'Did I see you here last year?' asked the woman in the bejewelled gown.
'No. Did you have a film here then?' I replied.
'I'm just part of the family'
There is a general feeling among those attending the Beverly Hills Film Festival (BHFF) of having made it into the inner sanctum of the fashionable filmmaking elite. A feeling of belonging, acceptance and style. And this is how its sublime leader, Nino Simone, wants the BHFF to remain.
'I like to call each of my filmmakers personally before the fest starts to congratulate and welcome them.' - Nino Simone
Having received close to 1800 submissions (which puts the BHFF in the top 10 festivals worldwide), Nino and his devoted team of volunteers narrowed the selection down to 50 final films, which is still more than had been shown in previous years. By resisting the urge to become a factory of a festival (along the lines of Tribeca and Sundance, which each show hundreds of films), Nino is able to maintain a high level of quality across the films shown at the festival. More importantly, he is able to provide the filmmakers who are lucky enough to be selected for BHFF with a level of personal attention that far exceeds that of the larger fests. 'I like to call each of my filmmakers personally before the fest starts to congratulate and welcome them.' Can you imagine Robert De Niro phoning to thank you for making your short that made it into the Tribeca Film Festival?
Nino began his career as a filmmaker, creating 348 - a feature which received lots of attention at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (NYIIFVF). The film, and Nino, also came to the attention of Adam Zablotski, the then festival head, who soon after picked up and moved to Beverly Hills. Adam and Nino began the BHFF 5 years ago, and after the first year Adam (with his sights set on Paris) asked Nino to take it over. The NYIIFVF has grown and morphed into another factory fest, charging exorbitant entry fees and screening hundreds of films, while Nino has kept his fest both small and eminent. To include more films, Nino is thinking of adding a 'not for competition' division, although this has not yet come to pass.
'We turned away between 100-150 shorts with celebs.'
The festival ran a little late this year, due to the enormous screening process required. Nino and his screeners look largely for evidence of effort when selecting films. 'If a filmmaker has put their heart and soul into a project, that shows up on the screen' Nino espouses, while relaxing on a white and gold satin sofa on the 10th floor of the Loews Hotel. 'We look for story, originality and technical filmmaking skill. We turned away between 100-150 shorts with celebs.' It sounded strange to hear this coming from the head of a
festival set in a neighborhood that, arguably, has more celebrities per capita than anywhere else in the world, but Nino Simone is hardly an everyday character. He led 'his' filmmakers, and the public fortunate enough to stumble upon his 'little festival', through 5 days of films with a quiet charm and an ingratiating style. Perhaps next year you'll join us and become part of the family.