DOWNTOWN — Filmmakers, locals, and the international community will be coming together to showcase and celebrate the power of film during the Santa Monica International Film Festival taking place Saturday.

The festival is a competition that screens features, documentary, and short films from all over the United States and around the world. Its aim is to promote new films and filmmakers to the film industry and the local community alike.

From 11 a.m. to midnight, 20 films will be screened to the public at the Ocean Avenue Screening Room.

“It is going to be very picturesque and intimate. The films are all in one place,” said Henrietta Roe, film festival organizer.

The event will begin with a Filmmaker’s Networking Breakfast at 11 a.m. Filmmakers from the festival will have the opportunity to network with each other, as well as meet people from the general public to discuss their films. The breakfast is free and open to the public and is sponsored by local restaurants and clubs.

Filmmakers featured in the festival, other aspiring filmmakers, and the general public will be able to pitch their ideas for future films to independent directors and production companies present during the day.

The featured short films will be shown beginning at noon, with the 18 short films being divided into three different sessions, showing six shorts during each session.

At 6 p.m., two full-length feature films will be shown. A VIP party and an awards ceremony will be held next door at the Hamilton Gallery at 9 p.m.

During the awards ceremony, there will be seven awards given out. A panel of judges, with the majority made up of local filmmakers, producers, and people in the film industry, will decide the winners of the Jury Awards that include the best in feature, short, comedy, animation, and thriller. In addition, the audience decides the recipients of the two Audience Awards: best short and best feature.

The recipients of these awards not only receive recognition among their peers, but also receive a monetary award from Filmworks/FX Inc., a production company and a major sponsor of the film festival.

“Finishing support from Filmworks/FX Inc. makes a huge difference [to filmmakers]. There are so many expenses [in making] movies,” said David Katz, consultant for the festival.

Due to uncertain economic times, this year’s festival will be smaller than those of years past.

“We’re having a modest, one-day festival,” said Katz. “It’s better to have a strong, one day event culminating around local filmmakers and cool short films that really make a better mark in the eyes of the community.”

The annual film festival kicked off in Santa Monica in 1996 and had a good run until the mid 2000s, when it was put on hold. After a few years of inactivity, Angelika Katz, a local filmmaker and producer, worked together with a non-profit organization, to organize the Santa Monica International Film Festival in 2007.

This year, two films with deep Santa Monica roots are being featured at the festival.

‘Work to Surf’

This film explores the world of surfing and chronicles the life of Allen Sarlo, one of the most successful surfers in the world. A native of Venice, Sarlo found his passion in life on a surfboard and a skateboard. Following his days as one of the original Z-Boys of Dogtown, Sarlo found himself chasing his dreams of riding waves and braving barrels all the way to the pro surfing tour.

Shot and filmed by surfing cinematographer Dave Ogle, the movie takes viewers all across the world from the Malibu shores to remote areas around the islands of Indonesia. In addition, the film reveals many unknown facts surrounding the emergence of pro surfing and features surfing footage of greats like Kelly Slater and Jay Riddle. There is also a special tribute to Mark Foo, a big wave professional surfer, and close friend of Sarlo, who tragically died in a surfing accident in the ‘90s.

The film focuses on the unlikely path Sarlo took to achieve his goals. While surfing and traveling around the world, sponsorships were few and far between, so Sarlo had to find an alternative way to continue his passion.

“I came back and went to Santa Monica College, received my degree from Pepperdine University, and got involved in real estate,” Sarlo said.

He acknowledges that not everyone is a pro like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, so he emphasizes his philosophy of working for one’s passion, whether it be surfing, basketball, tennis, or any other activity.

“This movie is more about getting an education, keeping your head on straight, and being passionate about what you love and having the best of both worlds,” he said.

‘Mercy’

Abigail Mittel makes her directorial debut with the short, “Mercy.” Written by her cousin, Paul Hilborn, the film delves into the relationship between a husband and wife following the mysterious disappearance of their son.

In this film, Mittel was interested in exploring the root of relationships between husbands and wives and of mothers and fathers.

“When children are involved, life [of the parents] can slowly become only a connection through [that] child,” said Mittel. “When that child is removed from their lives, what do they have?”

Growing up as a third generation Angeleno, she spent her childhood on the island of Kaui, before returning to Los Angeles and discovering her passion for acting. She grew up doing musical theater and started doing dance and plays with theater companies.

She made her onscreen debut as the “girl in the window” in Savage Garden’s “Crash and Burn” music video in 2000.

Following that appearance, many other acting opportunities began opening up, she said.

While acting for a number of years, she worked at Mittel’s Art and Frame Center, her family owned and operated art store and the very first of its kind in Santa Monica, she said.

She eventually decided to take up the reigns as a director initially out of fear and for the thrill of being challenged.

“Directing is such a beast in itself,” she said.

However, Mittel felt that going behind the lens allowed her to broaden her artistic views and creativity. She became more aware of the multiple layers involved in editing, guiding the actors through their performances, and the many other aspects of filmmaking.

Although, she admits her first passion is acting, she is not opposed to directing another film.

“Anyway to get a story out there in a [deeper] way, that’s kind of me,” she said.

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