The only resort island on the west coast is amazingly rich with American film history. So it was long overdue when in 2011 Ron Truppa launched the Catalina Film Festival to celebrate film and the wonderful Island of Catalina. The inaugural Festival was a smashing success and already more than 75 films from over 35 countries have been submitted as entries in many genres for the 2012 Festival taking place May 4 - 6.
The first weekend of May, Catalina will become the Cannes of the American west coast as film makers and film lovers converge -- just 20 miles off the coast of Los Angeles – for a long weekend of sun, networking, parties and films. Now is the time to make plans to go for a day, or for the weekend, and walk the red carpet on opening night, stroll the historic harbor front streets of Avalon with celebrities, film makers and other film buffs, and feel like you are thousands of miles from LA, although you will be just off the coast of California.
When Truppa had the inspiration to launch the Festival, his first call was to the Catalina Island Conservancy to engage the idea; it was their enthusiastic response that led to the successful inaugural year of the Festival. The Catalina Film Festival provides an economic stimulus to help with the aging infrastructure of the Island, supports the other work of the Conservancy and promotes much-needed tourism on the Island. The Festival is a win for the full-time community on Catalina, the important work of the Conservancy, and for those who venture over for a "staycation" to enjoy the clear blue water and coastal breezes while taking in a buffet of film. Entries in this competitive festival include feature and short-length domestic and international features, documentaries, experimental and student films. While on the Island, film lovers can also attend yacht and mansion parties, network with film makers and other film fans, and party into the night.
During the Festival weekend, awards will be presented in up to ten categories, including the ISLA Earth Award, an honor presented by the Conservancy, the Festival's beneficiary and the Ronald Reagan Foundation "Great Communicator" Award, which will be awarded to comic creator and Hollywood icon Stan Lee, who Reagan once cited as an entertainer who "communicates important ideas to young people." President Reagan also helped launch Stan Lee's "Entertainers for Education" initiative in 1991.
The 2012 Festival will include a screening of "The Avengers," which Lee himself will attend. And the Festival will also host the Catalina premiere of "With Great Power – The Stan Lee Story." Lee, known to generations as the man whose super heroes propelled Marvel Comics to its preeminent position in the comic book industry, will also present the award for "Best Animated Film" during the Festival's award ceremony.
Incidentally, it was during his role as a radio sports broadcaster covering the Chicago Cubs that Ronald Reagan went to Catalina to cover spring training for a team and on an Island both owned by the Wrigley family. One day during Spring Training he was encouraged to take the ferry over to Los Angeles and do a screen test at Warner Bros. He did and shortly thereafter he was awarded his first movie contract. The rest, as they say, is history.
With one year of the Catalina Film Festival in the books and Year Two just around the corner, the Festival is enjoying strong buzz and receiving accolades from film makers that the setting is beautiful and relaxing and the Festival has a personality unlike any other. Word of mouth resonated after last year's success, and this May the celluloid legacy started on the little island off the coast of LA so many generations ago, will continue to grow.
For more information on the festival, including industry passes, visit catalinaff.com.