Meet the Local Talent at the 2017 Pasadena Film Festival

Published : Tuesday, March 7, 2017 | 3:16 PM

The Pasadena Film Festival returns to The Laemmle this March with an exclusive Filmmaker’s Lounges after every screening block. This ten-day festival features films of all genres by filmmakers from around the world. In addition to international talent, the PIFF highlights people who live and work in Pasadena. We spoke with three locals who are part of this year’s festival to get the scoop on the film industry and hear what they are most looking forward to for PIFF’s fourth year.

Local screenwriter, Raymond Just, will return to the Pasadena Film Festival for the third time this year with his script, Children of Eden. This story follow an ex-Royal Marine and her documentary film crew as they encounter a millennia-old virus in the Siberian wilderness. Together, they must brave real and political beasts to find the cure before the entire human race is cast back to the Stone Age.

He draws inspiration from history, myth, folktale, and real world science but also injects an emotional throughline into each script. He saves interesting articles and bookmarks ideas that he later incorporates into scripts.

“What I like to do in my own work is to ground the [stories] in fact and history whenever I can,” said Just. “I like to imagine different reasons for things happening.”

When he is not writing, Just works as an entertainment lawyer for Paramount where he is fully immersed in the film industry. He is a big supporter of independent filmmakers and the stories they have to tell – many of which get passed over by large studios.

“[At a film festival] there are a lot of cool, really creative ideas that you’re not going to see otherwise,” he said. “I really hope to attend [PIFF] this year and enjoy what fresh, independent voices are putting on the screen.”

John Schimke is the co-director, co-writer and co-producer of the web series, Don’t Tell Larry, with Greg Porper. Schimke works in television and creates his own films and TV series on the side.

“I’ve always been interested in filmmaking since I was a kid – I used to borrow my sister’s video camera to make short films,” he said. “I love the storytelling aspect of it.”

Schimke is also returning to PIFF; his short film, Plan Perfect, was in the 2015 festival. Don’t Tell Larry is a dark comedy where two co-workers go to extreme lengths in order to keep big secrets away from their emotionally unstable colleague, Larry.

“Dark comedy is always the genre I’ve been invested in – it’s when you can find a really bad situation entertaining,” he said. “Storytelling needs to be entertaining.”

He looks forward to sharing Don’t Tell Larry with audiences and getting their feedback about what works and doesn’t work in the series. He adds that this audience experience is a valuable tool for filmmakers to improve their work based on audience feedback.

“You can see what communicates to a large group of people – you just feel it in the room,” he said.

Ryan Gillespie’s short film, Professor Philips and the Devil, which follows a philosophy professor who struggles with the idea of absolute certainty as he converses with what he believes to be The Devil. The uncertainty of The Devil’s presence in Phillips’ living room, mirrors his struggle with the predicament of the uncertainty of human knowledge and results in an ultimatum.

“These are the kinds of questions that keep me up at night,” he said.

Gillespie is a lecturer at UCLA Center for the Study of Religion but has always had an interest in film and screenwriting. Gillespie feels the combination of film and philosophical questions was a natural match to address complex questions in an entertaining way.

“I’m drawn to film as a medium – it is a very powerful format,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie is cautious not to oversimplify ideas but seeks to raise questions and provide an ambiguous, thought-provoking ending. He feels that the short format helps make the heavier topics more attractive to a larger number of viewers.

“There is a challenge to exploring deeper philosophical and religious-type questions in film,” he said.

He looks forward to meeting fellow filmmakers and seeing his and other films play at The Laemmle, which he calls his neighborhood theater. Gillespie and his family have been living in Pasadena for nine years and he feels the city provides a wide array of cultural entertainment and family life.

The Pasadena Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, March 8 until Wednesday, March 15. Passes range from $28 for a Day Pass to $125 for an All Access Pass. For more information and to purchase tickets visit




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