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Filmakers with local angles

Although the Newport Beach Film Festival boasts movies from more than 35 countries, some are decidedly local.

April 06, 2007|By Jessie Brunner

From middle school classrooms in Texas to penguin-covered glaciers in the Antarctic, local filmmakers will take audiences around the globe at this year's Newport Beach Film Festival, though many of them are happy setting their films right here at home.

When she graduated two years ago from USC's School of Cinematic Arts, Phoebe Shackeroff never imagined a childhood acquaintance from the summers she spent at her family's vacation home on Balboa Island would take center stage in her directorial film debut.

But in three weeks, her 22-minute documentary, "Rupert," will premiere at the 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival, and the subject matter couldn't be any more local.

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Upon learning that the film's namesake — the black Australian swan that reigned over the Newport Harbor for two decades — was accidentally killed by a Harbor Patrol boat in September, Shackeroff rushed to put the film together in time for the festival.

"When I realized Rupert was so famous, I thought, 'Shoot, this would make a great documentary,' " she said. "Newport Beach seemed to be the best place to showcase the movie, and what a way to give back to the community and to celebrate Rupert and the end of an era."

Though the festival has grown tremendously in size and scope since its inception — this year offering more than 400 films from 35 countries — organizers could not be more eager to spotlight the work of locals.

"We are always excited to collaborate with filmmakers, especially those with an Orange County connection," said founder Gregg Schwenk. "2007 presents a high-water mark for us and O.C. filmmakers, and we are very pleased to be a showcase for their work."

"Rupert" includes excerpts from more than 40 interviews that shed light on Rupert's lovable — and sometimes mischievous — ways, as well as footage and animation of the bird. It will screen as part of the festival's Local Motion Shorts at 3:30 and 5 p.m. on April 24 at Edwards Island Cinemas.

'SHANGHAI KISS'

As children, Kip and Kern Konwiser first dreamed of show business while perched on the bluffs near their Newport Beach home, and will return to the city to present their latest film, "Shanghai Kiss," for the festival's Saturday Night Centerpiece.

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