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Where the audience is

Film festival is a leg up for filmmakers, event director says.

September 22, 2010|By Michael Miller, michael.miller@latimes.com

David Beatty may someday win an Oscar, headline the Sundance Film Festival or oversee his own TV show, but nothing may ever top the night he first had a movie screened in Huntington Beach.

The Surf City resident's feature-length debut, "Surviving New Year's," played several years ago at the SoCal Film Festival, an annual showcase of independent films at the Huntington Beach Central Library. Beatty had overseen the dark comedy from brainstorming sessions to post-production, and he knew every second of it by heart — but he still had no idea how it would play before an audience of strangers. When he sat in the dark and heard the crowd's reaction, he laid his fears to rest.

"They got it," said Beatty, whose short film "Lien On Me" is on the festival's program this year. "They responded. I had friends tell me they heard people talking about it in the bathroom."

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The SoCal Film Festival, now in its sixth year, offers filmmakers like Beatty a chance to show their work before an audience — in some cases, the first audience it will ever have. The five-day program features 95 short and feature films in the library's theater, complete with a red carpet and an awards ceremony the final day.

The festival will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday with the surfing documentary "Shaped," followed by the romantic comedy "Gary Has No Pants," starring UC Irvine graduate Kristin Keating. Many of the festival's entries come from area filmmakers, with others hailing from Mexico, Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Ireland and Colombia.

Event Director Brian Barsuglia, who has made films in the past that played on the festival circuit, called the SoCal Film Festival a leg up for aspiring filmmakers.

"Every year, we look forward to the same thing — to share the great movies that are being made out there," he said. "I'm a huge film fan. I've worked in the industry. The independent film world is huge, and this is the chance for these films to be seen in theaters."

More than 1,000 entries come in every year for the festival, which uses a volunteer selection committee to determine the final playlist. A panel of nearly 40 jurors nationwide, which has access to the films before the festival, votes on the awards for Best Feature, Best Short and others given out on the final day.

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