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This Festival's No Cannes Do

Event at Captain Blood's in Orange Is Tailored to Working-Class Cinephiles


Five weeks after the conclusion of the reconstituted Newport Beach Film Festival, Orange County's other independent film showcase will make its debut Thursday in Orange.

The Southern California Film Festival--eight nights of screenings at A Captain Blood's Village Theatre--will offer 45 short films and features as well as film showings at so-called "open-mike nights," during which filmmakers are invited to bring short films that weren't formally submitted to the festival. Also on tap: a Q & A after a "Breakfast Club" screening with actor Anthony Michael Hall, and an appearance before a "Forbidden Planet" screening by a high-tech replica of Robby the Robot from the 1956 sci-fi classic.

But don't expect any black-tie-optional, opening-night festivities, searchlights in the sky or any other Hollywood glam-scene trappings.

"This certainly isn't Cannes, but it is a place where people are actually working [on films]," said Todd Blood, founder and director of the festival, though he insists, "I'm not interested in titles. You know what I am? I'm the projectionist. I'll be wearing a T-shirt and jeans. We're keeping it kind of simple."

The Southern California Film Festival, Blood said, "is about helping these young filmmakers keep their dream alive. It's an outlet. If you're a real working filmmaker and you want to meet other filmmakers, come on down. If you want to put on your leather jacket and pin-on pony tail, stay away."

Blood, who regularly makes his twin-screen theater on North Tustin Avenue available for Orange County film students to screen their films, had one of the most popular venues during the four-year run of the previously named Newport Beach International Film Festival.

But last fall, after organizers of the renamed Newport Beach Film Festival decided to confine the festival to within the city limits, Blood decided to strike out on his own.

In its number of screenings and events, the Southern California Film Festival is less ambitious than the Newport Beach festival.

There will be no industry seminars. Screenings are restricted to evenings only. And although Blood originally planned to also show films at another venue in Orange, all the festival offerings will be screened only at Captain Blood's.

"I just wanted to make sure this year that everything went without a hitch. I wasn't interested in getting stretched too thin," said Blood, who has kept festival costs to a minimum. "I won't lose a dime," he said, predicting, "we'll make money."

The Southern California Film Festival, which has primarily been promoted by word of mouth, has experienced one glitch: No festival films will be screened Friday. Blood had invited several Hollywood studios to premiere a new release at the festival that night.

"I left the date open in case we were able to get something, but we weren't able to," said Blood, who will instead screen the current releases "U-571" and "Where the Heart Is" that night.

The film festival will kick off at 9 p.m. Thursday with Short Films I, a series of seven shorts made by students in Chapman University's School of Film and Television. Admission is free.

At 8 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the festival will screen two prints of "Forbidden Planet," starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen. The film, according to Leonard Maltin's "Movie and Video Guide," is "considered to be one of the most ambitious and intelligent films of its genre."

Admission to "Forbidden Planet" is $7.50 for adults, $5 for students and $4 for seniors and children junior-high age and younger. But festival-goers will get more than just the movie for the price of admission.

Monsters in Motion, a Placentia dealership specializing in horror, sci-fi and movie memorabilia, will host a 30-minute pre-screening program during which George Wallace, one of the stars of "Forbidden Planet," will discuss the making of the film.

But Wallace is likely to be upstaged by Robby the Robot.

Brett Butler of Monsters in Motion said the original Robby the Robot was damaged during an appearance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles last year, "so we're not able to get the original. But I've got the next best thing."

This Robby the Robot was built by Fred Barton, a Los Angeles maker of full-scale and fully operational electronic movie-robot recreations, from the towering Gort of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" to R2D2 and C3PO of "Star Wars."

Barton will be on hand to put Robby through his paces. Butler is also bringing full-size monsters and other movie characters, which will be displayed in the lobby. And, he said, retro intermission clips from '50s and '60s will be shown about halfway through the movie.

"We are creating an event, so instead of just screening the movie, we want to create what it was like to go to the movies in the '50s," said Butler, who will host the program.

At 10 p.m. Saturday, after the "Forbidden Planet" screenings, the festival will present Short Films II, which Blood deems "the highlight of the festival."

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