Carlsbad is a far reach from Hollywood but citizens felt like they’d been transported there this weekend thanks to the first annual La Costa Film Festival.
Co-founders Michael and Ruby Callihan worked with the Omni La Costa Resort to put on a festival that showcased over 20 films, shorts and special events over the weekend of Oct. 24-27. The Callihan’s were able to bring the community together in support of the arts and the Boys and Girls Club, which received all of the net proceeds from the festival.
“It was kind of an epiphany. There used to be this old Hollywood field here and so we thought, ‘Why not bring Hollywood here?’ We have a lot of talent in this area and we need to showcase it,” Michael Callihan said.
Starting up the festival required the work of program coordinator Nancy Collet and many others to organize, contact filmmakers to bring in films and draw attention to this inaugural festival. In addition to the Omni La Costa Resort, Cinepolis and the Carlsbad Dove Library offered their locations as venues for screenings. The festival worked with many sponsors, including Schubach aviation, who brought out actor Andy Garcia to speak at the awards ceremony.
“A festival starting out is very much like making a film. I know how hard it is to do this so I felt a natural sympathy for anyone starting a festival and trying to organize all of these screenings so i wanted to support them as best that I could,” writer, producer, and director of Decoding Annie Parker Steven Bernstein said.
The festival also featured local vendors at the Taste of North County during the opening night gala and throughout the weekend. Opening night also featured the screening of The Short Game, which went on to win best feature at the awards ceremony on Sunday. This documentary about eight of the worlds best child golfers was produced by Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. Before the screening, Keith Blackburn gave a speech by mayor Matt Hall which proclaimed October 24 as La Costa Film Festival Day in Carlsbad.
“The La Costa FIlm Festival aspires to bring a new cultural experience to Carlsbad through a greater appreciation of the art of filmmaking. Our four days of special events at Carlsbad will allow the La Costa Film Festival to showcase the beauty and variety of experiences available from one of America’s greatest destinations,” Mayor Matt Hall wrote.
Besides featuring the full length films of major names like Bernstein, Timberlake and Biel, the La Costa Film Festival also showcased short films and even the work of student filmmakers. The Callihan’s offered a cash prize to both the student and their school for the best student produced film. Jason Phillips and Brandon Chase of Canyon Crest Academy won with their film “Routines,” which was screened at the festival.
“The founders of this festival came to our school and encouraged us to submit so I sent in this film around August. We’re the high school winner so we feel very honored to be here and meet all of these amazing people,” Jason Phillips said.
Though this is the first year for the la Costa Film Festival, it was able to incorporate the relaxed, homey essence of Carlsbad into a cinematic setting, which makes it distinct from other larger film festivals. The festival received tremendous support from the community which will hopefully bring it back for years to come.
“Every film festival has its own little focus and passion. What we’ve found here is really an embrace of art,” Callihan said. “This is a destination festival. It’s not a matter of just bringing in great movies; we also want to showcase all the great things in the area.”“You’re always on edge about whether people like the film. it’s exhausting, its stress making, but ultimately when people compliment your work it’s hugely gratifying,” Steven Bernstein said.