SoCal Independent Film Festival: Opening Night

The library certainly isn't quiet tonight.

There's a red carpet outside, though nobody's walking on it. There are some surprisingly nice T-shirts for sale. And everyone here is totally approachable – can this really be a film festival?

Indeed. It's the opening night of the SoCal Independent Film Festival at the Huntington Beach Library, but it feels like a bunch of your friends just happened to get together in a totally awesome screening room to show off a few flicks some of them just happened to make and star in, and which are better than you'd expect. All that's missing is a keg, but you can't have everything.

There is free pizza, after all, and while it may seem lowbrow to let the general public grab slices right out of the cardboard box, it is still some of the best fest food I've ever eaten, much heartier than the standard “three different kinds of fried balls o' stuff on trays” that one usually gets at the “highbrow” gigs. Also there are cookies and fudge, spaghetti marinara...but you have to pay if you want soda or Gatorade with it. Still well worth the $6 admission price, even if there weren't a movie showing as well.

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You have to see the movie first to get the pizza, but it's totally worth it. The movie, Float, (reviewed HERE) is still funny on second viewing, and its pre-production-related in-jokes are duly appreciated by this crowd, all of them clearly industry-savvy. The movie feels like it drags a bit towards the end en route to its climax, but that may be because I know what's coming, and want them to hurry up and get to the wet T-shirt finale.

Float was preceded by a hilarious short, Scott Rice's “Script Cops,” which begins with the disclaimer, “The following program endorses the eradication of bad screenplays. Viewer discretion is advised,” before launching into “Bad Boys” and a note-perfect parody of Cops in which the police, with names like Larry Kasdan and Bob Towne, go around busting bad would-be screenwriters via such tactics as entrapment with a sign advertising a free Robert McKee lecture, checking a perp's record on the IMDB and realizing he deserves a beating when Freddy Got Fingered shows up on his credits, and responding to a noise complaint by saying “Could be some amateurs rehearsing Mamet.” It's unlikely Rice will ever afford the clearances for the music he uses, but as an industry-smart calling card – and a great way to warm up the crowd for a comedy feature – it's a winner.

In the spirit of nonconformity, the festival's opening party will actually be held tonight (rather than after last night's opening) at the Hotel Huntington Beach, 9 p.m., free to anyone with the all-festival pass. But even if you missed that, I've been assured there will be more pizza at some of the other screenings.

ADDENDUM: Turns out this opening night was free, not $6. So the pizza was even more awesome with that in mind.

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