Newport Beach Film Festival - Day Three: Five Things We Learned
Though on a good day, Disneyland’s just a half-hour drive from Newport Beach, for us, the Magic Kingdom is right here.
Welcome to our Day Three report!
“I like the fresh air,” says Joey Kern of Newport Beach. “That’s something we don’t have much of in LA.” Joey’s a classically trained actor. Best known previously for a string of comedies, he’s excited to be attending the festival with his first film as a writer/director, a darkly funny, laugh-out-loud crime comedy called Big Bear.
“I was in a movie that played here a few years ago called Bloodsucking Bastards. I teamed up with the producers of that to make Big Bear. Today’s screening at the Lido, which is really a beautiful cinema, will be the first time the movie’s ever screened in public and I’m excited - and nervous - to see everyone’s reaction.
“I love film festivals. I’ve been to a bunch of them as an actor, but this is the first time I’ve been to one as a writer/director, with a baby of my own. It’s a different experience. There’s a lot more of me in this film and I’m very pleased with it. So far, the people who have seen it, have reacted really well to it. We’re just closing out a deal for distribution and I can’t wait to announce where and when Big Bear will be released.”
The Newport Beach Film Festival Effect.
There’s so much more to the Newport Beach Film Festival than films and meet-the-filmmaker opportunities. There’s an atmosphere, of excitement and anticipation. Everyone’s just so happy to be here, from the filmmakers to the press and the public. There’s an energy that elevates the area from a regular sort of place to somewhere positively cinematic. Everything’s heightened. People are funnier. Events are more dramatic. It’s really a kick.
Case in point, while we’re chatting with Joey, he can’t help but look a little stressed. Since films these days are digital, and stored on tiny hard drives, they’re encrypted of course, protected by passwords to keep them safe from pirates and the like - when you’re this close to the coast, you definitely have to watch out for pirates. Only trouble is, the Lido’s projection guy says he can’t get into the hard drive as he’s been given the wrong passcode.
Joey’s on the phone. There’s a producer too. They’re chasing folks for the magic key that’ll unlock the movie while its first-ever public audience queue outside. They can’t wait inside the cinema, as if and when the movie’s unlocked, the projectionist will have to screen a bit to make sure it works, and Joey doesn’t want to risk anyone seeing a random spoiler right before seeing it properly.
A couple of times, he comes out to chat with the crowd, joking and offering free beer in exchange for everyone’s patience. Talk about grace under pressure. Though the beer sadly never materialised, the password, happily, did. Better late than never. Thirty dramatic minutes after the curtain was due to rise on the film, the audience is allowed inside, their anticipation heightened to a pitch between fever and frenzy. Honestly, it made the experience all the more memorable. It’s a phenomena we’ve come to call the Newport Beach Film Festival Effect. Then finally, thrillingly, it was showtime!
Something to add to your must-see list.
Long story short, Big Bear was worth the wait. Dark as a blood clot, hilariously funny, clever, inventive and endlessly surprising.
Stressed out, repressed Joe (Joey Kern) has been dumped by his fiancé. His goofball friends – psycho Eric (Adam Brody), lothario Colin (Zachary Knighton) and man-child Nick (Tyler Labine) – believe the best therapy would be to exact mob-like revenge on the dude who came between them (Pablo Schreiber). Alcohol plays a major part in their decision making, setting into a motion a chain of events so deeply twisted, if those events were a ball of string, you would never be able to untie them.
A thriller with notes of horror rendered infectiously, relentlessly funny thanks to a savagely spot-on screenplay and a brilliant cast at their eccentric best, Big Bear is smart, subversive and honestly, even five minutes before the end, you’ll still have no idea how it’s going to turn out. That's such a rare, precious quality for a movie to possess. We loved it.
The Newport Beach Film Festival Effect strikes again!
You can’t get around in Newport Beach, or really anywhere in California, without a car. Though it’s not technically illegal to walk somewhere, you’re definitely perceived as some kind of nutter, and can’t shake the feeling that at any moment, you might be snatched by men in white coats and thrown into a loony bin. Uber, therefore, is a godsend. For just a few bucks you can zip from screening to interview to party in a matter of minutes, and you never know who’ll meet next.
Paul drove a Toyota Prius and from behind, and the side, he looked a lot like Larry David. A mile-a-minute conversationalist who drove considerably faster, when informed of our pressing next engagement, he made it his mission to get us to the church (actually a cinema) on time.
Uber-driving, explained Paul, was just one of many strings to his bow. He was also a featured extra in movies and among his impressive credits, had made three films with Clint Eastwood: Flags of our Fathers, The Changeling and, most recently, Sully.
“I was the first class passenger in that,” explains my ride of his role in Eastwood’s plane crash drama. “For the eight days I spent on the set, Eastwood directed from my knee the whole time.” We think beside it, rather than on it, but didn’t press for further details.
“He’s really a great guy,” says Paul of his director. “He only has two rules on the set: no smoking, and don’t make a noise. When he’s happy with a shot, he just walks away. He’s a gentleman, as decent and down-to-earth as they come…”
We were beginning to think that maybe one of Paul’s bows was Eastwood’s PR guy. But we love Clint too, and appreciated Paul’s personal insight while he zipped through heavy traffic with the skill of a roadrunner.
We made it to the church on time. Paul was our hero that day. Our Clint. Newport Beach is really the most amazing place!
Five Questions With…
Joey Kern, of Big Bear fame, kindly played our Five Questions game, even while freaking out over the incorrect hard drive code. We salute his patience, good humour and strong multi-tasking skills.
Who’s your movie idol?
“I’m going to say Tarantino because in my film I do a little homage to Pulp Fiction. There’s a shot-for-shot remake of the syringe scene. Some people miss it, but I don’t think it’s that subtle. I think it’s very noticeable. Anyway, it’s something to look for when you watch the movie.”
What’s your go-to comfort film?
“Honestly the movie I’ve probably seen the most in my life is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Gene Wilder is another one of my total idols. I love him and everything he did. I sometimes try to emulate his sensibilities as a character actor.”
From the initial thought, to the final press event, what’s your favourite part of the movie making process?
“Shooting, for sure. That’s where I come from, as an actor. Shooting is so much fun. Making Big Bear was a blast. I wasn’t trying to beat the metal into what I wanted it to be. I just gathered everyone and pushed them on a journey. Led them all in one direction. It was a huge group effort.”
What would you like people to know about your new film?
“It’s a comedy with a lot of heart. I didn’t set out to write a comedy. I set out to write about an experience that I had, about a heartbreak, and I ended up using the comedy as a tool to tell the story. Hopefully people will laugh but at the end of the day, find a real connection with the characters in the story.”
What’s the question that, during interviews, you’re surprised you’re not asked more?
“I’ve done a lot of theatre and I feel like no one ever really pays attention to that. I did Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida with Sir Peter Hall years back, and I did a bunch of British shows in New York. I studied at RADA, but I think because of the films I’ve done, and maybe the way I look, people don’t ask the same sort of questions they might think to ask a serious actor. But I like to think of myself as a serious actor. Why can’t a serious actor be funny?”