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Newport Beach fest has local feel

Action sports films dominate weeklong event

'Red Bull Project X' stars Olympic gold medalist Shaun White.
Photo: ‘Red Bull Project X’ stars Olympic gold medalist Shaun White.

A homegrown effort, the Newport Beach Film Festival gives locals what they want: Action-sports films, design and architecture docs, an eco-themed sidebar, indie dramas, a collegiate film showcase and nightly fetes.

“It’s about lifestyle and immersing themselves in the entire Newport Beach luxury destination experience,” explains film fest CEO Gregg Schwenk of the appeal of the popular regional event that drew 51,000 in 2009 (a 21% increase over 2008’s figures). The elite oceanside community’s most visible assets include ultra-mall Fashion Island (home to fest venue Edwards Island 7), the yachts berthed at the Balboa Bay Club and the mega-manses of the Irvine Company’s Newport Coast.

Among the films unspooling are action-sports pics grouped as a fest within the fest with their own website and ticket package.

The NBFF has linked with action-sports figures and filmmakers since its inception, as Orange County is headquarters to several major action-sports clothiers and equipment manufacturers such as Volcom and Quicksilver.

“We’ve now hit critical mass,” explains Todd Quartararo, the fest’s co-founder. “We’ve found that the audience is very distinctly O.C.” Surf history (“The Westsiders”), snowboard feats (“Red Bull Project X”) and mountain bike racing “Ride the Divide” are topics covered.

Per Schwenk, the fest’s ability to attract a younger demo — the median age of a Newport Beach attendee is 34 — is a reflection of the fest’s numerous multifaceted events.

“The vibe we’ve created over the past 10 years is young, cutting edge and hip,” he contends.

The fest not only develops its aud through fan sites on Facebook and a social networking feature on its own website, but this year added mobile texting to its promo playbook. A gunplay-packed fest trailer and bondage-themed romance spot entitled “Not for TV” (both lensed by “Inglourious Basterds” d.p. Robert Richardson) test the boundaries of festival promotion.

“The series keeps momentum for the film fest alive and helps us capture new audience members,” says fest programmer Leslie Feibleman.

Highly anticipated are the Twitter film “140,” a family-orientated Earth Day-themed program, as well as opening nighter indie drama “Five Star Day” — the debut feature of writer-director Danny Buday, a grad from nearby Huntington Beach High School.

Related: Highlights from the Newport Beach film festival

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