With more than 50 film festivals held throughout California, Downtown Long Beach played host to its first annual film festival this past weekend, showcasing a myriad of films.
After four months of prepping for the event, Long Beach resident John Case pulled off the Wilmore 9 film festival with the help of his friends in hopes of creating something akin to South By Southwest.
“Case was actually trying to submit his film into other festivals like Newport Beach, but he didn’t like how other ones were handling submissions like never calling back,” the event’s Film Coordinator Danielle Viale said. “[Case] decided to create his own festival where the films are loved and appreciated and shown in creative ways.”
While conventional venues like the Found Theatre and the Garage Theatre were used to screen films, the “Wilmore 9 team” also managed to create unique makeshift venues in an abandoned building and another that looks like an asylum.
According to Viale, the Lafayette building caused difficulties because the city didn’t approve the group’s permit to use the building. Despite lacking a proper permit, though, the “Wilmore 9 team” still used the building to screen short films.“We got the permit, but it wasn’t up to fire code this year because it’s in an abandoned ballroom and kitchen space, so people aren’t really supposed to occupy here,” Viale said. “We kind of made it underground at this point.”
At first, the building gave off an eerie atmosphere, especially with random paintings displayed in a dark hallway, but inside the ballroom, the event really came to life.
Films were projected on two walls of the empty ballroom with tables set up in scattered areas and a concession stand at the back. Attached to the ballroom was a small corridor adorned with neon blue and green lights that led into the kitchen space. This room had couches and loveseats and held the most occupants, probably due to the multiple short films shown instead of hour-long screenings.
The genre varied with each short film shown in the underground ballroom, and some focused more on the art of stop motion than actual storytelling.
Various local artists also performed at the Mad Haus, a warehouse venue located off of Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue. The empty parking lot adjacent to the venue played host to an outdoor art gallery complete with tasty meals provided by food trucks like “Meat the Greek” and “India Jones” available nearby.
Although most volunteers seemed enthusiastic about the Wilmore 9, there wasn’t a large outcome of attendees. The event didn’t give off a festival-like atmosphere, and attendees needed to know of the underground locations. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have known a festival was taking place.
Despite the lack of attendance, Viale said that Case plans to incorporate music and artwork with the films. They also hope the event will continue to improve in hopes of it becoming a festival as big as Sundance or South by Southwest.