Film festival to feature founder’s work

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“Kissing Strangers” debuts at the Malibu Film Festival Thursday.

Malibu Film Festival founder David Katz has an entry of his own this year with the romantic comedy “Kissing Strangers.” Locals Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith are among this year’s sponsors.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

The 12th incarnation of the Malibu International Film Festival returns this week with screenings and an after party at Malibu Cinemas on Thursday, and on Saturday with screenings and another after party at the Malibu Lumber Yard. The two-day festival skips a day out of respect for the holiday, Yom Kippur.

“This year’s festival, like past festivals, focuses on the filmmakers themselves and finding some quality films,” festival founder David Katz said. “Each year, there are an extreme number of independent films made.”

But this year’s program has at least one curveball: a romantic comedy called “Kissing Strangers,” written, produced and directed by Katz.

“Kissing Strangers,” which was filmed during the summer in Santa Monica and other parts of Los Angeles, stars Matt Smiley and Lucas Dick, the son of comedian Andy Dick. The 2010 film will screen Oct. 6 at 8 p.m.

“This is Lucas’ feature film debut,” Katz said. “It’s a romantic comedy geared to the 18- to 35-year-old audience. It’s young, it’s fun, it’s something for everybody and it’s a good laugh.”

It is also Katz’s debut as triple-duty filmmaker.

In addition to Katz’s movie, some 27 films will screen during the event. The award categories are: Best Short – Comedy, Best Short – Drama, Best Feature, Best Documentary and Best of Festival. Katz’s film will not be judged.

Katz said he no longer the producer of the festival, but is serving as chairman. Lucas Belkind is the main producer he said.

Katz explained that in 1997, “I started the annual film festival with the intention of helping filmmakers. That’s what it’s supposed to be. People come and see the films and relationships get started. People network and they walk away with an experience.”

Also, a portion of the proceeds from this year’s festival benefits the Epilepsy Foundation of America.

Katz grew up in Malibu. He attended Juan Cabrillo Elementary and Malibu Park Junior High schools. He credits his father, producer Marty Katz, as the main reason he is in the filmmaking business.

“When I was growing up, instead of going to school everyday, my father gave me the opportunity to spend some time going to work with him,” Katz said. “I really had this amazing education being on the set of ‘Streets of San Francisco,’ ‘Barnaby Jones,’ ‘Hawaii Five-O.’

“Growing up with all of that production background gave me knowledge of how films are made,” Katz said. “Instead of film school, I’ve taken advantage of the nepotism. I endorse nepotism, there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you’re willing to work hard and preserve the family name. This industry is built on it.”

More information about the film festival can be obtained online at malibufilmfestival.org