Director Roger Corman toasted the Malibu Film Festival with words of praise: “I’ve never seen a first-year festival get off to such an amazingly successful start,” he told the gathering at Taverna Tony Wednesday night. Champagne flowed, stars schmoozed and winners were congratulated. But outside, a few tuxedoed and cocktail dress-clad guests who had paid $50 a ticket for the gala, fumed at being turned away from the festival’s awards presentation. Ticket holders who failed to RSVP arrived to find their names off the list, and event organizers scrambled to remedy the situation.
“We tried to accommodate everyone on a case-by-case basis,” explained festival founder David Katz. “The people who waited got in.”
Even if the Malibu Film Festival is experiencing a few growing pains, its backers see the party-planning glitch as one unfortunate episode in an otherwise expectation-exceeding debut. Like Corman, Managing Director Michael McCormick gave the festival two thumbs up. “No one had ever done a film festival in Malibu before,” he said. “I am very pleased. We wanted quality, and we wanted to do it right.”
The festival drew superstars such as directors James Cameron and John Frankenheimer, as well as actors Seymour Cassel, Gary Sinise and Talia Shire. In all, 30 films were screened from countries such as Italy, Germany, France and Canada. The works of four local filmmakers were also presented.
Even though the festival had its share of well-known names, its real purpose was to showcase the talent of independent filmmakers such as director Ann Lu. Lu received an award for a small-budget movie called “Dreamers,” which tells the story of two young kids who arrive in Hollywood with hopes of making it in the movie business.
For Lu, the exposure a film festival can provide is instrumental. “Festivals like this are extremely important,” she explained. “David Katz gave me a chance to showcase my work, and I really applaud him for that.”
Even before the festival tents were dismantled on the grounds of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, preparations were underway for next year’s festival. Organizers say they hope to build on attendance, increase sponsorship and improve on logistics such as parking. “Any errors that we made were new to us,” noted McCormick. “We are still learning.”
There are sure to be more lessons ahead. But for now, the founders of the Malibu Film Festival have cleared their first major hurdle, proving that like Lu, they are dreamers no longer.