Did you miss Next Fest? If so, you skipped out what I think promises to become one of Los Angeles' premier film fests. It's a wonderfully compact look at the talent emerging from this year's Sundance Film Fest in Park City, partnered with red carpets, panels, music and set in the newly restored UA Theatre at the Ace Hotel downtown.
If you went to the inaugural "Next Weekend" fest last year, you saw a few flicks at the Sundance Cinemas in West Hollywood. It made for a fun Sundance reunion, but lacked the sizzle which the Sundance brand has built over the years. This year, the change of venue added a larger audience and a little more star power to the four-day fest.
"We were very encouraged by what happened last year, but we wanted to make a bigger splash in L.A.," Trevor Groth, director of programming at Sundance, tells me in a recent interview. "There's a vitality that's happening downtown."
The fest kicked off with Thursday's outdoor screening of "Napoleon Dynamite" at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the film's 10th anniversary. It was my first time at the venue as I've always been wary of outdoor screenings involving picnics. They sound nice in theory, but for cinema curmudgeons it seems like the kind of screening that involves loud talking, cell phone chatter and drunken antics. Not so. The audience was fantastic, even donning their "Vote Pedro" t-shirts to welcome a mini-cast and crew reunion the folks at Sundance had pulled together (Jon Heder appeared in a taped introduction).
The evening events over the next three days included both a film and a concert for a very reasonable ticket price. The screening of zombie comedy "Life After Beth" was followed by a performance by singer-songwriter Father John Misty, while the screening of "Imperial Dreams" was partnered with a performance by Tinashe.
"[Robert] Redford has always loved the cross pollination of film and music," says Groth. "We wanted to do something unique in pairing a music artist with a film."
And for aspiring filmmakers? Sundance partnered offered free panels on how to launch projects, with a very useful series of discussions on how to properly use KIckstarter.
One of the small misfires of the fest? Parking. I am wise in the way of public transportation, so I skipped that hassle. But friends told me it was a pain and a bit pricey. Transportation is something that the Sundance Institute has figured out in Park City with a wonderful shuttle system. Perhaps a shuttle to a larger lot would be in order here as the fest increases in popularity.
And with sold out events this time around, the crowds will only get bigger in years to come.
"We're very lucky with Park City that we don't have to market ourselves anymore," says Groth. "In L.A. there's a lot happening all the time. We'll have to be creative in how we get the word out."
Considering that most Los Angeles residents don't have the winter gear to face the Park City chill in January, I can imagine that this will become a must-do fest for film fans looking to stay on top of the indie scene and out of the snow.