Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Santa Monica may be one of the Southland’s greatest tourist draws and the home to some of the most expensive real estate, but it’s just “not very cinematic” when compared to Newport Beach.

That’s the opinion – possibly somewhat controversial among boosters of Santa Monica – of a filmmaker whose end-of-summer wistful flick will be featured at the Newport Beach Film Festival that opens Thursday and runs through April 28.

Ryan Schwartz had a “personal story” to tell about growing up in Santa Monica, but his hometown beach wasn’t exactly cinematic, he said as he prepared for his film “Summer of 8” to premiere next week at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

“I grew up in Santa Monica and I wanted to capture the last day at the beach, the last day of summer and as much as I love Santa Monica it’s not very cinematic,” the writer-director told City News Service.

Schwartz’s best friend from college had an idea, though, he said.

“My best friend from college is from Newport Beach and when he showed it to me I fell in love with it,” Schwartz said of Little Corona in Corona Del Mar State Beach.

“It’s not as expensive to shoot there and the city couldn’t have been nicer,” Schwartz said. “It was just a great experience.”

Little Corona just looks more like what a moviegoer expects on the big screen in a beach scene, Schwartz said.

“It’s the combination of the beach, rugged rocks, the coves,” he said. “We really shot the beach, there’s a gorgeous sunset walk, and you can always see the surf in the background, the rocks in the background.”

Only one problem.

“The sound was pretty much out of control — we learned that in the editing,” he said with a laugh.

“Summer of 8” is a “coming of age dramedy” with a sentimental streak, Schwartz said.

The independent film fits into the genre best known for “The Breakfast Club,” “American Graffiti,” and “Dazed and Confused” and the beach-centric “Big Wednesday,” but it has its own twist as Schwartz attempted to make it timeless.

The digit “eight” refers to lifeguard Station 8 and the eight main characters who are friends shown in one full day as they celebrate their last day before some of them go on to college, Schwartz said.

“I thought about making a period piece since I graduated in 1992, but then I looked at the way we looked in ’92 and we looked so different, the clothes, the hair — and at our budget level that would be tough,” he said.

Schwartz, 41, who teaches film at New York Film Academy in Burbank, said his students seem so attached to their smart phones, so he decided to dump the gadgets from his movie.

“There are no cellphones in the movie, and no one who has seen it has noticed,” Schwartz said. “They’re really hanging out together.”

Schwartz even thought about writing a scene explaining why the characters ditched their phones, but then figured, “Don’t explain it. It really has a timeless feel to it.”

Another film with a local angle that is debuting at the 17th annual festival is a documentary on well-known Orange County chef Pascal Olhats.

“La Tradition,” started out as a project for director-producer Jeff Fliegler’s website, The interview with the French chef went so well, Olhats suggested doing more, Fliegler said.

As the documentary evolved, his business partner noticed the deadline for the festival was approaching and encouraged Fliegler to get the film done.

“I stayed up all night for like three nights in a row to get it to a final edit,” Fliegler said.

A few more tweaks were added, “And then I submitted it and found out a month later it was accepted,” he said. “The whole thing was better than I could have ever expected.”

The film’s premiere on Saturday is sold out, but there is another showing on Monday.

Olhats turned out to be a great subject because of his personal charisma and his ties to virtually everyone else in the Orange County dining scene, Fliegler said.

“Pascal was one of the trailblazers to bring some sort of fine dining or French cuisine that was actually good French cuisine to Orange County,” Fliegler said.

Olhats “came here on vacation and I think he fell in love with the weather, the beaches and he saw nobody else doing anything,” Fliegler said.

The festival will begin Thursday with a screening of “After the Reality,” starring Matthew Morrison of “Glee” fame. The festival will close on April 28.

—City News Service

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