Why Film Festivals are more important than ever – Santa Barbra International Film Festival

Greetings everyone. Welcome to my first blog of 2017. My blog is not like all the other blogs out there. My blog is based on personal experiences I’ve had covering events as a photographer, filmmaker and fan. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the entertainment industry ever since acting in local theater when I was a child. Out of all the events I cover my favorites are film festivals. I fell in love with screenwriting after attending the Boston Film festival screening of ‘Reservoir Dogs” in 1992. What I love about festivals is not just seeing a film before it’s released, Q&A’s with the filmmakers and celebrity tributes. In this age of straight to cable, streaming services and pay per views, there still isn’t anything that can take the place of seeing a film on a big screen at a theater. Sadly because the amount of money it takes to put on a festival the number is now decreasing. Without sponsors, volunteers and customers a festival can’t survive in 2017. This is my first in a series of blog’s about film festivals and why they are more important than ever.

32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival – “Charged” Opening Night Film

This blog is filled with highlights from months 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The festival featured many of the 2017 Oscar nominees and winners. The festival kicked off with a documentary about a chef Eduardo Garcia, who Charged with 2400 volts of electricity, Eduardo Garcia lost an arm, ribs, muscle mass and nearly his life. The film was very powerful. At times it was hard to watch in the beginning with the severity of his injury. His rebirth and new look on life and returning to his profession was powerful. After the film the festival had an opening night party eating and drinking from food supplied from local restaurants.

Maltin Modern Master Tribute – Honoring Denzel Washington

The second night of the festival was actually one of the most anticipated. Denzel grew up in Westchester County, like myself. I have literally grown up on Denzel from Carbon Copy and St. Elsewhere. His performances in Glory and “Training Day” won him Two Academy Awards. I personally feel “Malcolm X” and his current film “Fences” are his two best performances. Denzel arrived in Santa Barbra and started signing autographs for the fans across the street from the theater. He then did some interviews and walked the red carpet. The press line was crazy with a large number of photographers driving from Los Angeles and high school student reporters. After his quick appearance on the carpet he headed into the theater for the tribute. The tributes are always my favorite part of SBIFF. You can see a movie anywhere but where can you find out stories never told before and see a career highlights. Denzel’s tribute was amazing. Seeing where he started and what path got him to where he is today was a real special moment. As happy as I was for Casey, the best performance of 2016 was Denzel’s “Fences”.

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Outstanding Performers of the Year Award

Up next was my third and final tribute to “La La Land”, of Award Season. SBIFF honored Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award. The two posed for photos together and apart for the press after signing autographs for the fans outside the theater. Both looked amazing on the carpet. The tribute part of the evening showed highlights of both of their careers including clips from the three films
they did together. During the conversation part of the evening you could clearly see how much chemistry they have together. After the tribute was over “La La Land” director and fellow Oscar Nominee Damien Chazelle, presented the two actors with their Awards.

Virtuosos Award

One of the cool things about the festival it has always welcomed talent of all ages with the Virtuosos Award. Virtuosos Award honors a group of talent who’ve distinguished themselves through breakthrough performances in film that past year. In many cases they are smaller independent films. The 2017 Award Winners were Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences), Janelle Monáe (Moonlight, Hidden Figures), Ruth Negga (Loving), Dev Patel (Lion) and Aaron Taylor Johnson (Nocturnal Animal). Everyone looked spectacular. The carpet had that Gala / Award Season feel to it with the women dressed in high fashion. This was another packed night on the carpet and in the photographer pit. There was one part of the night that was unexpected. Due to the amount of photographers on the press line, I was forced to shoot from the second row. Luckily I brought a two step step stood that I stood on. Oscar Nominee (and winner), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), appeared with his 8 1/2 month pregnant wife on the carpet. After that, Mahershala, walked by himself. As he got to my area, it looked like he was saying something to me. I though he might have not been happy with my flash going off directly at him from an elevated level. Then I saw him get really excited and seemed like he was pointing at me. With all the noise coming from the carpet I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I just smiled and nodded. He continued pointing at me. Then I finally realized he was reacting to my yellow Golden State Warriors, 73 Win Sweatshirt. I didn’t find out till later that he was from Oakland. I gave the thumbs up. Then instead for moving to the next photo station he walked away from his publicist and the carpet. He started to walk towards the photographers pit. He then leaned into the area and gave me a high five.

