Evan Beamer, co-director of "In Security," had a brush with danger Friday.
The Los Angeles resident almost backed into a Camaro after receiving a text telling him that his first feature film had been honored as an Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
"This is such a cool thing for our first tiny little movie that no one had ever seen before," said Beamer, who directed the film with his brother, Adam. "We are so grateful to the Newport Beach Film Festival. We got to watch this thing with a full house, and everyone was laughing the whole way through. We hope this honor allows more people to hear about this movie and helps get the word out for us a little bit."
Festival-goers tore off the corners of colored ballots after every screening to indicate if what they had just watched was "excellent," "good," "fair" or "poor." The festival gives out three sets of awards each year: Jury Awards, Audience Awards and Outstanding Achievements, which are decided by staff.
Another winner taken by surprise was Jericho Rosales, who starred in and co-produced the drama "Breakaway (Alagwa)." Rosales was being driven through Los Angeles when his phone rang and his publicist, Monica Busby, inquired, "Did you hear the news?"
Rosales froze, preparing for bad news, but it turned out to be the opposite: He had won the Outstanding Achievement in Acting award.
"Holy smokes — I'm so stoked," said Rosales, who was given the same prize in 2011. "This award means that a piece of the puzzle of my dream is coming together ... it means that us Filipinos can make it out here ... it's a confirmation of my faith."
Rosales, who co-produced the Ian Loreños-directed movie, said he was thrilled to simply have earned the lead role.
"This is a treat," he said. "I'm blown away. I leave Newport Beach with a great memory and souvenir."
Michael Shannon of "The Iceman" and Onata Aprile of "What Maisie Knew" also earned Outstanding Achievement acting awards.
Sam Rockwell ("A Single Shot") and Diane Kruger ("Fly Me to the Moon") won Jury Awards for Best Actor and Actress, respectively. "Fly Me to the Moon," a French adventure comedy, also took Best Feature Film, Director and Screenplay.
According to Gregg Schwenk, chief executive officer and executive director of the festival, this year's audience rankings were higher than normal.
"I'm elated," he said. "One, I'm very happy with how well the festival has gone ... We are very pleased with the feedback we've gotten not only from our audience, but also the scores that are all trending a little higher than ever before."
Schwenk said so many films got an ecstatic crowd reaction during the festival that it was hard to predict which films would come out on top until the votes were counted.
Closing in style
The festival concluded with people lining up Thursday in anticipation of the final night's spotlight "The Way, Way Back."
The atmosphere was upbeat among attendees, some of whom spent about an hour waiting to watch the sold-out film at the Regency Lido Theatre in Newport Beach.
The 96-minute Nat Faxon and Jim Rash creation boasts a star-studded cast, including Steve Carell, AnnaSophia Robb, Rockwell, Amanda Peet, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Rob Corddry.
The movie centers on Duncan, an awkward 14-year-old, stuck with his mother, her inappropriate boyfriend and his daughter for the summer. Enter Owen, manager at Water Wizz park, who befriends Duncan during what turns out to be a memorable vacation — first kiss and all.
The screening, while not attended by cast and crew members, was punctuated with bursts of laughter and cheering.
Irvine residents Karen and Lee Ferrell, fans of Carell and Rudolph, grabbed an early dinner before queuing up outside the cinema. They were not disappointed.
"We loved it — it was really cute and there was some good and funny acting," Karen said. "[It was] a very upbeat ending — it was perfect."
In the end, "The Way, Way Back" bagged the Audience Award for features filmed in the United States.
Raymond Morin, 67, and Bob Nason, 57, both from Tustin, watched movies on seven of the festival's eight days.
The independent film enthusiasts have attended the series for four consecutive years, an experience sprinkled with celebrity sightings, they said.
"It's a chance to see some stuff that may never see the light of day beyond the festival," said Nason, who ensures that the duo watch a little bit of everything — comedies, dramas and documentaries included.
For Morin, who faithfully voted after every movie, the selling point is that organizers encourage viewers to be part of the larger process by asking for their opinion.
'A magical experience'
Lorenzo Porricelli, who works for Regency Theatres and has screened films for the festival since its inception, deemed Sunday's showcase of the Disney rarities a "magical experience."
With wonder in his voice, he described the audience singing along with Richard Sherman, lyricist for "Winnie the Pooh," "The Jungle Book" and others, who not only performed his compositions at the piano, but also talked about his experiences with Walt Disney that led to the creation of "It's A Small World (After All)."
"It sounds almost clichéd, but the festival keeps rising and rising and rising in standard," said Porricelli, who watched 20 films in the past week. "This year, every night, we've had a full house, and every night, the movies have been phenomenal, no matter what part of the world they were from. We're trying to book them all because you now see movies here that will definitely hit the circuits out there to be picked up."
Schwenk echoed the sentiment.
"What's most heartening for me this year is the large number of distributors who've come out to take a look at our films, and the feedback I've gotten from our filmmakers about the industry presence in Newport," he said. "That bodes very well for 2014."
Schwenk enjoyed this year's festival more than last year's for another reason: The Newport Beach resident underwent an emergency gall bladder surgery in the midst of the festival in 2012.
As luck would have it, his hospital room at Hoag Hospital overlooked the Lido Theatre, so he could continue calling the shots, he said with a chuckle.
For the first time in the festival's history, every film in the 2013 European showcase was sold out, he said, adding that records were set in terms of sell-out films, repeat screenings and added screenings due to audience demand. Attendees also participated in a pilot test screening of "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman."
The festival attracted a turnout of 52,000 guests, as it did last year, making for tiring days for its staff, which ended long after the final credits.
"My feet have never hurt so much in the last 14 years," Schwenk said.