“Bonafide Nerd” Brings a Comic-Con Vibe to Newport Beach Film Festival

Cinematographer Lawrence Sher is among the 2019 Newport Beach Film Festival seminar speakers.

One of Newport Beach Film Festival CEO and co-founder Gregg Schwenk’s favorite memories over the past 20 years was the free seminar screenwriter Aaron Sorkin led in 2011. The festival was able to snag the Oscar, Golden Globe and multiple Emmy Award winner because Sorkin’s assistant was the daughter of Schwenk’s sixth grade teacher in Newport Beach.

For the 20th anniversary festival starting Thursday, seminar bookings come from the connections made by Director of Special Projects & Seminars Lohanne Cook, who began as an NBFF intern five years ago.

“She has brought some legendary people,” Schwenk says of Cook.

For her part, Cook credits veteran film festival staffers with “pushing me in front of people” and out of her shell to book top film industry players to bring to Newport Beach.

Lohanne Cook (NBFF)

Cook’s secret is treating the film festival as  “a mini Comic-Con,” the annual gathering in San Diego that began as a modest comic book convention but has since morphed into a showcase for film and television productions filled with Hollywood A-listers.

Calling herself “a bonafide nerd” who is into cosplay, Cook attends Comic-Con every year and knows what makes good and poor panels, explaining that she stacks them at NBFF the way hardcore fans want them to be stacked. That means striking a balance between Oscar winners and those who work on global blockbusters which, Cook points out, present their own movie-making challenges.

Talent in music, editing, animation, screenwriting and cinematography, with such credits as Frozen, Get Out, A Star is Born, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, the upcoming Joker movie and many more, come to NBFF this weekend. What follows are the dates, times, programs, participants and some of their affiliations.


11 a.m. Variety Presents 10 Cinematographers to Watch and Billion Dollar Cinematographer: Lawrence Sher (Joker, Godzilla: King of Monsters); Matt Mitchell (Little Woods); Nick Remy Matthews (Hotel Mumbai); Mathieu Plainfosse (The Iron Orchard); Eric Brano (Stay Cold, Stay Hungry); Quyen Tran (Here and Now, Pali Road); and Jessica Lee Gagne (Escape at Dannemora, Sweet Virginia)

1:30 p.m. “A Conversation With …” (to be announced)

3:30 p.m. Screenwriting Seminar: Kim Adelman (UCLA); Michael Werwie (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile)


Diane Warren has received 10 Oscar nominations.

11 a.m. Costa Communications Presents Music in Film: Kris Bowers (Green Book); Michael Abels (Get Out, Us); Tom Howe (Whiskey Cavalier); Diane Warren (A Star is Born); Leanna Primiani (Daughters of Virtue, Saturn Returns); and moderator Ray Costa

1 p.m. Animating with Disney: Dave Bossert (Hercules, The Lion King); Don Hahn (Wonder Park, Beauty and the Beast); and moderator Art Jeppe (Big Hero 6, Frozen)

2:30 p.m. The Chimaera Project Presents Heroes On and Behind the Screen: Tasha Huo (Ubisoft fellowship recipient); Carlease Burke (Crowded, Heroes, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle); Deven MacNair (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Green Lantern, Now You See Me); and moderator Darlene Conte (Cultural Weekly, Hundreth Monkey Productions)

4 p.m. Editing with Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey: Brandon and Markey (Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, Super 8, Alias); and moderator Scott Arundale (Chapman University).

Cook says Brandon and Markey, who often work with J.J. Abrams, will also be honored during the festival.

Seminars are delivered at Newport Beach Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Dr., Newport Beach. They are free and open to the public. First come, first seated; panelists are subject to change. More information at newportbeachfilmfestival.com.

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