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Cinema Vanguard Award Honoring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams

Up next was the Cinema Vanguard Award Honoring “Manchester By The Sea” actors Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. What made this a special night was that both actors live a very unHollywood life style out of the public eye. The actors walked the carpet together and separately. Casey was dressed in a black suit. He still had his salt and pepper thick beard that he had at the Globes and Oscars. After walking the carpet and doing interviews with video people the two walked into the Arlington for their tribute. The actors were showcased in video clips from their entire careers. I must admit. Michelle Williams was the reason I use to watch “Dawson’s Creek”. Of course, Michelle has gone on to be one of the best actresses in recent memory. The two sat on couches next to each other for their interviews. You could tell how genuine both were. Williams shared an adorable personal moment when she spoke about how happy her daughter was she was actually winning the award unlike other spoke about her daughter who was happy to hear that she was finally getting an award instead of losing.

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Montecito Award – Honoring Isabelle Huppert

Another tribute for an Oscar nominee was the 2017 Montecito Award, Honoring “Elle” actress, Isabelle Huppert. Known as the “Merrill Streep” of France. Unfortunately she walked right by me and my photo area without even looking. Luckily I had a wide lens to shoot from other stations. I must admit I was relieved she didn’t win the Oscar. She also lost my Spirit Award vote. That doesn’t takeaway from the fact she is an amazing actress who has been in over 100 films.

American Riviera Award Honoring Jeff Bridges

My final event of the festival was actually the one tribute I wanted to see the most. Not many people can be recognized by two words that are not their name. The recipient of the “American Riviera” Award was “The Dude”. “The Big Lebowski”, may have been one of my favorite Jeff Bridges films but it wasn’t my first. He first appeared in my universe in the 1982 film “Tron and kiss Me Goobye”. However, it was the 1984 film “Starman” was my favorite of his 80’s movies. Jeff appeared in the film along with one of my first celebrity crushes Karen Allen. Of all his films, last years “Hell or High Water” might have been one of his toughest challenges. Like all his other roles he mastered the complex portrayal of a Sherif on his way to retirement looking for one last hurrah. Jeff spoke for over 2 hours about a lot of the stories that were behind the scenes. One of the most surprising parts of the evening was to find out that Jeff’s dad, Lloyd Bridges, pushed him into acting and away from his desire to be a musician. It actually took 10 years for Jeff to start feeling comfortable acting. The Santa Barbara actor was in a joyous mood. After the moderator stopped talking about Lebowski, he tried to move to the next film he was discussing. Jeff then made him go back to Lebowski, he then brought up an really interesting hypothesis about one of the co stars roles in the film. Asking if “Donny was real or just a figment of imagination. Another special moment came when Jeff spoke about his longtime wife (who was sitting right by me) and how in love with her he is. One thing is for sure, we can all look forward to seeing Jeff playing all types of characters he brings to life.

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The 2017 festival featured more than 200 films from across the globe; as well as screenings, industry panels & education programs. You can view the 2017 award winners here: http://variety.com/2017/film/news/santa-barbara-film-festival-2017-award-winners-1201984675.For more information on the festival you can go to SBIFF.ORG. Additional photos can be found, with a article by journalist patch.com entertainment journalist Beau Behan: http://patch.com/california/malibu/photos-2017-santa-barbara-international-film-festival-wraps

Thank you for checking out this blog.Don’t forget to support local film and music in your city. Now more than ever they need your support.


About Jonathanshensa

I'm a Celebrity Event Photographer, producer and Screenwriter. I also worked with promoting bands and spent 5 years in music management. In my younger days, I was also an Actor, News reporter, DJ, and have worked at Talent, and Management companies. I love the mass media but also love to talk about everyday topics. I want to have a positive and creative impact on the entertainment business. Check out my entertainment blog, "The Outsiders Guide to the Inside of Hollywood". WWW.theOutsidersGuidetotheInsideofHollywood.com
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