Magazine article Variety

Seaside Haven's Global Grasp

Magazine article Variety

Seaside Haven's Global Grasp

Article excerpt

How do you turn a local festival based in the 89th-most populous city in California into an international destination?

The Newport Beach Film Festival's rise in prominence over the past 17 years holds a few lessons for similar events looking to expand their global appeal.

"We work throughout the year to build partnerships with major international organizations, integrating with them in substantial ways to directly engage with expatriate communities here in Southern California," says CEO/co-founder Greg Schwenk. "We let them know that the Newport Beach Film Festival not only cares about them but, more importantly, about the unique voices that their filmmakers possess."

Reaching out to local branches of such institutions as the German American Business Assn., British-American Business Council, Brazil California Chamber of Commerce and Australia's G'Day USA for the April 21-28 event also has helped organically boost its international pro- file. "Through the filmmakers, we've been able to engage parts of their communities" here and abroad, Schwenk says, and make the films "relevant to Southern California."

The result is a fest offering "outstanding global cinema with a strong local appeal," including over 350 films from 50 countries. The partnerships have bolstered international programs like this year's Irish Spotlight and its Pacific Rim, European and Latino showcases.

But even with its international focus, the NBFF hasn't lost sight of what brought people here in the first place. "The greatest unique selling point of Newport Beach is its location," says Schwenk. "There's no more beautiful backdrop for a global film festival, and we definitely incorporate our locale.

"Newport Beach and Orange County have a very strong tradition of not only filmmaking, but also entertaining, since the golden age of celebrities," Schwenk adds. "And our proximity to Hollywood really allows people on both sides of the camera to participate and engage with our audience."

That location - about an hour south of Los Angeles - might help attract a starry turnout when NBFF honors two entertainment icons with Legend Awards and screenings of their current works: Rita Moreno, who stars in the dramedy "Remember Me," and Burt Bacharach, who scored the drama "Po." Kate Beckinsale and Linda Woolverton are also being honored for their acting and screenwriting careers, respectively. …

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