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LA Film Festival Continues Strong Momentum with Wheatley World Premier and Film Independent's Diversity EXPO

By M D Caprario

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Film Independent presented its annual Diversity EXPO at the Hammer Museum this year.  The Hammer's second level was rocking with good sounds and good energy as hundreds of actors, writers, producers, cinematographers, directors, and others 'in the biz' networked and had the opportunity to obtain information about a wide range of services available to them.  Notably present were the Los Angeles Writers Guild and California Lawyers for the Arts.

Film Independent is the largest non-profit membership organization for independent filmmakers, cultivates the careers of independent filmmakers, builds the audience for independent films, and increases diversity in the film industry.  The organization produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards.

Targeted for filmmakers of color, this event was inclusive of all new, emerging and established filmmakers interested in expanding their industry and community contacts.  Spirits sponsor Absolut vodka provided generous libations, a live DJ was spinning some of the all-time-best soul tunes, and the feel-good vibe was infectious. The scene was cool and relaxed, and I'd have to say I couldn't recall having been at such a friendly, welcoming gathering in a very long time- if ever.

The gathering was so relaxed, in fact, that certain celebrities were hard to pick out from the crowd, and one could get a delightful surprise at any given moment when someone like actors Eddie Steeples (Crabman in 'My Name is Earl)' or P. J. McNight offered a casual, friendly 'hello.'

Eddie Steeples of "My Name is Earl" fame with Jonell Kennedy, Adetoro Makinde, Erika Green, and Donielle Artese (L-R) at Diversity EXPO

'I'm really not here to network,' McNight told me.  'I'm here more to relax and be with my friends.'  And that's just exactly what many of us there were doing, relaxing and enjoying being with friends both old and new.  In fact, we chatted about healthy food and even 'girl' things like hair treatments.  The evening was quite a special blend of folks expanding their community of folk with which to socialize and enjoy good times with as well as work.  In fact, since the event was open and inclusive of all who came to explore, there were several 'regular citizens' who jumped into the fun, including a psychiatric resident from UCLA and three well-dressed folks who told me, tongue in cheek, that they'd hopped into a cab to go home but had run out of money and so told the driver to drop them off at the Hammer!

Film costume designer of the hour Moon was there sporting something from his upcoming season for the man- or woman- out and about and not in front of a camera.  I admired the bright pink hat he wore along with his otherwise fairly subtle but super cool jacket over blue and white seersucker trousers, and we ended up chatting about the creative process- and the all-too-often-underrated concept of 'focus.'

Crowd can't resist DJ's great selections at Diversity EXPO at Hammer Museum

The spirit of fun continued throughout, and the evening culminated in a dance party with any and all who cared to participate taking 'center circle' on the dance floor, spinning, jiving, and otherwise gyrating in the way most in keeping with their own style.

Katie Seymour and pal at "Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell" World Premier

The evening was rocked a second time with a one-minute-to-midnight World Premiere of Jamie Bullock's production of Kevin Wheatley's 'The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell:  The History of the New America, Part I.'  Co-starring in the film as 'Cannibal Sue' (yes, a man-eating woman, no less), Bullock also makes her film executive production debut- an interesting story, in itself, which I'll get to in a later exclusive.  DO stay tuned!

Featured in the Festival's 'Dark Wave' category (and for mature audiences) 'Beach Party' is, indeed, edgy as described.  It also does, indeed as its description notes, ask questions that most films would not dare to touch, the primary question being, 'What will our nation be like in 25 years?'

Regent Crest Theater in Westwood - site of World Premier of "Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell"

Billed as a 'feature film based on American history at the end of the 21st century,' 'Beach Party' posits that, based on recent history, a very few survivors will be climbing out of bunkers after waiting out nuclear fallout after bomb blasts have leveled our countryside from shore to shore.

Beautiful Jane Seymour provides a dramatic opening to the film, portraying America's sitting President- and a frightened, hopeless leader lacking answers for all the violence and destruction she's inherited.  Seymour exacts the perfect porcelain quality for the character, and the exquisite tightness with which she delivers her very desperate (and presumably, last) State of the Union address sets the perfect contrast to the bombastic characters that turn up.

Richard Reihle ("Office Space") at Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell" World Premier

Richard Riehle, of "Office Space" fame, narrates.  He was on hand for the Premiere and took a few moments share his thoughts.

"I'm very excited to see the film," he told me, "since it's the first time I'll be seeing the film in its entirety."  He'd only been shown his own parts before.

The "Beach Party" story follows the un-bomb-sheltering of a hapless leader, Tex Kennedy (don't be surprised when you find yourself giggling over this name throughout the film) who went underground as a child and, now as a young adult, is the supposed emancipator of the existing American people.  Played by Wheatley, this tough-talking but tender character is (supposedly) guarded by two wonderfully flawed (and quite human-like) robots.  Much fun- and much gore- is had with these as they go about attempting to recover, revive and otherwise re-organize those who are left.  This includes meeting, even, the great, great grandson of Fidel Castro.

