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“Will someone please shove something up my #$@ AND MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I’M ALIVE AGAIN!!!”
That quote is from a disgruntled guest attending last year’s OFF film makers party. I laughed remembering the situation which prompted the remark as I bicycled to the Ojai Valley Inn to pick up my press credential. This year, festival organizers hope to erase the memory of last year’s debacle with a strategy to bring the festival’s profile up a notch. Leading the way is OFF chairman David Shor. With sponsorship from Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and the first Annual Ojai film Festival Celebrity Golf Classic, along with an expanded program, organizers have a long range vision of attracting a wider regional audience. I ran into David at OFF’s makeshift office at the inn’s Shangri la Pavilion. He was in a mad dash of finish last minute details before the opening night party that included a silent and live auction, golf tournament award ceremony, and the traditional free outdoor movie screening.
There was a wait while my press credential was being tracked down, so David offered to ride me down to check out the golf tournament. “We’ve got 18 celebrities down playing. It’s really exciting – hey, where’s my cart?!” We walked to the golf course as he spoke with Bill Monot, who drove up and spirited him away. “I’ll be right back.” Some local supporters were standing by to tee off. All were enjoying the beautiful setting and expressing their reaction to our new president-elect. David returned in his cart and we headed back to the pavilion. “What do you have left to do before the party starts?” “Oh, you know, all the last minute fires that start up. Right now I’ve got to deal with the 20 cases of rum that were just delivered to my hotel room. Tell Frank to call me if you want to go anywhere and I’ll come get you.”
Returning only to discover that I’d have to pick up my credential later, I left with a couple of swag bags and a tinge of excitement for the weekend’s events.
When I arrived with my photographer Michael Shevchuk in tow, the party was in full swing. OFF executive director, Maureen “Mo McFaddon made sure Michael had the proper badge authorizing him to carry a camera, “Otherwise you’ll be tackled by security. And I don’t want anyone tackled.” She was serious. The festivities were taking place in the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Pavilion with the screening to take place on the recreational field. There were two bars; one serving beer and wine and the other serving a fruity delicious frothy cocktail made with Cabana Authentically Brasilian (trademark) rum. Needless to say, the lines were long and everyone was having a good time. Hors d’Oeuvres were passed by a young staff well seasoned in their duties, I believe a first for a festival event. Bar service was suspended as Bill Monot kicked off the evenings events that began with the auction. A professional auction company called Bang the Gavel supplied the live auction items which were not being sold so easily. The state of the economy seemed to be the general consensus as guests longed for the bars to reopen. One auction attendant later lamented having sold only two among dozens of high priced items. “That’s okay, we’ve got an event coming up at Playboy mansion. We always do good there.” I was pleased to learn that the company offers its service for free and the split between the auction house and the charity is very good and to the benefit of the film festival.
The award ceremony was quite spirited and fun. The schmooze fest went on and I got a chance to meet some of the film makers. Brothers Rider and Shiloh Strong have an entry titled, IRISH TWINS, screening Saturday at 8pm at the Ojai Art Center and Sunday at 10am at Matilija Auditorium. Writer/director Abigail Carpenter’s GOD’S BEACH, screens Friday at 3pm and Sunday at 5:3pm at Ojai Theater. Kevin Allesee appears in the West Coast premiere of BLUE HOLE screening again Saturday at 12:30pm at Ojai Art Center. And producer/director Sybil Mair is here for the Southern California premiere of her UK film, THE CHEF’S LETTER, screening Saturday ant 5:30pm and Sunday at 80pm at Matilija auditorium.
As the clock marched toward 7pm I ran into the inn’s director of catering, David Brodowsky who took Michael and I through a short cut to the recreational field where the staff was busy setting up concessions for the evening’s screening of Charlie Chaplin’s movie, CITY LIGHTS. Night had fallen and it was very dark and cold. The volunteer team had suffered miss communication, so things were not going as planned. A sign posted at the beginning of the path notified audience members that outside food was not permitted and food and beverages were available for sale at the concession stand. The curtain was being held to wait for late comers. After 20 minutes Mo announced to the sparse but growing crowd that the movie would begin. The setting lovely but chilly and not nearly the crowd that usually is drawn when the free screening is held in the Libbey Bowl. I was told that this year there was some concern from the city regarding the bowl’s state of disrepair and the pending renovation project, so the the bowl was unavailable for use. (I missed the 3:30 informational meeting with the Libbey Bowl renovation team, headed by Jeff Haydon, director of the Ojai Music Festival. I’m curious to know what the attendance was like.) Having the festival a week later than usual did run the risk of having colder temperatures. But given the financial crisis and election day, it seems a good choice to have held the festival in November.
Film screenings are currently underway. But at 11:30 President-elect Barack Obama will be giving his first post-election news conference. After that I’m off to screenings and attending tonight’s film makers party being held at the Ojai Art Center from 6 to 11pm. I’ll be following up with reviews, interviews and pictures from the festival. Come out and enjoy the festival!