldn’t be happier about that, is Erin Davis from Blackburn in the UK. Congratulations Erin!
Finally today, and every day, we present ‘Five Questions with…’
Today we kick off with Billy Burke, best known to most audiences as Bella’s Chief of Police dad Charlie in the Twilight movies, also the pathologist Mitch in returning series Zoo. Billy has a film at the festival, Good After Bad, an intimate, heartfelt drama about a bullied teen (Maddie Hasson) and the eccentric millionaire (Burke) who takes her in.
We asked Billy five questions – the same five questions we’re asking everyone at the festival because we love comparing their wildly divergent answers. Tomorrow we’ll speak to someone new. Today, we’ll leave you with Billy...
Who’s your movie idol?
“When I was a kid it was Burt Reynolds. He always looked like he was having way too much fun for it to be an actual job. Then in the ‘80s, Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn were just burning everything up. I almost hated them for being so cool. ‘90s? Val Kilmer and Johnny Depp. Oh sh*t... you asked for ONE. Sorry, can't. Um, right now it's Jason Bateman 'cause no one does what he does better than he does. All time? Probably Paul Newman. Or Meryl Streep. Not just because Trump hates her but because she just might be the greatest escape-your-own-self artist of all time.”
What’s your go-to comfort film?
“The Exorcist. Not a joke. Still one of the finest and most thought-provoking films ever made and the performances top-to-bottom are first class.”
From the initial thought, to the final press event, what’s your favourite part of the movie making process?
“I tend to be result oriented so the ‘process’ is really sometimes just a painful nuisance. Not once have I ever seen a piece I've been involved in and felt like we couldn't have done a few things better. The best I can ever feel about a project is if we did the story some justice and didn't f*** it up too badly with our own intentions.”
What would you like people to know about your new film?
“Good After Bad is a story ripped from the diaries of a real person's truth in probably the most pivotal time of her transition into adulthood, so I hope we were able to serve it in a way that not only entertains but maybe also sheds some light on the commonalities we all have in coming of age.”
What’s the question that, during interviews, you’re surprised you’re not asked more? Please then answer that!
“The real answer to this is that I am very seldom asked a question I AM surprised by. Mostly, I'd much rather talk about things that may have nothing to do with the project at hand. I wish we'd let movies and tv shows just speak for themselves and let audiences use their own imaginations to take what they want to take. Behind the scenes stuff ruins the magic. 'What was it like to work with...' Blah. Puke. Who cares. Watch the f****** show.”