There is an abundance of film festivals offering great cinema experiences for movie lovers - and KIDS FIRST! is helping expand what they do for families and young people. Leslie Feibleman, director of special programs and community cinema for both the Newport Beach Film Festival (which presented its 13th edition this past April 26-May 3) and the Orange County Film Society, says, “I first spoke to Ann [Church] and Ranny [Levy] back in 2002 during our search for new films for the Festival’s newly launched Family Film Series. I knew after the first conversation that it would be the start of a long-lasting partnership (and friendship, too).”
In fact, KIDS FIRST! is always looking for new partners - big and small - to play our films. We partner with established film festivals, libraries, community centers, etc. Contact our office (505-989-8076) for more details. Exactly what has been KIDS FIRST!’s impact on the Newport Beach Film Festival? Feibleman has a lot to share on that topic:
KIDS FIRST!: Tell us about the children’s programming, which has such a big part in the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Leslie Feibleman: The family programming rocks! Seeking to engage young people and their families into the world of cinema and culture, the Newport Beach Film Festival launched its inaugural Family Film Series back in 2003 and has since presented over 100 films and several events, geared toward toddlers, school-age children, tweens, teens, parents and grandparents. Each year, the Family Film Series gives filmgoers of all ages an opportunity to view a unique collection of refreshing cinematic works from around the globe, including feature-length narrative, documentary, short, animated and student films.
With the goal of making the Festival experience interactive, educational and fun for young filmgoers, the Festival brings out filmmakers, documentary subjects, actors, scientists and artists for Q&A sessions, school visits, workshops, live entertainment and autograph sessions. The Festival also celebrates young filmmakers as creators with our Youth Film Showcase and Teen Screen programs, designed to spotlight short films created by filmmakers 18 years and under.
The Festival continues its reach to young audiences year ’round through its collaborations with Orange County arts organizations. Over the years the Festival has curated family films for the Orange County Film Society, Orange County Museum of Art’s Target Free Second Sundays, Arts Orange County’s Imagination Celebration event, Free Movie Mondays at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and Peter & Mary Muth Center Earth Day and family environmental events.
In 2008, the Newport Beach Film Festival received the prestigious honor of “Best Children’s Festival” for its Family Film Series at the 9th Annual KIDS FIRST! Best Day and Awards Celebration.
KF: Newport Beach Film Festival and KIDS FIRST! — what are the special strengths each brings to the other’s programming and mission?
Feibleman: The collaboration between the Newport Beach Film Festival and KIDS FIRST! has been fabulous. Both the NBFF and KIDS FIRST! are dedicated to championing the works of independent filmmakers and providing quality film programming for young people.
Over the past several years, KIDS FIRST! has enriched the Festival experience for our young filmgoers by providing us with a host of incredible family-friendly and award-winning films from around the globe, world premiere screenings (This is Your Ocean: Sharks, The Adventures of Food Boy, Sandlot 3), in-person talent (Alyson Stoner, Brittany Curran) , Skyped-in talent (Lucas Grabeel), appearances by filmmaker and documentary subjects, retail partnerships (Build-A-Bear Workshop®), costumed characters, performers (Steve Axtell), autograph signings, goodie bags and added press coverage.
In addition to the programming, the Festival truly values the experience, resources, innovative ideas, enthusiasm and distribution opportunities for filmmakers provided by KIDS FIRST! We share our knowledge, insights, ideas, technology tips, film industry connections and some great memories.
Together, we cross-promote via social media platforms, on-screen ads, printed material, press releases and newsletters. The Festival is proud to offer KIDS FIRST! filmmakers a venue to showcase their films to new audiences. We host filmmaker networking receptions by the beach and give filmmakers an opportunity to connect with film industry professionals, the media and other filmmakers in a relaxed, casual setting.
KF: This year’s festival just ended. What, to you, were the highlights?
Feibleman: The 2012 Newport Beach Festival presented more than 15 exciting red carpet world premieres, including the debut of Magic Camp in our Family Film Series. Highlights included the Opening Night Gala with culinary tastings from more than 35 restaurants, International Spotlight celebrations, Special Programs (Music, Art, Architecture + Design, Action Sports, Environmental Film Series), a thought-provoking documentary program, an expanded animation showcase and an eclectic shorts programs. The Festival hosted free filmmaking seminars and music-infused nightly filmmaker receptions under the stars. It was amazing to see such strong filmmaker participation, compelling on-screen performances and fascinating interactive Q&A sessions with filmmakers. This year, the Festival introduced two new venues to the public: the new Port Theater in Corona del Mar and the newly renovated Island Cinema in Fashion Island.
KF: How long have you been involved with the festival, and how did that come about?
Feibleman: The adventure began ten years ago. As a full-time stay-at-home mother of two children back then (busy working a part-time design job and serving on boards of various arts organizations), I was ready to further pursue my passion for film, the arts, community building, education and volunteerism. Soon after attending the Festival, while it was still in its infancy, I saw huge potential for this young, blossoming organization and sensed a strong need for new program leaders.
Armed with some ideas, plenty of energy and a willingness to explore new avenues, I made a call to the NBFF’s executive director (a fellow Cal Berkeley alumni friend of mine) and soon found myself immersed in the exciting world of independent film. In 2002, I came on board to launch and curate the Festival’s “Special Programs” (Family, Action Sports Film Series, later followed by Art, Architecture + Design, Environmental, Music Film Series) and the NBFF’s year-round “Community Cinema” programs (Cinema Orange, Cinema Sage Hill).
Over the years, I have focused my energy on artistic programming, creating new cultural partnerships, expanding the Festival’s educational programs and engaging new audiences (especially young people and their families). I have also had the pleasure of serving as a film juror on the KIDS FIRST! jury over the past few years. (The Family Film Series currently stands as the NBFF’s longest-running special program and in 2012 was collectively curated by our NBFF programming team).
We are incredibly grateful to Ann Church, Ranny Levy and the KIDS FIRST! team for their dedication, enthusiasm and for helping to make the Newport Beach Film Festival Family Film Series a success.