The L.A. Film Festival Is Calling It Quits—But Not Entirely

The fest won’t be back, but the spirit of indie cinema will live on in new, year-round programs

Film Independent announced last week that the 2018 L.A. Film Festival, which wrapped on September 28, will be the last for the festival in its current form. The nonprofit has organized the annual festival since 2001, and hosted L.A.F.F.’s predecessor fest, L.A. Independent Film Festival, for six additional years before that. Now, the organization is rethinking how to best reach a changing audience of movie lovers and filmmakers. Going forward, they’ll be focusing on a slate of year-round programming, rather than a single week-long event.

 

“While we are very proud of what we’ve accomplished with the L.A. Film Festival over the past 18 years, the truth is that it has struggled to thrive, and the time has come for us to try something new,” Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, wrote in a statement.

Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak at the 2018 L.A. Film Festival in September

Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Roadside Attractions

The festival had appeared to some observers to be struggling even before this latest announcement. In 2017, IndieWire wrote about L.A.F.F.’s “struggle for relevancy” on the crowded cinema scene. Between 2015 and 2016, attendance at the festival sunk from 90,000 to 40,000.

L.A.F.F. was generally held in the summer, which hurt programmers’ abilities to book the buzzy awards-season contenders that play at later fests; for 2018 it was moved to September, but the change may have come too late. As Variety noted, L.A.’s other big film festival, AFI Fest, already happens in the fall, shows a slate of more awards-centric fare, and gives away tickets to the public for free, making it hard for L.A.F.F. to compete.

The festival was also criticized for bouncing between venues, moving to downtown in 2010 from a previous base in Westwood, then to Culver City in 2016, then, most recently, to a multi-venue arrangement that might have an attendee hopping between Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills to catch everything they wanted to see.

“In the end, we concluded that the organization should explore a more nimble, sustainable form of exhibiting and celebrating independent film artists year round,” said Film Independent board chair Mary Sweeney.

Ray Mansfield, Chris Ellis, Nora Dunn, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Carrie Brownstein, Jon Barinholtz, Meredith Hagner, John Cho and Sean McKittrick at the L.A. Film Festival

Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Roadside Attractions

That means Film Independent will be reinvesting the resources that went into the fest in their other signature programs, particularly Film Independent Presents, a screening series curated by critic Elvis Mitchell, and the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

The festival was known for highlighting work by filmmakers from groups underrepresented in Hollywood, which will continue through education and mentorship programs from Film Independent, including Global Media Makers, Filmmaker Labs, Film Independent Forum, and Directors Close-Up. Some programs will also be launching or expanding in the wake of the restructuring. Portal, a showcase for VR and immersive filmmaking, will remain as a stand-alone event, as will Hasan Foster’s two-day intensive on industry diversity, which first appeared as part of L.A.F.F. in 2013.

A full schedule of Film Independent’s upcoming public and industry programs can be found on the organization’s website.


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