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15 Years of Fame

Newport Beach Film Festival organizers are marking a milestone this year, and they have plenty to celebrate when the eight-day event hits the screen.

Newport Beach Film Fest CEO Gregg Schwenk at the Port Theater in Corona del Mar

Thousands of locals and out-of-towners will gather by the shore on April 24 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Newport Beach Film Festival—and rub elbows with a star-studded crowd of celebrities, moviemakers and fellow flick fans who will be entertained by eight days of world premieres, special engagements and red-carpet affairs. Yes, what began as a little film fest by the sea has matured into a world-class affair. We asked NBFF’s CEO and co-founder Gregg Schwenk to share a few highlights and sound bites from past showings, and offer a sneak peek at what we can expect to see this year.

It looks like the Newport Beach Film Festival is a bona fide hit. When I look back on the last 15 years of the festival, I’m exceptionally proud of what we’ve been able to do. We’ve screened fantastic movies and offered Newport as a launching pad to expand careers and give a voice to smaller films.

What makes this event so special? We’re the Cannes of California. We’ve got Newport Beach as a setting. With Fashion Island, the Lido Peninsula and Newport Coast, the festival capitalizes on that amazing backdrop to show truly wonderful films.

Anything new happening this year? We’re expanding our footprint throughout the greater Newport area. You’ll see new locations for some of our post-events, and we’re expanding our popular seminar series. We’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of MacGillivray Freeman Films [based in Laguna]. It’s the pioneer of IMAX and documentary filmmaking. Greg MacGillivray is an incredible artist who’s put together some of the most memorable films.

Crash, The Cove, Cavedigger—all have gone on to award-winning acclaim after your festival. You really know how to pick winners! Every submission is reviewed five times in its entirety, at minimum. Some go on to nine reviews before a decision is made whether the film is in or out. No other festival that I know of does that. We have a very passionate audience here in Orange County, including Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] and movie-industry guild members. I’m always being thanked by them for bringing quality films to this part of Southern California. I think that resonates, especially when the works go on to the festival circuit and awards process.

Here’s an easy question: What’s your favorite film?
I’m going to cheat and pick three: Citizen Kane, Cool Hand Luke and The King’s Speech. They’re all exceptionally well-crafted and timeless. You can enjoy them for decades to come.

Let’s talk about the future… The last 15 years have been wonderful. We’ve had tremendous support from the community. I’d be ecstatic if we can continue on that path.