October 16, 1999

It's easy to picture the Hollywood-style pitch:

"The film festival brings a sense of culture. Think about it, we've got

some of the most affluent people in the country right here, the rich of

the rich. And we can draw in more, from South County, parts of L.A., even

farther away, to our restaurants, our hotels, onto our beaches."

It sounds perfect, especially since it appears it will become reality.

After nearly a month and a half of limbo, a group of local business


owners and educators have come together, intent on saving the annual

Newport Beach International Film Festival.

Led by Gregg Schwenk, this nine-member group includes a healthy mix of

people who know how to sell Newport Beach to the public and those who

know a good film when they see it.

Among this group's likely tasks will be choosing the featured films in

order to ensure the festival's quality. And they've got the personnel to

do so. Included on the board is Bob Bassett, dean of Chapman University's

film school.

All the details still need to be worked out, Schwenk says. But one plan

he's already mentioned sounds good: scaling back the festival.

The festival, when led by Jeffrey S. Conner, was at its best when it

focused on the independent filmmakers. The most vibrant moments were when

these up-and-comers came together, discussing their techniques and their

future plans.

It missed the mark when it tried to bring in celebrities or hold golf


A weeklong festival featuring high-quality, independent films -- what the

festival started out as -- is the way to go. It might not become the next

Sundance, but what's important is that it stay the Newport festival.

Run correctly, the festival will attract a dedicated filmmakers and a

dedicated audience. And it will pump some extra revenue into Newport


It reads like a script in which everybody wins.

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