Go Deeper, Go Bigger 6

The growth of the Newport Beach Film Festival

Since it’s inception in 1999, the Newport Beach Film Festival has remained dedicated to bringing the best in classic and contemporary film to Orange County. Now the age of a high school senior, the Newport Beach Film Festival has matured into one of the top film festivals in the country.

“We are exceptionally proud of the growth of the film festival over the last 18 years,” says Gregg Schwenk, co-founder and executive director of NBFF. “Never did we believe that we would grow to this size.”

This year’s campaign, “Go Deeper,” encourages engagement in both filmmaking and viewing, but “Go Bigger” could have been an equally fitting theme.

Now in its 18th year, with more than 350 films shown over eight days, the Newport Beach Film Festival shows more films than Tribeca. And, the 55,000 film fans that attended the 2016 festival means NBFF rivals Sundance in terms of attendance.

“One of the hallmarks of the festivals is to be able to build on that phenomenal growth,” says Schwenk. “We had a record number of submissions this year, with our committee reviewing almost 3,000 different films.”

Taking place April 20 through April 27, the festival will feature both independent and major studio productions along with the usual round-up of seminars and after-parties.

In recent years, the festival has committed to expanding its international programming. This year’s line-up of films includes the Japanese drama, The Long Excuse, which follows the plight of a widowed writer who lost his wife to a bus accident and his connection to a working class man who lost his own wife to the same accident. Additionally, the Australian drama from director Tori Garrett, Don’t Tell, will make its world premiere at NBFF this year. Based on the book of the same title by Stephen Roche, the movie is inspired by true events involving a young girl abused at a prestigious boarding school and her fight for justice, which ultimately influenced the changing of child protection laws in Australia.

In February, the Newport Beach Film Festival traveled to London to honor UK industry professionals at the third annual Newport Beach Film Festival Newport Honors. In partnership with Visit Newport Beach, Orange County Film Society and leading entertainment magazine, Variety, NBFF presented awards for Artists of Distinction, Arts Champions, Icons/Legends, Breakthrough Artists, and Outstanding Achievement in Global Cinema. British photographer David Bailey and actors Miranda Richardson and Charles Dance received icon awards and Variety’s 10 Brits to Watch included One Direction singer Harry Styles, “Game of Thrones” actor Alfie Allen and theater director Kate Hewitt. An extension of the honors program will be hosted at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach on April 22nd.

NBFF boasts an impressive short film program. While most film festivals pair their short films with a feature, NBFF has upwards of 30 short films in its program.

“I am very proud of the shorts,” Schwenk says, “I believe we have one of the best curated shorts programs in the country.”

Not to mention the extravagant and entertaining events surrounding the festival.

“I am excited to see what our event production and culinary teams have planned for our nightly events,” he says.

Past events have included private performances by the likes of Cirque du Soleil. And, with such close proximity to Hollywood, the festivals bring celebrities, filmmakers and distributors to our picturesque coastal community. The 2016 festival featured such names as Matthew Morrison, Kate Beckinsale, Milo Ventimiglia, Katie Lowes, Burt Bacharach, Rita Moreno and Jason Ritter.

Despite how large the Newport Beach Film Festival gets, Schwenk says that its mission remains the same.

“First and foremost, I hope people enjoy the films we have selected,” he says. “Ultimately, the festival is built out of passion for films, and the point is to engage in and enjoy them.”

Tickets go on sale April 1, with all events and screenings open to the general public. Visit NewportBeachFilmFest.com