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Movies: Inaugural Laguna Film Festival Is Short and Sweet

LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA - OCTOBER 18: Shanola Hampton and Laguna Film Festival Director Austin Fickman at awards ceremony at 1st Annual Laguna Film Festival - Day 3 on October 18, 2015 in Laguna Niguel, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for Laguna Film Festival)

By Jenny Peters

There’s a new film festival in town (well, in the OC, that is) and its motto could be “Short and Sweet.” The inaugural Laguna Film Festival launched from October 16-18, 2015, a festival of short films created by Austin Fickman – who actually hasn’t been around that long himself.

Laguna Film Festival founder Austin Fickman and “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale kick off the inaugural short film festival on October 16, 2015.

Laguna Film Festival founder Austin Fickman and “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale kick off the inaugural short film festival on October 16, 2015.

“I thought about the fact that Laguna has a sawdust festival and not a film festival,” the 18-year-old filmmaker turned festival impresario explained during the opening night festivities. Fickman, who’s been making his own movies since he was eight, decided to highlight short films as a way to support up-and-coming filmmakers – and even a few who already have big careers in the industry.

Actors-turned-filmmakers Abigail Spencer and Josh Pence presented their short film “Winter Light” at the Laguna Film Festival on October 16, 2015.

Actors-turned-filmmakers Abigail Spencer and Josh Pence presented their short film “Winter Light” at the Laguna Film Festival on October 16, 2015.

That was obvious from the very first short that unspooled at the festival, which was all held at the Regency Directors Cut Cinema in Laguna Niguel. “Solemates,” directed by “Jurassic Park” star Bryce Dallas Howard (whose father is famed director Ron Howard), who actually has been directing short films since 2006, lasts for only a minute, yet tells a heartwarming tale of lifelong love.

Howard sent a video greeting, while other opening night filmmakers and actors were in attendance, including “Winter Light” producer Abigail Spencer (you know her as an actress from “True Detective”), as well as director Julian Higgins; actress Sarah Ramos of “Parenthood” fame who produced and acted in female director Joey Ally’s clever “Minimum Wage”; and “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale, who set the casual, lively tone for the weekend by heckling Fickman as he proudly launched the festival.

“Take off your shirt, Austin!” Hale shouted, eliciting laughter from the well-attended first-night audience.

The festival unspooled 77 different films in its three-day run, with Austin’s dad, film director Andy Fickman (“Race to Witch Mountain”) heading the jury that awarded “Alzheimer’s: A Love Story” the Best of the Fest Short Film prize, which included a cash payout as well as industry meetings for the movie’s four directors. “Shameless” star Shanola Hampton was on hand to help present the awards.

“Minimum Wage” was the short film that actress Sarah Ramos (“Parenthood”) and director Joey Ally entered into the first Laguna Film Festival.

“Minimum Wage” was the short film that actress Sarah Ramos (“Parenthood”) and director Joey Ally entered into the first Laguna Film Festival.

And as the inaugural Laguna Film Festival came to an end, Austin Fickman enthusiastically reminded everyone that this was the first of many. “This weekend and this festival have blown me away,” he said. “We can’t wait for next year’s festival!”

All photos courtesy Laguna Film Festival/Getty Images.

About Jenny Peters (155 Articles)
<p>Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered “Lifestyle” reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today’s 10Best.com, AARP.org, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (www.criticschoice.com), which annually honors the year’s top films with the Critics’ Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.</p>

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