The media follows "Beach Party" people everywhere

'Beach Party' includes in Tex's epic journey the quests to find an appointed king, to reclaim a giant communications tower which is key to unifying the survivors, and to survive and thwart the spawning of Satan, himself- all things holding a vital presence in the New American mythology.  It contains much gore instigated by the human characters, as well as the robots: spines are ripped out of bodies with a single swoop, organs are pulled out with bare hands, blood-covered lips are licked, and sadists have their way with Cannibal Sue.  While this could be hard for some to watch, it does follow suit with the themes that are tapped:  power, control and lack of personal restraint occurring in a survivorship social mentality (hmmmm) and a resulting land where death for control is not given so much as a second thought.

"Beach Party" director, Jonny Gillette checks out online reviews of the film's debut

Along the way, the film also pokes fun at current political leaders with references that could, in fact, be made by any of us still around in a crumbling 2097.  Particularly poignant is Wheatley's character's reference to Jesus Christ; the more cerebral of the robots claims he 'doesn't know' that name- from which a sad assumption could be made that life has become so horrible by that time that records of any figures of faith no longer exist, except, perhaps, only in the human mind. 

"Beach Party" writer/director and star, Kevin Wheatley, is interviewed in the red room

'I came into this business to push boundaries; to create something new and exciting,' Wheatley says.  He has certainly gone and done that.  Not for the faint of heart, 'Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell' is at once Monty-Python-silly, blood-and-guts-y, and thought-provoking as, well, you know where.  For that reason, I'd suggest you catch it when it screens again as part of the Festival on Saturday, July 1 at the Regent Crest Theater.  Party to follow- but not one on the beach, thank goodness.

"The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell" cast and crew assemble from all over the country for World Premier

 

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Film Independent provides its members with more than 250 annual events and screenings, along with professional advice, educational programs, affordable camera and equipment rentals, and discounts to hundreds of industry-related businesses.  Film Independent also offers Filmmaker Labs, giving filmmakers the opportunity to develop their projects, and Project:Involve, a mentorship and job placement program that pairs filmmakers from culturally diverse communities with film industry professionals.  For more information, visit FilmIndependent.org.

 

For more information about the Los Angeles Film Festival, please go to www.lafilmfestival.com.  For more information about Film Independent, please go to www.filmindependent.org.  For more information about Jamie Bullock's first directorial effort, please go to www.ThresholdofHell.com

 

Text and photos copyright M D Caprario

A big 'hey' to Shelly Lawrence and her daughter, Michelle with tw "l's," LAFF volunteers who were such terrific pals to hang with at the EXPO.

 

"The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell:  A History of the New America"

Writer/Director:  Kevin Wheatley

Director:  Jonny Gillette

Producer:  Jamie Bullock

Co-Producer:  Ryan Turi

Cinamatographer/Editor:  Cameron Pierce

Production Designer:  Scott Wheatley

Associate Producer:  Scott Addison Clay

Associate Producer:  Nick Bodkins

Line Producer:  Katie Flynn

Composer:  Russ Howard III

Art Director:  Alex McCarroll

Cast (alphabetical order)

Alcorn Minor (Xavier)

Alex Reznik (Yorick Schlatz)

Andrew Walker (Franklin)

Bill English (Benny Remington)

Callam Ingram (T.V. Son)

Chandler Parker (Yul the Robot)

Claire Lautier (T.V. Mom)

Daniel Baldwin (Clark Remington)

David Powell (Mercenary)

Gerald Mack (Mercenary)

Henry Dittman (Sue Biographer)

Henry Vic (Grashtowners)

J.P. Manox (T.V. Dad)

Jamie Bullock (Cannibal Sue)

Jane Seymour  (President Laura Coffey)

Jim Ryan (Henry Edison)

Jonathan Davidson (Javier Castro)

Justin McElfresh  (Mercenary)

Katherine Cunningham-Eves  (Veronica)

Katie Flynn  (Allison)

Kevin Wheatley  (Tex Kennedy)

Lea Coco  (Mr. Jackle)

Morgan Carson  (Ginsberg)

Paul Whitty  (Quincy the Robot)

Richard Riehle   (Narrator/Paranormal Historian)

Ryan Turi  (Richie)

Scott Addison Clay  (Blowgun Man)

Stewart Carrico  (Zach and Thorn Jefferson)

Ted Schneider  (Marcellus St. Joan)

Tony Hale  (Remington Biographer)

Animation:

Eric Drobile, Lead Animator

Steven Valdez, Animation Director/Producer/Animator

Animators:

Project 450                             Ashleigh Firth

Aaron Pangrazio                    Gabriel Bautista, Jr.

Rodolfo Ray M. Santa Ana     Peter Conlon

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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