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La Costa Film Festival founders Michael Callihan, left, and Ruby Callihan host a VIP party and special screening of “The Whimsical Imagineer” last week at Cinépolis as part of the run up to the festival’s Oct. 13 premiere at the Omni La Costa Resort. Photo by Steve Puterski
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La Costa Film Festival making ‘reel’ splash

CARLSBAD — As the premiere nears, Ruby and Michael Callihan are busy finalizing the details for the fourth annual La Costa Film Festival.

Last week, the founders hosted a VIP party at Cinépolis for a special showing of “The Whimsical Imagineer” as part of the run up to the Oct. 13 premiere at the Omni La Costa Resort. The festival runs through Oct. 16.

The four-day event will feature 25 to 26 screenings showcasing about four-dozen shorts, documentaries, foreign and feature-length films. Venues include the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium at the Dove Library and the two aforementioned facilities.

However, the La Costa Film Festival (LCFF) is still waiting on several films currently showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs through Sunday.

“We are really, in every sense, an international film festival,” Michael Callihan said. “The unique thing … that we try to emphasize is we try to get the filmmakers involved because that’s what makes the experience. Somebody watching a film with a director or actor is just a different way to watch a film.”

Sports has been a central theme for the budding festival, as the Callihans teamed with Mandalay Sports Media, which has produced dozens of movies and documentaries, most notably ESPN’s highly acclaimed “30 for 30” series.

Still, the Callihans are pushing their boundaries and are aiming to become a certified Oscar-accredited festival. So, a more robust lineup is taking shape with shorts (live and animated), foreign selections and features.

“We have a great venue to show great films,” Ruby Callihan said. “We had a couple distributors here last year and they pursued two of our films. It’s definitely growing.”

As for the growth of the festival, the Callihans and LCFF’s footprint is getting larger.

After the second and third years of the event, Q&A Marketing, which is owned by the co-founder of the Newport Beach Film Festival, began to track LCFF’s growth.

The marketing firm compared the festivals and the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The results, however, came as a pleasant surprise for the Callihans.

“We were actually tracking better at the same stage,” Michel Callihan said. “We can really provide an immersive, intimate experience, which is hard to do.”

As for the Oscar accreditation, Ruby Callihan said it takes about seven to eight years. In addition, several requirements must be met, including having a short film jury. This year, LCFF has secured three individuals for its jury.

Another highlight is the second annual “Reel Pitch,” competition, which calls for filmmakers to pitch their ideas to a panel for consideration to be put into production.

“It’s taking a raw idea … and pitching their ideas,” Ruby Callihan said. “It’s the first time the studios are hearing that pitch.”

In addition, the festival will have numerous juries to honor the top films, as well as a competition for the best-produced short films from high school and college submissions.

Ruby Callihan said the finalists for each division have already been decided, and the top three from each will be in attendance.

The high school division has a local flare with Carlsbad High School, Canyon Crest Academy and Rancho Buena Vista High School being named finalists, while students from Florida State University earned a pair of spots along with a film from Chapman University.

In this competition, the audience chooses the winner.

“We’ve opened it up (for high schools) all through San Diego,” Ruby Callihan said. “For college, we open it up all over the country. They (the winners) get $500 each.”

For tickets, screenings and other information about the La Costa Film Festival, visit