First South Bay Film and Music Festival opens in Hermosa Beach

Michael Hixon / The Beach Reporter

The first South Bay Film and Music Festival, which takes place from June 1 to 5, is billed as a celebration of the arts, jam-packed with an eclectic blend of cinema, music and art.

Highlighted by a 50th anniversary screening of the iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer,” SBFF showcases social impact, sport and music documentaries, features and short films. Question-and-answer sessions and panels with filmmakers take place throughout the event that has its headquarters in Hermosa Beach, with some events in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes.

Jon Fitzgerald, SBFF executive director, said there will be a “lot of discovery with filmmakers and musicians” at the festival.

“Beyond the quality of film and music, I believe we’re really going to create some unique experiences,” said Fitzgerald, who grew up in the South Bay and is a film industry professional who has directed numerous film festivals.

Fitzgerald said the community has opened its arms to the festival and the city has given him “universal support.”

“It’s nice when you come into a town and the city and the local government and officials all want to roll up their sleeves and help,” Fitzgerald said. “It makes it more rewarding and less challenging frankly. Anybody can go into a city and rent a theater and print a poster and say, ‘I’m going to show movies.’ But if the city is not behind it, it’s really harder to gain traction.”

“The South Bay Film and Music Festival is bringing a variety of stellar evenings to our beach city,” said Hermosa Beach Mayor Carolyn Petty, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to support the festival for five days, and encourage our community members from the South Bay and beyond to come enjoy an evening—or five—in Hermosa Beach.”

Opening night

The opening night Gala for SBFF Wednesday, June 1, starts with Taste of the South Bay, from 5 to 7 p.m., which features culinary specialties from more than 20 local restaurants, at the Hermosa Community Center, at the corner of Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. The evening also includes an art exhibition featuring surf artists and photographers and a performance from a jazz band.


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Making its premiere at 7 p.m. is “Voyagers Without Trace,” a documentary about a French couple and their friend who took their cameras on a kayaking trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1938. Director Ian McCluskey will be in attendance for a question-and-answer session.

Thursday special presentations

Classics from the silent film era and a modern classic from a horror icon highlight the Thursday, June 2 festivities.

A 30th anniversary screening of “Stand By Me,” Stephen King’s story of four friends who stumble upon a dead body, begins at 8:15 p.m., at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes. A reception takes place from 6 to 8 p.m., prior to the screening.

Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo hosts a 90th anniversary screening of “The General,” starring Buster Keaton, beginning at 7 p.m. Bill Field, who re-opened the theater in 1968 as a silent movie theater, 47 years after its original opening, will accompany the 1926 film with a Mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ that was built in 1925 and brought from Long Beach.

‘Endless Summer’

Iconic surf filmmaker Bruce Brown will he honored with the first “Action Sports Pioneer Award” before the screening of his classic documentary, “The Endless Summer,” about two surfers and their world travels, Saturday, June 4.

The day begins with a “Sea to See” reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m., which features more than 50 pieces of artwork from notable surf artists and photographers. The tribute to Brown takes place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by “The Endless Summer” screening.

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(Photo courtesy of SBFF)

Surf Film Showcase

Aside from “The Endless Summer,” nine other surf films, short and feature length will be screening at SBFF.

Subjects range from a 9-year-old Brazilian surfer who moved to California to pursue his dreams to a profile on India’s first female surfer.

Shorts Program

Three shorts programs takes place June 2, 3 and 4, at 9:30 p.m. The first program, on Thursday, June 2, features “Cause Cinema,” “where the movies engage and inspire,” according to Fitzgerald, who founded Cause Pictures and wrote his first book in 2012, “Film making for Change: Make Films That Transform the World.”


Thirteen films are competing in the documentary film competition. Subjects range from an Iditarod Sled Dog Race champion to the lives of three gay Palestinian friends. The films are screening throughout the festival.

Hazing to an 11-year-old boy competing at the World Paper Plane Championship are the subjects of two of the nine films up for Best Narrative Film.

Closing night

SBFF closes Sunday, June 5, with an awards ceremony and a screening of awards winning films.

The awards ceremony takes place from 7 to 7:30 p.m. and features awards for Jury Prize – Best Narrative Film,” “Jury Prize – Best Documentary Film,” and audience awards for narrative, documentary, Cause Cinema Spotlight and Surf Film Showcase.

A dessert reception takes place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., followed by screenings of award winning films from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Music showcases

SBFF also features plenty for the music fan beginning Thursday, June 2, with singer/songwriters Isla June and Nick Shattuck performing at the South Coast Botanic Garden from 6 to 8 p.m. The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach hosts Salt Petal, Nick Valentini Collective, Dream Vacation and Niantic, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. the same evening.

Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach hosts a showcase, presented by World Arts, Friday, June 3, from 5 to 9 p.m., starring Gracie Gray, Marchan Noelle, Carlos Calvo and Frankie Bourne.

Hoist the Colors headlines the Standing Room Showcase in Hermosa Beach Saturday, June 4, from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with Braeves, Foxtrax and Short Stories also performing.

A Music Pass is available for $75 that allows access to all music related films (about six in total), music showcases, panels and music–related receptions. A pass holder also receives complimentary wine and beer from sponsors during the happy hours in the Hospitality Suite at the Hermosa Community Center.

A music and film panel will also be offered that details how to get a song into a film or on television.

“It’s not as easy as you think,” Fitzgerald said. “There are roughly 10,000 independent films made a year now, almost all of those movies have music … where do they get their music? They’re not going to call up Universal Music and get Imagine Dragons.”

There are also plenty of networking opportunities.

“I’m going to have each of the musicians contribute one of their tracks and do a compilation CD,” Fitzgerald said. “That CD will be given to all the filmmakers and industry professionals that come through so that they can potentially be licensing some music.”

South Bay Sessions

South Bay Sessions takes place June 4 and 5. Each session highlights a “technology driven idea, project or company, that promotes social consciousness.” Four sessions, which will include tech demonstrations, will focus on the four categories including food/nutrition; environment/water/community resources: artistic expression/media impact; education/literacy/digital citizenship.

Working with the city

The festival’s founding partners include the City of Hermosa Beach and the Hermosa Beach Arts Foundation, which both contributed $15,000 to the founding of SBFF, under the umbrella of the Hermosa Cinema Society. The festival has had an ongoing presence in the community since last year with monthly screenings at the Hermosa Community Center.

Hermosa is the heart of the festival as Fitzgerald sees its expansion over the first several years. Fitzgerald was brought in as the film festival’s executive director after more than 20 years of directing numerous film festivals, including American Film Institute Fest, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, as well as being a co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival.

Fitzgerald, who grew up in the South Bay, said bringing the festival to his hometown makes it “more special” than other film festivities he’s worked for in the past, even with the long hours. And being a “start-up” there’s little budget.

“The fact that the community really wants this, makes it that much more rewarding for me because I know I’m bringing something to this community that they really embrace,” he said.

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