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Jacqueline Lyanga, the former director of AFI Fest, will serve as guest director of a new VR and immersive storytelling program at the rival LA Film Festival. In partnership with Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, she will curate a two-day showcase of new media platforms, including VR, AI and AR, that will be free to the public and take place Sept. 22-23 at the new LMU Playa Vista campus.
LAFF, headed by director Jennifer Cochis and presented by Film Independent, is moving to a new fall berth this year, Sept. 20-28. In addition to the immersive storytelling program, it announced several elements today.
As part of its commitment to inclusivity, the festival will launch We the People, a two-day summit (Sept. 22-23) at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills that will feature free panel discussions and keynote conversations addressing issues of representation and inclusion in the industry. Panelists will include Tre’vell Anderson (Los Angeles Times), Russell Boast (president, Casting Society of America), Kate Hagan and Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Teresa Huang (SEAL Team), Our Lady J (Pose), Nic Novicki (founder, Easterseals Disability Film Challenge), Natasha Rottweil (Insecure), Krista Suh (co-founder, Pussyhat movement), Steven James Tingus (board member, RespectAbility), Gail Williamson (talent agent, KMR & Associates) and more to be announced.
On the evening of Sept. 22, a benefit dinner will be held to celebrate 25 years of Project Involve, Film Independent’s mentorship initiative for underrepresented voices in the industry. The benefit dinner will honor Project Involve Fellows Effie T. Brown (Real Women Have Curves, Dear White People), Jon M. Chu (GI Joe: Retaliation, Crazy Rich Asians), Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, Empire) and MACRO founder and CEO Charles D. King (Mudbound, Fences) at the home of Catharine and Jeffrey Soros. The event will be chaired by longtime program supporter Chaz Ebert.
The fest is also adding a partnership with the International Documentary Association to expand Film Independent and the festival’s support of the doc community. The fest will introduce a Documentary Pass and center its doc programming at the ArcLight Hollywood theater to make it easily accessible to attendees of the IDA’s conference, Getting Real. LAFF doc pass holders will receive a discount to Getting Real and vice versa. Film Independent is also launching a documentary track at its Fast Track film financing market, also in partnership with the IDA.
“The evolution of the LA Film Festival continues,” Cochis said in announcing the moves. “The new partnerships formed with kindred and beloved organizations like LMU’s School of Film and Television and the International Documentary Association are radical, connecting creators in brand-new ways. Jacqueline Lyanga will helm the LA Film Festival’s first foray into immersive storytelling as guest director, VR and immersive storytelling. She is a talented and distinguished tastemaker in our global festival community. The pieces and experiences she will curate are not just of the moment; these are the storytellers of the future. The festival is also expanding our inclusion summit, We the People, to allow us to continue to be leaders within the broader industry dialogue as we continue to work toward solutions for parity across Hollywood.”
Added Film Independent president Josh Welsh, “Project Involve has worked to make this industry more inclusive for a quarter of a century. We are taking this moment to celebrate the work of Project Involve alumni like Effie T. Brown, Jon M. Chu and Cherien Dabis, as well as industry leaders like Charles D. King. These are the people who are bringing the change, and we’re so happy to honor them at the festival this year, and to help raise funds to support the program into the future.”
In addition to its traditional opening- and closing-night films that are available to pass holders, the festival is programming public screenings that L.A. audiences can attend on those nights. On Sept. 20, the festival will feature a night of Project Involve shorts and a special closing-night documentary will screen Sept. 28. Festival passes will go on sale to Film Independent members July 24 and to the general public July 31 at lafilmfestival.com. The competition lineup will be announced July 31.
The 2018 festival team comprises Cochis, festival director; Rachel Bleemer, director of operations; Shawn Davis, director of events; Drea Clark, senior programmer, head programmer, U.S. fiction; Jenn Wilson, senior programmer, head programmer, documentary; Heidi Honeycutt, head programmer, Nightfall; Ana Souza, head programmer, world fiction; Landon Zakheim, head of shorts; Hasan Foster, senior manager, inclusion and discourse; Rebecca Green, programmer, retrospectives; Aisha Lomax, programmer, podcasts and music videos; and Spade Robinson, programmer, television and web content.
The festival will take place at ArcLight theaters in Culver City, Hollywood and Santa Monica, as well as the new LMU Playa Vista campus, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and the Writers Guild Theater.
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