Malibu’s first film fest on target

Malibu is a name synonymous with movies, not just because of its frequent use as a location but also because so many people in the movie industry choose to call Malibu home. Now Malibu will be home to a new showcase for its many creative talents — the Malibu Film Festival. Started two years ago by locals David Katz, M. G. Mills and Michael McCormick, the endeavor has had its share of ups and downs. But on Feb. 26, Katz and company will see their dream come true when the festival kicks off its opening night gala. “We’re ecstatic,” said McCormick. “It wasn’t easy. It’s been a lot of effort.”

Even if the festival starts out as a rough cut, Katz has a panoramic vision in mind. “I see it becoming an international event for years to come,” he says. “This is a way to support independent filmmakers, new undiscovered talent, and take them to the next level.”

One of the local filmmakers taking part is screenwriter Miles Hood Swarthout who makes his directorial debut with “Mulligans!,” a comedy short starring Tippi Hedren. Several other Malibu filmmakers will have the opportunity to showcase their work, including Lisa Satriano (“The Setting Son”), David L. Corley (“Angel’s Dance”) and Isabella Fox (“When I Was a Boy”).

Timed to coincide with the American Film Market trade show in Santa Monica, the event is drawing some of the film industry’s biggest and most respected names. Famed director John Frankenheimer will be honored with the festival’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. The man behind such classics as “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Birdman of Alcatraz” and “Seven Days in May,” recently released “Ronin” starring Robert De Niro. Other honorees at this year’s festival include Malibu director James Cameron, sci-fi cult hero Roger Corman and actor Seymour Cassel.

With 1,400 buyers, sellers and distributors just a few miles away, the festival’s creators hope the American Film Market will act as a conduit for independent filmmakers who participate in the Malibu Film Festival. “Making a film, that is just one hurdle,” said Katz. “Getting it seen by people who can make a difference, that is another huge hurdle. This is a chance for agents and executives to recognize up-and-coming talent at a time and place that is convenient for them.” Katz notes that industry residents may also show their support. “So many film executives live in Malibu, it’s not hard to ask one of them to step out their back door.”

The festivities and screenings are scheduled to take place in three large custom-built tents on the grounds of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Thirty films will be presented over the course of the festival. At the end of the event, four of those films will be honored for excellence.

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As Katz, Mills and McCormick see it, the festival is only a beginning. “We feel that we will create something new and different for Malibu,” Katz explained. “Something that not only builds upon the cultural heritage of this beautiful community but that can contribute to the creative spirit that is part of the legend and magic that is Malibu.”

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