Why would someone leave the comfy confines of Newport Beach in January to visit cold, dreary and rainy England?
Newport Beach Film Festival CEO Gregg Schwenk and Newport Beach & Co. CEO Gary Sherwin have been making the annual January pilgrimage for several years to present the Newport Beach UK Honours, a special awards event held a few days before the BAFTA (British Academy of Film) awards.
Since its inception 20 years ago, NBFF has included a dedicated United Kingdom component during its eight-day film program. Starting in 2014, the film festival and Visit Newport Beach partnered to elevate the connection to the UK industry by honoring talent via the Newport Beach UK Honours, held annually in London.
And starting in 2017, Variety partnered on the event to present its annual list of 10 Brits to Watch.
“We are so proud to be honoring this diverse and creative pool of talent,” Schwenk said in a phone call the day after the UK Honours program. “We are definitely the kickoff to BAFTA week. We are a good predictor of films at the BAFTAs. For example, the movie ‘1917,’ we were getting behind it in November and our OC Film Society had a special screening in early December, well before the big awards.”
Schwenk noted that between the UK Honours in late January, the annual Newport Beach Film Festival in April, and the Fall Honors in November, they are keeping the messaging of the film festival, and Newport Beach in general, alive in the minds of key influencers and stakeholders in the US and throughout the world.
“This is especially true in key travel markets for Newport Beach, specifically with our London event,” Schwenk said. “This is a true partnership between the Newport Beach Film Festival and Visit Newport Beach. It allows us to tell the story of the Newport Beach Newport Beach is as a destination. Almost every honoree last night was talking about how they wished they were in Newport Beach as opposed to London in January. Best Actor went to the city of Newport Beach. Look at all of the incredible locations, everyone who was involved last night was blown away on how stunning our community is.”
The main honoree at the first UK Honours was Benedict Cumberbatch, who starred in “The Imitation Game” and has since gone on to great success in a handful of films including the iconic role of Dr. Strange.
“We were fortunate for our first year,” Schwenk admitted. “To have him participate and be recognized — we set the bar pretty high.”
The good fortune continues as Film Festival has a track record of identifying actors who are breaking out and catching them on the cusp of their upward trajectory.
“It’s a testament to our programming team, they have a good pulse on what is engaging and appealing to audiences in the U.S. and abroad,” he said.
Schwenk also noted that the Film Festival’s OC Film Society screened 10 films last year that are now nominated for Academy Awards. One of those films, “1917,” just won the BAFTA award for Best Film, and is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film. That’s an impressive track record that the festival hopes to duplicate year after year.
For more information, visit NewportBeachFilmFest.com.