Newport Beach Film Fest Opens With Flick, Vodka, Hot Porn Action!

Photos by Bleu Cotton
The scene at Fashion Island.
The 10th Newport Beach Film Festival opened Thursday night at Edwards "Big Newport" with "celebrity" arrivals, flashing cameras and my exclusive red-carpet interview with Oscar-nominated film composer Marc Shaiman of Hairspray! and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut fame.

Marc Shaiman on the red carpet
ME [seconds after a festival official pushed me in front of Shaiman and ordered an interview]: So, uh, what are you doing here?

SHAIMAN: What are you doing here?

ME: Oh. I don't know. Thursday night. Not much else to do.


ME: Um, yeah. So, do you have a film screening at the festival?


OCW: Oh. So why are you here, again?

SHAIMAN: They are honoring me tomorrow. Some lifetime achievement award or something like that.

OCW: Cool.


OCW: Hmm.


He was then pulled away for a photo, and I stepped aside like I'd be waiting to pick up our thrilling conversation before backing away slowly, dissolving into the crowd and making a beeline for the theater entrance. Looking at the festival program, I discovered what brought my exclusive interview subject to Newport Beach is "An Evening of Film and Fun Set to Music: A Gala Reception & Concert with Oscar Nominated Film Composer Marc Shaiman." It begins at 7 tonight in the Palm Garden at Island Hotel in Newport Center. Tickets are $30.

Gregg Schwenk
Inside the cavernous movie house, before the lights went down for a screening of Lymelife, NBFF CEO Gregg Schwenk welcomed everyone and handed the mic off to representatives from the festival's two founding sponsors, the City of Newport Beach and Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment.

Newport Beach Mayor Edward D. Selich read prepared remarks which included this "joke" [told exactly like this]:

"It's . . . not . . . Cannes . . . or . . . Sundance . . . yet . . . but . . . those . . . festivals . . . better . . . look . . . in . . . their . . . rear . . . view . . . mirror."

Pause a beat for laughter. No laughter. Cue the crickets.

Selich ended by suggesting visiting filmmakers take part in the array of activities Newport Beach offers, including Back Bay hikes, Duffy boat rides, whale watching trips, Botox injections, binge drinking and boiler-room cold calling.

Leigh Steinberg
Super agent and film fanatic Leigh Steinberg, whose name I no longer read or hear without the required aside that he was the inspiration for Cameron Crowe's Jerry McGuire, got up to inform everyone the festival was moribund 10 years ago. "But there was a concept, there was a vision, there was a dream," said Steinberg, looking much thinner and moving much slower than when I saw him last a couple years ago.

He credited the festival's success not on the huge cash infusion he made in the beginning but Schwenk setting aside his own investment banker career to take on the monumental task of guiding what has become one of the county's premiere cultural events.

McG McFaces the McMedia.
Honorary chairman and action-flick filmmaker McG of music video, Charlie's Angels, the upcoming Terminator, TV's The O.C. and Corona del Mar High School fame, told the crowd the theater they were sitting in holds special significance to him because of all the time he spent there as a kid "in the Reagan '80s." He said he spent one weekend there watching the same film seven times--not Star Wars, as you'd expect from someone his age, but Tootsie. Experiences like these ignited the former Joseph McGinty Nichol's passion for filmmaking. "My hat is off to the 400 films that I understand are here," said McG, "and the filmmakers pursuing their passion."

Schwenk informed that McG is participating in a variety of NBFF activities through the run that ends Thursday, including Saturday's free filmmaking seminars at Edwards Island Cinema.

Before the CEO ended his remarks with a funny story about a student in his Cal State Fullerton film marketing class thinking NBFF stood for "New Best Friends Forever," he introduced Lymelife producer Leonard Loventhal, whose his producing partner Martin Scorsese and director Derick Martini were obviously too busy to attend. Loventhal saying that the little picture was shot for just over $1.5 million in 22 days made him the NBFF of many indie filmmakers in the audience showering him with applause.

Incidentally, as Martini predicted when he showed Lymelife inside the smaller Yost Theater in Santa Ana last month, it looked (and played) much better on Big Newport's ginormous screen. But at the lavish post-party in the Bloomingdale's courtyard at Fashion Island, Mark Young, the director of the 1965 Watts riots drama The Least Among You, told me over free beers he thought Lymelife moved too slowly. When I informed Young that Martini told me Scorsese had said the same thing, it made Young's night--heck, maybe his life.

I can do that.
Young's picture--which stars Louis Gossett Jr., includes cameos by Lauren Holly and William Devane, also took 22 days to shoot, cost half of what Lymelife did and proved hellish to shoot in LA because union members apparently don't take kindly to non- or barley union productions like The Least Among You--sounds promising. So go. It screens at Sunday at 11:45 a.m. at Edwards Island 6.

Otherwise, I can report from the opening night soiree that the venue was too packed, the free chow was too good, the lines for free Absolut Vodka were too long, the women in beachwear on the catwalk were too skinny and I would have loved to have been the one to remove the dental-floss getup worn by the shapely pixie gymnast following her the special Cirque du Soleil Zumanity performance.

In case anyone's wondering, my new dearest old friend Marc Shaiman and I look exactly like the buff, crotch-stuffed, buns-of-steel dude that was holding, tossing and bending that chick every which way.

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