The First Time Fest was created by Johanna Bennett and Mandy Ward as a way to showcase new upcoming filmmakers and their works, and to get them a head start in their industry. The festival occurred on March 1st to 4th at The Players Club in New York, which was a club started by some well-known writers and actors, including Edwin Booth (John Wilkes Booth’s brother), Mark Twain, and more.
While the festival does support new filmmakers in their journey, it also awards previous filmmakers who have made names for themselves. Being that this is the first year of the festival, the first ever John Huston Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema went to Darren Aronofsky. The award is named in honor of John Huston as he was a esteemed member of The Players Club, as well as considered to be one of the most influential writer, actor, director and producers of all times. His directorial debut was The Maltese Falcon, which made his Player’s Club colleague, Humphrey Bogart, a star. Other films of his include The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen, The Man Who Would Be King, and more. John Huston went on to win 2 Academy Awards and be nominated for 13 more, as well earn AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award and win 3 Golden Globes.
Darren Aronofsky started out as a director by making Pi, and thus was recognized to be deserving of the award and grow to be an accomplished director. His latest films include Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, (both IMDB top 250). Aronosky was selected as the first beneficiary of the John Huston Award due to his determined and persistent effort in filmmaking.
There were twelve competition films in the festival, which battled for bragging rights and distribution in theaters of major cities like New York and Los Angeles. The winner of the competition was Sal, an Argentinean western film made by Diego Rougier. Director Diego Rougier will receive distribution by Cinema Libre Studio and all the filmmakers in the competition will receive industry advice from filmmakers in the field. The competition films are:
Blumenthal: Written and directed by Seth Fisher, starring Mark Blum, Laila Robins and Seth Fisher. Blumenthal follows Harold Blumenthal (played by Brian Cox), whose death causes mass drama among his family.
La Tete La Premiere (Headfirst): Written and directed by Amelie van Elmbt, Headfirst stars Alice de Lencquesaing, David Muriga, and Jacques Doillon. The film depicts the life of two hitch hiking teens in Belgium who dream of becoming an actor and writer.
Horizon Sky: Writen by Andrei Kureichyk and directed by Andrei Kureichyk and Dzmitry Marynin. This is the first independent film from Belarus in over 10 years and due to laws in the country, the film was outlawed in Belarus. The filmmakers were even banned from leaving the country to attend the First Time Fest. The film stars Leonid Pashkovsky, Anna Sirotina, Tatyana Bovkalova and Victor Rybcznski, and it is about a musician with AIDS who battles with society’s views and addiction on drugs.
Los Quiero A Todos (I Love You All): Written and directed by Luciano Quilici, it stars Ramiro Aguero, Santiago Gobernori, Diego Jalfen and Valeria Lois. The film’s synopsis follows the reunion of friends that ponder about their missed opportunites in the past, and the chances they get now.
Junction: Written and directed by Tony Glazer, the film stars Neal Bledsoe, Harris Doran, Summer Crockett Moore and Bryan Deehring. This film follows meth addicts through a robbery situation when they uncover something darker lurking in the house they plan to rob.
Mongolian Bling: Directed by Benj Binks, Mongolian Bling is a documentary centered on the culture and history of Mongolia, like songs and beats of today compared to the musical history in the past.
Sal: Written and directed by Diego Rougier, the film stars Fele Martinez, Patricio Contreras, Sergio Hernandez and Javiera Contador. In a reference to Sergio Leone (which you can credit Django Unchained with), a Spanish film director’s identity is mistaken and instead of making his beloved screenplay, he has to run to save his life.
Submerge: Written by Sophie O’Connor and Kat Holmes, directed by Sophie O’Connor. Starring Lily Hall, Christina Hallett, Kevin Dee and Georgia Balton, the film is based on an Olympic swimmer who falls in love with the girlfriend of her history teacher.
Summertime: Written and Directed by Max Weissberg, starring Lethia Nall, H.R. Britton, Eric Yves Garcia and Olivia Horton. Summertime revolves around Julia, a actress who is cast in a role by a hands-on director, and follows her acquaintances as they interact with her and each other throughout the film.
Uprising: Directed Fredrik Stanton, Uprising is another documentary based on the Egyptian revolution from the view of organizers and officials in power.
Urban Tale: Written and directed by Eliav Lilti, Urban Tale is about two siblings that search for their long lost father after their mother’s death. The film stars Barak Friedman, Noa Friedman, Esti Yerushalmi and Zohar Shtrauss.
Zipper: Zipper is a documentary directed by Amy Nicholson that is based on New York’s famous Coney Island, and one of its famous rides, the Zipper.
Not only did the festival show the first films of these up and coming filmmakers, it showed the very first films of famous filmmakers today. Some include Wes Anderson’s (Moonrise Kingdom) Bottle Rocket, Harlan County, U.S.A. by Barbara Kopple who won an Oscar for the film, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s (Capote) Jack Goes Boating, and legend John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon. Darren Aronofsky’s Pi was also shown, as was Poison by Todd Haynes, with producer Christine Vachon in person. Melvin Van Peebles’ The Story of a Three-Day Pass was shown as was Nancy Savoca’s True Love. Hal Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth, Sophia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and Welcome to the Dollhouse by Todd Solondz were also shown.
Lastly, the festival had a few panels which went along the “How They Did It” theme, in which accomplished filmmakers would tell their stories and how they made their films made. Some panels included the Producers panel which included expert producers giving advice on how they had their films made, or even the FTF Filmmakers Forum which included all the filmmakers of the competition series and how they felt to have their work honored. Stay tuned for more information the festival and more posts soon to follow.