Recently, UCSD announced that Jordan Peimer, currently the vice president and director of public programs at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, would take over as executive director of Art-Power!, the university's influential arts organization.
But the appointment of a new head honcho hasn't been the only big change for ArtPower! in the last calendar year; film curator and digital-technology advocate Rebecca Webb spearheaded the first-ever Filmatic Festival earlier in 2014, an event she describes as solely dedicated to "the art and science of cinema."
Webb also curates the quarterly film programs, the next of which is D.W. Griffith's Sally of the Sawdust at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, at The Loft on campus. Starring W.C. Fields as a gleeful carnival crook and La Jolla's very own silent-movie star Carol Dempster, the film is both universally and locally relevant.
Excellent taste is one of the reasons former ArtPower! Executive Director Marty Wollesen hired Webb in 2008.
"I had strategic vision to present immersive and multisensory film-going experiences," Webb says in an email interview, and this lined up with Wollesen's desire to begin a film program at ArtPower! The rest is history.
Film programming in San Diego can be a tough gig, primarily because you're competing with so many other activities to grab the audience's attention. Webb explains how she approaches this challenge: "ArtPower! is in a unique position, in that we are situated on a research-oriented campus and have access to some of the most creative and innovative thinkers doing fascinating work in the arts and sciences. Collaboration is essential in everything we do."
One can see this ideology in practice for the Sally of the Sawdust screening, when the Teeny-Tiny Pit Orchestra—helmed by UCSD alumnus Scott Paulson—will lead the audience in the onsite creation of sound effects for the film. There's rumors that a food component might be involved, too, an ArtPower! staple that has provided audiences with a unique juxtaposition of mediums.
Webb also understands the importance of fostering new and emerging talent, especially from the pool in her institutional backyard. "I am very excited to champion student work by providing opportunities to screen their work at the UCSD Up & Coming Student Film Festival, and this year we are launching a new quarterly, online theater to showcase student films, which will also be broadcast on UCSD-TV."
But it's the Filmatic Festival that Webb sees as the one place that will connect all of her passions, civic interests and technological goals.
"The event," she says, "was created to explore the ever-evolving ways in which we are consuming and creating media, and to celebrate what movies are to become and our experiences of these new forms."
A few of the components involved are "scientists who visualize / sonify their research findings, physicists who create participatory 3D virtual worlds, video-game designers who create immersive gaming programs, and presentations / workshops that explore the changing nature of our relationship to concepts such as representation vs. reality."
Like all successful film curators, Webb is constantly ahead of the curve. One has to be when the film medium keeps on morphing into something new.
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Looking good: From Thursday, Oct. 9, through Sunday, Oct. 12, the inaugural San Diego Design Film Festival will screen nine full-length documentaries and four short films that spotlight "advertising, architecture, art, fashion, interiors, landscape and urban planning." Also scheduled are conversations with filmmakers and designers and a $75 kickoff party at the new 1 Columbia Place building in Little Italy. The fest is part of the San Diego Architectural Foundation's Archtoberfest. The movies will be shown at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. Screenings are $15 each. sddesignff.com
Scary flicks: It's going to be horrible, and that's the point. The Horrible Imaginings Film Festival at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park promises gruesome kitsch with dozens of short films and at least one feature-length flick each night. On Friday, Oct. 10, a zombie-theme lineup will include a presentation by a neuroscientist on the walking dead. On Saturday, Oct. 11, films about madness and exploitation run throughout the day. On Sunday, Oct. 12, science-fiction fans can indulge. Day passes are available for $17 on Friday and $30 Saturday and Sunday. A weekend pass is $70.50. hifilmfest.com
Buon Cinema: The eighth annual San Diego Italian Film Festival will showcase more than a dozen films produced in Italy during the last year-and-a-half, many of which have yet to show in the U.S. From Thursday, Oct. 16, to Saturday, Oct. 25, the festival will feature a variety of genres, including drama, comedy and documentary. Showings take place at the Museum of Photographic Arts (1649 El Prado in Balboa Park) and La Paloma Theatre (471 S. