Published : Friday, March 16, 2018 | 5:44 AM
The Pasadena International Film Festival wraps up a magical week of over 100 movies screenings from filmmakers across the globe with a Great Gatsby-themed gala where Hollywood heavyweights and motion picture buffs alike revel in LA’s youngest and freshest cinematic affairs.
Founded in 2013 by Jessica Hardin and Marco Neves, industry veterans and Pasadena residents, the Pasadena International Film Festival brings high-caliber, independent cinema to a city renowned for its love of culture and the arts.
Films that have won at PIFF have gone on to win at the American Pavilion Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival and and the week-long event hosts panels and workshops to the public offer up inside knowledge and film culture.
“What the filmmakers really love is the actual mainstream movie theater experience where there are professional projectionists and popcorn and where they get that real movie-going experience. We’ve been really blessed that we have a lot of support from the City,” said Pasadena International Film Festival co-founder Jessica Hardin.
The fifth edition of the Pasadena International Film Festival (PIFF) returned to the Playhouse District from March 7 to 15, presenting more than 115 films from 15 countries during its nine-day run at Pasadena’s Laemmle Playhouse 7 theater.
Celebrity guests included actors Shia LaBeouf, Mary Beth Hurt, Macy Gray, Felicia Day, Heather Matarazzo, James Marsters, Clare Kramer, Laura Slade Wiggins, David Hayter; showrunner Rene Balcer (Law & Order True Crime); Emmy Award-winning composer W.G. “Snuffy” Walden (The West Wing); Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and Pasadena City Councilmember Andy Wilson, among others.
Festival entries include features, shorts, documentaries, animation, music videos and web series and are presented in 26 programming blocks with categories such as “A View to a Thrill,” “The Best Medicine” and “Behind Closed Doors,” among others, according to a press release.
Hardin, an actress and film enthusiast, says the festival is designed to bring in top talent and quality pictures.
“It’s really classy, especially when we first started out,” Hardin explained. “I really wanted to capture that time where things were very sophisticated like old school Hollywood, but also very fun,” added Hardin and mentioned the inspiration for the Great Gatsby Gala.
The festival is perhaps one of the youngest ones in the vicinity of greater Los Angeles and continues to grow each year, including this year which attracted approximately 1,000 submissions from filmmakers across the globe.
Hardin says it takes her and the festival’s staff of industry pros and actors about a year to watch all of the submissions and selects 115 films for the festival.
“Every year submissions goes up,” said Hardin about the submissions which originally started at 300.
Film buffs of all levels are likely to fall in love with festival selections every year, some of which
have gone on to gain worldwide critical acclaim, such as 2015’s entry, the 20-minute short film “Bis Gliech/Til Then”, directed by Benjamin Wolff, which won the showcase’s Best Short Film award and secured a spot on the Oscar’s top ten likely nominee list.
“We were really fortunate that we were getting films of that caliber,” said Hardin.
Many films make their world premiere at the festival such as “Up to Snuff” which premiered Wednesday and explores the music, hardships and triumphs of W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, one of the most beloved television composers in history and the man behind television themes for “The West Wing,” “Wonder Years,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Roseanne.”
Aaron Sorkin, Martin Sheen, Tom Arnold, Fred Savage, Ed Asner and Timothy Busfield are among those featured in the film.
The film was produced by Yorktel Media Services, the award-winning creative services division of visual communications leader Yorktel. Known for their Emmy award-winning television and short film productions, “Up to Snuff” is the company’s inaugural feature film.
“They’re the first audience to see the finished film and a lot of the cast and crew that were in the film who worked in the film were there last night and they were seeing it for the first time as well so it was a big night for everybody,” said Mark Maxey, Yorktel Executive Vice President of Media Services and “Up to Snuff” Director and Producer.
Maxey first found inspiration to make the film after visiting friend, colleague and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin on set of his TV show, “The Newsroom”, a few years back when they discussed Maxey’s longtime musical friend during a shooting break.
“It was Aaron Sorkin who first gave me the idea to tell the story of Snuffy Walden,” said Maxey. “He just lit up and just started gushing about how wonderful Snuffy’s music. It was that moment that I thought if Aaron Sorkin feels this way about this guy and maybe if we do finally get to talk to other people that Snuffy has collaborated with throughout his career we’ll see what they have to say. That was kind of the of the idea of the film,” said Maxey.
“Up to Snuff” explores “the other side of Snuffy” through personal stories, laughs and insights from friends and collaborators, who shed light on his unique history and how a successful rock and roll musician overcame addiction and found his way to Hollywood.
“Audiences connect emotionally to Snuffy’s music, and the soundtracks for the shows he has scored are iconic and beloved. And yet no one knows the other side of Snuffy, the rock and roll guitarist that toured the world reveling in the sex, drugs and rock and roll era of the 1970’s and 1980’s,” said Maxey.
Maxey’s motion picture projects and career as a producer has led him to countless film festivals across the world and says that the Pasadena International Film Festival is up to par with bigger named festivals.
“It’s a fantastic festival and my people are really passionate about films and filmmakers and storytellers unlike other festivals where you’re [treated] like a number. you’re there to share your story with the audience and you don’t necessarily get that feeling at every festival,” said Maxey.
“I was excited to share with the audience here and I tell you that the people at the Pasadena International Film Festival have just been phenomenal to work with. The volunteers and others that I met there at the Laemmle Theater where the premiere was held were fantastic so that eliminated any concerns and just made it easy and fine for everybody involved, which I really appreciated,” added Maxey.
The Pasadena International shows no signs of slowing down and every sign of getting bigger each year.
“I’m sort of toying with the idea of creating a Pasadena Film Society,” said Hardin who mentioned it would be similar to the Santa Barbara Film Society where people pay a yearly membership fee for various film perks and events around town.
“We would have a monthly series where we would maybe do like a wine and cheese and bring in a really special guest and do workshops or presentations or screenings. It would be smaller, but some more exclusive, and year round,” said Hardin.
For more information about the Pasadena International Film Festival, go to https://www.pasadenafilmfestival.org.