Written by, Ofelya Martirosyan
Imagine a festival dedicated to cheerful, pleasant, pretty films with flowers, balloons, and candy. Now forget it because “it’s boring if it’s just sunshine and dancing with butterflies,” said Kristen Flores, co-founder of the non-profit Feel Good Film Festival at the fifth annual festival at Laemmle’s 7 Theaters in North Hollywood.
Designed as a platform for writers and filmmakers who have positive views on life to showcase their works, Feel Good encourages them “to continue making positive films and writing optimistic scripts with happy endings”, said Flores. Open to the public, with mostly short films, several features, a few documentaries, and student films were showcased to a select audience of their peers including writers, actors, directors, producers and cinematographers.
The screenings were followed by an award ceremony on the last day of the festival. Submissions, beginning on December of every year, were made through withoutabox.com. They were viewed three to five times by a select committee, according to Flores.
With more than fifty films screened in sets of three or four in two theaters, simultaneously ranging from romantic comedies to documentaries Feel Good Audience Award Winner, “Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey” was a documentary aimed at raising environmental awareness. Village to village across treacherous terrain, 700 people journeyed in the Himalayas collecting and carrying on their backs almost half a ton of plastic waste.
Bringing creative people together is the festival’s other objective. “What I like the most is seeing the filmmakers meet screenplay finalists. Creating a place so he [a writer] can meet a filmmaker and possibly get his film produced is pretty cool,” said Flores.
“The cool thing about it, especially in times where the country, the whole world is going through economic problems and feeling down, it’s important to come to a place and see feel-good movies,” said event honorary host, actor/producer Valente Rodriguez (George Lopez Show, Erin Brokovich, Happily Divorced).
This was the first year Flores handed over directing the festival to her sister-in-law Karyn Jones. “I was thrilled because I was so paranoid about how it was going to go but I knew once I got through Friday night I would be ok,” said Jones. Although she’s been involved with all the previous ones, Jones said she was unaware of all the little challenges she faced as Event Director. For instance, understanding the lingo filmmakers use or making sure she had her liquor license. “I can say that I am proud of myself for what I did but I couldn’t have done it without everybody, and I love that we’re a family and we work together and we’re all on the same wavelength,” said Jones.
Her favorite thing about the event was hearing filmmakers say this was the most rewarding festival. “They’ve done what their heart has told them and that’s why they have the films that they have. They’re not doing it for the money; they’re not doing it for the fame. They’re just doing it because this is what they love to do and it shows.”
The festival provided not only a platform to showcase quality films but also a place to encourage beginner artists. Her advice to others: “Follow your passion, follow your dream and do it with all your heart because that’s what I’m seeing these filmmakers have done.”
“As artists we think we have to be self-motivating. They need that encouragement, the pat on the back that says you’re doing a good job, keep going, congratulations, we’re proud of you,” said Rodriguez in reflection at Friday night’s Opening Gala.
Rodriguez’s advice to aspiring filmmakers is to make films locally and to stay true to their hearts. “Follow that beautiful energy you all have” and finish what you start, he said. “What this town appreciates is product so whatever you start finish it.”
Inspirational messages and encouraging words expressed through films and in person by hundreds participating at the festival were as abundant as the sunflowers on every table and smiles on everyone’s faces. This was one festival that truly lived up to its name.