Bang For Your Viewing Buck - NBC 7 San Diego

Bang For Your Viewing Buck

Mira Sorvino, James Van Der Beek take top acting awards at the San Diego Film Festival



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    San Diego Film Festival, Day 4. Last year’s festival attracted 14,000 people over five days. According to SDFF programming director Karl Kozak, this year’s numbers are up about 20 percent.

    Attendees at Saturday night’s Actor’s Ball and Awards Program at Hotel Solamar seemed to be in high spirits, even if they weren’t calculating how much entertainment bang they’d gotten for their buck—like I was.

    For $99 (down from $129 last year), a five-day festival pass got you unlimited access to feature films, informative industry seminars and parties filled with actors, directors and producers. I put a value of $300-$400 on the five movies, five parties and three in-theater Q&A’s I attended. In comparison, Kozak notes that tickets for just one day of the Sundance Film Festival are $500.

    “We’re one of the cheapest regional festivals in the country,” says Kozak.

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    And most under-appreciated by locals, perhaps. Like Dodgers games at Petco Park, and Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium, there has been quite the dominant Los Angeles presence.

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    San Diegans could benefit by putting this on their calendars for next year. And as the festival wraps Sunday, here are a few of Saturday’s highlights:  

    Award Winners. Mira Sorvino won best actress for her role in “Like Dandelion Dust,” and James Van Der Beek got the nod for actors for his work in “Formosa Betrayed.” Chris Morrow and acclaimed sea life artist Wyland won the Filmmakers Award for “One Water.”  
    Making A Splash. The winning entry for Best Documentary was “American Harmony.” Two representatives of the film jumped into the Hotel Solamar pool on announcement. One happy winner then walked back to his seat, got his dry cell phone and brought it back to the podium to call his mother. (But did she ask if he waited 45 minutes after eating before jumping in?)  (SEE PICS HERE)

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    Killing It. “The Job” won for Best Screenplay. The plot: A down-on-his luck man is hired to kill someone. It’s a black comedy. Sample dialog:

    Bubba: “The job is murder.”

    Drifter Jim: “Well, every job is tough.”

    Bubba: “No, I mean the job is…murder.”

    Seminars. San Diegan Heather Back, who is writing a screenplay, went to four industry seminars on Saturday. She reports:
    “The seminars on filmmaking and acting were as entertaining as they were informative. Asked to share his industry insight, actor Seymour Cassel says, ‘You don’t have the time. I’ve been doing this for 50 years.’ But he regaled with stories of scaring co-stars, and loosening them up by dumping spaghetti in their laps.

    Actor James Van Der Beek urged: ‘If you can imagine anything else in the world other than acting that would make you happy, do that! If you can’t imagine another occupation, then acting is right for you.’

    Justin Eugene Evans provided behind-the-camera tips, especially on getting a film financed. Who knew investment in a film is 100 percent tax deductable? Or, that some states rebate filmmakers for working within their borders.”

    Still Burning. Jon Kinney was involved with the movie “Beyond Belief: Honeymoon at Burning Man.” For the uninitiated, Burning Man is an annual desert-based, high-art festival of radical self-expression. Burning Man attendees go phantasmagoric with their attire, and Kinney reports that was also the case during the SDFF screening. 

    Winding Down. There are still more movies being shown on Sunday. A day pass is $39. The Closing Night Wrap Party starts at Currant Brasserie.

    Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to and a contributing editor to His Web site ( is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.

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