If you ask what local residents think of Carlsbad, chances are they’ll attest to the beautiful coast and high quality of life. However, about four years ago, some residents noticed a lack of rich art and cultural opportunities. Bringing entertainment, arts, and culture to the community, the La Costa Film Festival was born.
The annual four-day film festival was founded in 2012 by Michael and Ruby Callihan, who both worked in the mortgage industry and had no previous film experience. At first, they were surprised by the large number of factors involved in running a film festival. However, the support of the Carlsbad community soon catapulted the festival’s success.
“Every time we ran into a roadblock, we met people who had a tremendous background in film, with connections to Hollywood,” says Michael. “We found there’s a wealth of talent in North County that was looking for the same way to connect to Hollywood.”
The festival partners with the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, which maintains a historic and mystical connection to Hollywood; it used to be a top getaway spot for the Hollywood in-crowd. The festival’s three venues—the Center Court at Omni La Costa, Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas, and The Ruby G. Schulman Theater—each offer an intimate and unique experience for attendees. Another major partner is Mandalay Sports Media (MSM), which helps bring in celebrities and panelists. Last year’s celebrities included Andy Garcia and Ed Harris.
They also hold the “Reel Pitch” program, in which a celebrity pre-panel selects the top 10 short films submitted, to be presented in front of studio executives and attendees on Saturday of the event. The winner has an opportunity to get film experts editing their pitch and the potential to write a real script for Hollywood.
As a nonprofit organization, La Costa Dreams, Inc. operates the festival and volunteers handle the operations; they currently utilize about 150 volunteers annually. They expect a need for more volunteers to increase as they continue to grow. In 2015, there were about 4,000 attendees. This year, they aim to boost attendance to 5,000. Though they continue to grow, the goal is to maintain the intimate experience they initially started with. Part of the festival’s mission is to support the local economy, which helps sustain the festival itself.
“We not only bring something that’s great value to the residents here that they can enjoy, but it’s a clean industry that attracts tourism from outside and helps the entire economy grow,” says Michael.
For their opening night, they hold a special event called “It’s A Wrap Food & Wine Reception & Red Carpet,” which showcases participating local restaurants, breweries, wineries, and specialty shops. The film festival also provides exciting networking and educational opportunities for local students interested in film. Students can participate in the short film competition for a cash prize and get exclusive feedback from filmmakers. Journalism students can get a student press badge that enables them to conduct interviews on the festival’s red carpet.