Danville Express

Living - May 11, 2007

Roll the reels

Danville International Children's Film Festival offers movies for kids, by kids and about kids

by Jordan M. Doronila

Turn on the projector and roll the reels! The Danville International Children's Film Festival - films for children and by children - is coming next week.

The event, which is in its fourth year, will showcase 50 films from May 18-20 at the Village Theatre and Danville Town Meeting Hall on Front Street. Festival judges have nominated films for prizes in the categories of animation, documentary and short film. And within each of those categories, awards will be given to young filmmakers (5-12), teenagers and adults.

"It's a good annual event for the community," said festival co-founder Derek Zemrak, 41, an accountant who is also a director of low budget films.

Among the pictures being shown are animated features "Bibi," "Blast off!" and "Creepers," plus the short, "The Little Gorilla." Some of the films were made by Canadian, Irish and Spanish producers.

David Mickey Evans, director of the 1993 blockbuster hit "The Sandlot," will be attending his film's screening at the festival's opening night at the Village Theatre, 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 18. Zemrak said he is looking forward to Evans' appearance. There will be a question-and-answer period with Evans, who also directed the "Beethoven" films.

"We wanted to pick a director that did a lot of children's films," Zemrak said.

Joey Travolta, John Travolta's brother, and Alyson Stoner, who appeared in "Cheaper by the Dozen," will also be attending the festival.

"I think the festival is unique because it pertains to family and children," Zemrak said. "We want to make the best for children. We want Danville to be on the map."

This annual festival - co-founded by Zemrak and Danville attorney Leonard Pirkle - has attracted thousands of enthusiasts to the festival to view screenings of independent films in two locations, with special events, autograph sessions, seminars for filmmakers and actors, and an awards ceremony. This year, the festival received 100 submissions, and its organizers selected 50 to show.

Also, the event will screen videos made by finalists in the "Be Smart, Be Safe, Be Reel" contest for middle school students. The competition was sponsored by Street Smarts, a public education campaign to educate people about traffic safety and responsibility.

Zemrak said last year's festival went well.

"Each year the attendance gets more and more," he noted.

The festival encourages creative students from the area to be a part of the festival and submit their work. The festival allows young filmmakers to receive constructive criticism from a combination of peers and professionals, which will help them improve their skills while giving them valuable real-life experience.

"There is a tremendous amount of learning that goes into film," Zemrak said. "Film (incorporates) all subjects in school - writing, camera angles, creative, organizational skills, math ...."

Past year's special guests include Roseanne Barr, Paul Peterson, Jon Provost, Kathy Garver, Carolyn Lawrence, Bob Gale, Bob Bergen, Dylan McLaughlin, Grace Leer and Stanley Livingston.

The Danville International Children's Film Festival is the only one of its kind in the western United States and is presented by the California Independent Film Festival Association and the Town of Danville.

Zemrak and Pirkle, who also head up the California Independent Film Festival, said there needed to be a festival geared toward families and children.

The California Independent Film Festival has been going on for eight years, said Zemrak. He said first his friends rented a hall in Pleasanton and showcased 35 films. They also tried the Pleasanton Hilton, a place in Berkeley and were at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek a couple of years before successfully settling on the Livermore wineries as a venue.

During this time, Pirkle heard about requests to hold a film festival in Danville from Councilwoman Millie Greenberg, whom he knew from his attempts to get involved in the town Planning Commission.

Pirkle said Danville is a nice walking environment and people from around the country attend the festival. He would like to see more people attend.

Zemrak said he decided long ago to do low budget moviemaking. He wrote, directed and produced a feature entitled "Ice Scream," which the L.A. Times called the "best of the worst" movies made in November 1998. He followed that up with "Bikini Planet" in 2002. He also has worked on a feature length children's animated film entitled "Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm."

He said he is working on a new film he wrote that is a coming-of-age story about two young boys and their relationships with fathers in separate families.

The Children's Film Fest will draw to a close May 20 with a presentation of awards at 5 p.m. in the Village Theatre.

All-day passes are $8 for kids and $12 for adults, and they can be purchased at the Village Theatre. For more information, call Christine Mabry at 314-3475. The complete schedule is available at www.DanvilleWeekly.com.

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