Sunday, October 12, 2014

Recap: Our Big Bear Lake International Film Festival 2014 Experience!

A month ago, we were contacted by the fine folks at MoviePass, the subscription service we use to see all of our in-theater movies, and were asked if wanted to attend the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival on behalf of MoviePass (we just had to pay for transportation and lodging). A short time after the initial shock wore off (it was a BIG DEAL to us that someone recognized our blogging/social media efforts!!), I emailed back and said we were absolutely thrilled to be invited and that we were in for sure!

The festival was three weeks ago, and though a bit late, we'd love to share our experience with you! BigJ and I had never been to a film festival before and knew very little about the entire process, so we really had no idea what to expect! We were blown away by how much fun we had and how gorgeous it was up in Big Bear, about three and a half short hours away from us. Let's get into it!
We had to stop for gas before we actually got into Big Bear, so I snapped this shot right outside the gas station. Now, BigJ and I were both born and raised in a pretty large city, so nature is relatively foreign to us. I wasn't ever the "camping" type, though I can appreciate a good sunset and a decent beach day. Let me tell you, though, the scenery in Big Bear were absolutely breathtaking. On the drive up the mountain, we were so high up at one point that we couldn't see anything below us but clouds. It was sort of surreal and almost magical. I'm sure it's as close to heaven as we'll ever get. ;)
Once we had arrived at Big Bear Lake (which is just outside of Big Bear city), we were instructed to stop at the Le Dolce Vita Wine Tasting Room to pick up our event passes. Not knowing how this would really pan out, we walked in to the building and approached the "command table" and explained that we were given passes. They took down our names and informed us we were sponsored for the event. WOW! I'm sure this was in title only, but we have to admit, we felt like pretty big wigs once we heard this. We got our ALL EVENTS passes, and again, I sort of had this feeling that my email exchange with the MoviePass Director of Marketing was too good to be true, that we would never really be given ALL EVENTS passes. Well, we were wrong, and we did! This ensured that we got into each and every event and screening all weekend long. It was like a dream, we could go freely from place to place at our leisure! Here's a photo our badge, and the little "S" sticker is for "sponsor." Behind it is the festival's guide of everything that was screening during the weekend, which helped immensely in deciding what we watched to watch!
We were also given a "swag bag" filled with goodies from all of the festival sponsors. We even got a cute little foam doll of MoviePass Mike, which we proudly took from place to place and photographed when we remembered to do so. The schedule of events is underneath him, and as you can see, with this festival (and we're now sure that most do it this way, too), it's nearly impossible to see everything since screenings overlap. Once we had decided what to watch first, we made the short drive to the Village Theaters and got to viewin'!
The festival logo was proudly displayed at the beginning and end of each screening. We have to mention, the seats in this theater were pretty old school and relatively tiny, which wasn't optimum for viewing, but we made it work. The films we saw the first day are as follows:
  • "Noble Fir," about a disgruntled Christmas tree farmer who lost his wife in an automobile accident as he tries to cope with life without her.
  • "American Arab," a documentary about the lives of Arab Americans, especially post-9/11.
  • Shorts IX: a bunch of short films about a variety of topics which we will expand on in a later post.
When each film was done screening, we were given a ballot and asked to vote based on our opinion of each film! We had no idea this was going to be part of our job, but we loved this part most of all as movie bloggers/reviewers. Although we (obviously) didn't get to elaborate on why we liked or disliked a film, we felt as though our opinions mattered, and that was simply awesome! Plus, the audience awards were presented by MoviePass, so we felt an even more inflated importance. ;)
We don't have trees like this in San Diego!
We briefly attended the opening night party at the gigantic performing arts center, but felt wholly out of place, so we grabbed some enchiladas and a beer or two and high-tailed it out of there. After a long first night of driving and film watching, we decided to try a nearby diner for dessert. How splendid do these pie slices look!? I had rhubarb, BigJ had French apple. This place made amazing pie!
The next morning, refreshed and ready to watch more films and shorts, we first decided to look on Yelp for a place to eat breakfast. Really, all we needed was some coffee. MoviePass Mike was a fan of the Grizzly Manor Cafe, a very friendly locals diner. After this, we spent the majority of the day at the Village Theaters watching a number of films, including:
  • Shorts II: a bunch of short films about a variety of topics which we will expand on in a later post.
  • "A Different Kind of Farm," about the country's first seahorse farm, and "Sticky," a nature documentary about an endangered species of stick bug previously thought to be extinct.
  • Shorts VII: a bunch of short films about a variety of topics which we will expand on in a later post.
Some photos of the outside of the movie theater, as well as the gorgeous main street and sky full of voluptuous clouds.

From there, we traveled a short distance to the Northwoods Resort, where a big chunk of the films for the festival were being screened. Again, we didn't know what to expect since we thought this was a hotel. Well, it was. 
Pretty much every decoration in the lobby of the conference rooms I need for my own personal use. These antler chandeliers? AMAZING!!
This is the conference room we were in for the two screenings. Very rustic themed!
This couch? Want, no scratch that, NEED!!

Each film was screened in a private conference room set up with individual chairs on a digital projector in a very intimate setting (see below). The two movies we saw last were the ones screening right before and during the Centerpiece film, which we decided to skip in lieu of these two movies. These screenings were relatively bare compared to the other movies being screened at the Village Theaters. These two films were called:
  • "Odd Brodsky," the tale of an aspiring actress with not a lot of talent yet full of heart who decides to make a reality TV show about her life.
  • "Off the Floor," a documentary about pole dancers, no, not those kind of pole dancers, a legitimate dance art form and their struggles getting recognized.
This the inside of the conference room.
Here is a photo from the Q & A session with the director of "Odd Brodsky," Cindy Baer. I would have taken more photos, but didn't want to be distracting. I spoke with her briefly after the screening since she answered a question I had about the music in her film; I told BigJ during the movie it sounded like a Wes Anderson score, and she mentioned this during her Q & A. She told me it was really cool to sit behind me during the movie because I was so into it, smiling and laughing the entire time. This was my favorite film, but we will get into that later.

And there you have it, our first film festival experience! Like we mentioned, we had a complete blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. We are already intending to go to next year's festival, if possible!
We would like to thank MoviePass for the invitation to this wonderful experience, and must mention that while we had our events passes paid for, all of the thoughts, words, and opinions expressed above and in the coming days are our own.

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