Behind the Scenes of NB Film Fest

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By Christopher Trela and Catherine Del Casale | NB Indy

NB Indy columnist Catherine Del Casale at last year’s film festival

What does it take for a filmmaker to get his film into the Newport Beach Film Festival?

“Our reviewers and programming team screened 2,300 to 2,400 submissions get down to the 300 plus in this year’s festival,” said Festival CEO Gregg Schwenk. “Every submission is watched at least five times. This year we eliminated the need for DVDs. Everything was streamed via tabled, PC or TV connected to the internet. It was a new process for us. We are proud of the technology we are leveraging, and the ability to give filmmakers their due.”

Dozens of volunteer reviewers watched and rated films between November and February. The films were scored on a scale of 1 (worst) to 9 (best) in cinematography, directing, acting, story, and production.

To really get a sense of the quality of films submitted, and the challenges of rating films, we volunteered to be screeners. Catherine watched feature films, while Christopher rated short films and documentaries.

“Being on the other side of the film festival this year and reviewing films has been an eye opening experience,” stated Catherine. “Reviewers spend hours and hours viewing films ranging from amazing to mediocre to just plain painful to watch. As a reviewer, I tried to keep an open mind and look at all the components. For example, I may not have liked the story or the acting but the cinematography was great and the production of the film deserved a good rating.”

“I was surprised I watched as many good films as I did, although I had my share of duds,” said Christopher.

Among Christopher’s comments on his rating sheets:

“Not sure if the filmmaker was trying to channel Dali or Warhol, but even as an avant-garde art film (and I’ve seen many), this is lacking in every aspect. No point, no plot. Rating 1.”

“Clichéd yet fun concept that went nowhere. Nice cinematography and production values, wasted on a confusing script with marginal acting. Rating 5.”

“Simple, inspirational, motivational, a film by a highly skilled young filmmaker who, if this is any indication, will go on to do great things. A fine piece of film making–visually interesting, good script and voice over, something I’d watch again. Bravo. Rating 9.”

“Absolutely delightful! Charming and captivating animated film, clever story, fun to watch, nice animation. Worthy of being the lead-in short film before the opening night film. Rating 9” (The film is Swan Cake—it made it into the festival.)

“Stunning cinematography! Very cool, moody, stylish piece of film making. Not much plot, yet an engaging story. Very compelling. Rating 8” (this film made it into the festival.)

“Lower end of festival worthy. Decent production values, decent acting, not much of a plot. Description calls it a sassy comedy. Did not find any humor in it. Rating 5-6.”

Catherine declined to share her comments, stating that “I was a little brutal. However, I now have an appreciation for all the people who weed through the films and choose only the best for filmgoers at the Newport Beach Film Festival.”

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