Galas highlight Ft. Lauderdale

Screenings held out of town to draw attention to fest

The Fort Lauderdale Film Festival opens like a Broadway show, with initial screenings held out of town to build word of mouth and press before opening in the big city.

In this case, screenings take place beginning in late October in the Florida cities of Coconut Grove, Hollywood, and Boca Raton before Fort Lauderdale in what festival director Greg von Hausch calls the “7-Eleven approach to film festivals, where you put one in every community.”

As for programming, Fort Lauderdale favors first-timers. “We like to have premieres,” says von Hausch, who says last year’s event featured 17 world preems.

“Those premieres brought in a lot of people from New York and L.A.,” von Hausch says, adding he also is interested in taking a second look at films that have played other festivals.

“We also like to have directors come to the festival — there isn’t that hardened apathy about filmmakers that you find in New York and L.A. here. Instead, the audiences here go crazy for filmmakers.”

Some of the festival’s events might be enticing to festival-weary directors. Von Hausch mentions the annual luxury cruise for filmmakers and the press on the canals of Fort Lauderdale, as well as numerous parties and receptions.

“Two years ago we had a big party with this huge clear tent down on the beach,” von Hausch says. “The weather had been stormy all day, but suddenly it parted, like Cecil B. DeMille and the Red Sea, and we had a full moon and all these twinkle lights and this incredible warm air. The media all got blitzed, and a bunch of them ended up sleeping out on the beach.”

Last year’s gala black-tie event featured cocktails around the pool before dinner and dancing in the ballroom. The guest list included David Arquette, John Frankenheimer, and Christina Applegate, a mix that exemplifies the festival’s eclecticism.

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