Previously: #9. SXSW
Our take: Known for its filmmaker retreat and its hospitality, the LA Film Festival remains one of a handful of major US fests that draws major industry attention. It also has the richest prize in festival-land - $50,000 for the winner of the Best Documentary award. LAFF's Westwood location gives the event a contained vibe that's often missing from large, big city festivals and the programming staff was always adept at balancing the needs of LAFF's Hollywood neighbors with its art house crowd patrons and guests.
The downside: Of all the fests in the top 10, the one with the most uncertainty. This year's LAFF was noticibly scaled-back from previous years, with even the famous filmmaker retreat held in a nearby hotel rather than at Skywalker Ranch as in previous editions. Transitions (beginning with the ouster of Rich Raddon and last summer's departure of Rachel Rosen - producer Rebecca Yeldham and film critic David Ansen have come in) have led some to wonder what might be next. And during this year's festival, members of the press began to speculate that the festival may soon depart its Westwood home.
Important recent premieres: OCTOBER COUNTRY, AFTER THE STORM, BRANSON, BANANAS!*
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: BIG RIVER MAN, ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, CONVENTION, THE COVE, FACING ALI, NO IMPACT MAN, WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, SOUL POWER, WHICH WAY HOME
Our coverage of the Los Angeles Film Festival here.
Filmmaker: "From the acceptance phone call, to the ranch, to the awards ceremony this festival was an exceptional experience. The trip to the ranch allowed all the filmmakers a chance to get to know one another away from the whirlwind of screenings and LA hoo ha. The connections made at the ranch seemed to follow everyone back to the festival encouraging a group experience that felt nothing like a competition. And the programmers were totally passionate about the films that they ushered into the world."
programmers led by the inimitably perceptive Rachel Rosen, great accomodations
and appreciation for filmmakers, unbelievable for the connections, the
business, etc. It's a narrative-driven festival that inadverdently places docs on
the sidelines. And it has to show crap like Transformers 2 to get the city to
notice they are even there. They were very good to us, and I believe it's a
'must-go' festival if you are asked into competition, just for forging
associations with Film Independent. These people love risk-taking film and
support it. And for this I am eternally grateful to them. Some festivals are
incredibly useful for business but not as fun in the end - this is one of them
Filmmaker: "love this festival. great staff, great percs, money for all. great retreat, and big ass cash prizes. darn good press presence, and so so sales presence."
Filmmaker: "Rachel Rosen, Doug Jones, and Christina Davila somehow succeed in making westwood homey."
Filmmaker: "LAFF is a great festival. Always sold out turnouts, great efforts to get filmmakers exposed and out there too."
Industry: "nice balance of industry/audience. They take good care of filmmakers, domestic flight and hotel. Buyers live here and will come out if they want/need to see your film. Its also not so big that you’re film gets lost, and there are enough press here to help give your film a lift."
Industry: "Previously could be good for docs but the jury is out until we see what the new programming team does. Upside is that LA is a company town with buyers attending for at least the first few days. Downside is that after the festival ends it leads into July 4th weekend and it's very difficult to follow up during July and early August when buyers want to get away and hibernate."
Industry: "has changed direction but is still committed to filmmakers. The retreat is amazing! They are aiming really high and if they can pull it off they could be a Torontoesque festival in a few years."
Industry: "they've always treated me well as a member of the press, and their programming is strong and getting stronger. But they've never offered to help with my expenses, and it's hard to justify the cost of a Weswood hotel room..."
Industry: "Moving to Westwood was a masterstroke. Self-contained. Thoughtful programming. Docs are included in audience cash prize. Press office is efficient and easy to work with. They use real theatres! But downsizing was evident this year. Press attendance can be flakey due to scheduling and LA traffic."
Next up: No. 11