Drive on up: a rooftop film festival comes to Manhattan Beach

Florana International Film Festival founders Ruairidh Kerr, Nicholas Tell, and Michael Kerr. Photo by JP Cordero

Movies in Manhattan

A new, drive-in film festival will take place on the rooftop level of the Manhattan Village parking structure

by Bondo Wyszpolski

Over the years, Manhattan Beach has hosted numerous artistic events, and sometimes there’s one the likes of which we haven’t seen. The Florana International Film Festival is a case in point. It bills itself as the city’s first-ever drive-in independent film festival, and is set to take place atop the Manhattan Village Mall parking structure on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26 and 27.

It’s being presented by Manhattan Beach residents Nicholas Tell, the CEO of New Productions (which is just that, a new film production company), along with Ruairidh and Michael Kerr, originally from Glasgow, Scotland, owners of the music production company Florana.

An ambitious endeavor like this doesn’t come around often, so let’s have a chat with Nicolas Tell and get the inside story.

Easy Reader: Whose idea was it for the film festival and how did you get started?

Nicholas Tell: “Originally mine, but Ruairidh and Michael jumped on the idea, which really gave us a huge head start. From there we worked closely with Nicholas Tell, Jr. (Nicholas’ father and former mayor of Manhattan Beach), who really pointed us in the right direction, and it went from there.”

ER: Your deadline for submissions is almost over? Have you made preliminary selections?

Tell: “Due to the popularity of the festival on film freeway (the website where we receive submissions), we are extending the deadline to Feb. 15 (10 days after the original deadline). In accordance with preliminary selections, we are not involved in that process and will not be starting it until the deadline has passed. We have a separate panel of preliminary judges who will be reviewing all of the submissions.”

ER: It doesn’t say so in the title, but this is a festival of short — 1 to 40 minute — films, isn’t it?

Tell: “Yes, every film in this festival will be a short film in that time frame: 1 to 40 minutes.”

ER: Do you still plan to show about 30 films altogether?

Tell: “That depends on the number of submissions we get by the time the final deadline passes. However, based on our own projections we should be showing between 25-30 films each night.”

The rooftop level of the Manhattan Village parking lot will become a drive-in theater on Friday and Saturday evening, Feb. 26 and 27. Photo courtesy of Florana International Film Festival

ER: Your venue is a parking garage rooftop. How many cars can you accommodate at one time? And how does the set-up work so that people can see and hear?

Tell: “We can accommodate 60 cars at one time, but we also have an online stream of the festival that will be broadcast all over the world. Cars will park facing a large blow-up screen on one side of the structure and will be given a radio station to tune into that will broadcast the sound.

ER: The festival runs over two days. Are there different films each evening, or are they being screened more than once?

Tell: “The films, along with the award shows, will be screened both days in order to allow more people to see them.”

ER: When will you announce the films? Are you showing any from other states or countries?

Tell: “The official selections will be announced on Feb. 20, while the winners, finalists, and honorable mentions will be announced on the days of the festival. Yes, we are an international film festival, so we have films from many different countries, namely Japan, Australia, Iran, Italy, and Canada, along with the films from different states in the U.S.”

ER: How are you choosing the films? Who are your judges? Do they decide the awards as well as selecting the films to be screened?

Tell: “To choose the festival’s official selections, we have a small independent preliminary judging panel consisting of people who have worked on New Productions sets in the past. These people will be vetting the films to make sure they are following the rules of the festival and the category under which they entered the festival. However, for the final round of the films [that is, the official selections], we are building a panel of Hollywood professionals who are currently working in the film industry. The names of those judges will be announced as we get closer to the festival on @floranafest on Instagram and, yes, they will be voting on the awards along with which film will win what category.”

ER: What is the cost, per person or per car?

Tell: “The cost, per vehicle pass, to attend the event live will be $85 plus tax. However, in order to receive the link to the live stream, it will be $10 plus tax. All of this can also be found on our Eventbrite page where tickets are live and being sold. However, they are selling quickly so if you want to attend the event, I suggest buying one now.”

ER: Is there a music festival component as well? And if so, how does this fit in?

Tell: “Due to the changes in COVID regulations, the music festival will not happen this year. Music will still be played, though, while everyone is entering and exiting the festival.”

ER: This has been a peculiar year, but what are your hopes, and what would you like to see happening with this film festival, moving forward?

Tell: “With this event, we hope to make an annual, reoccurring charity-based film festival in Manhattan Beach to outlast us.”

ER: What else do those interested in attending need to know?

Tell: “The main thing the people attending need to know is to WEAR A MASK. We highly suggest bringing a mask of your own, but if you do not have one, we will provide you with one. If you refuse to wear a mask, you will be escorted from the event with no refund. However, if your windows in your car are up and you are with people in your immediate bubble then the rules are looser. Another important piece of information that people should have, is that we are involved with restaurants at the mall that will send out their menus before the festival so people can pre-order their food online and have it delivered there. This will cut down on human contact at the festival, so we don’t have restaurant workers standing next to multiple different cars to take people’s orders. People attending the festival in person will also receive an eco-friendly, goodie bag with the Florana Film Festival logo on it. For more information and updates on the festival, we suggest people follow our Instagram @floranafest. People can also directly contact us at nppfloranafestival@gmail.com.” ER

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Written by: Bondo Wyszpolski

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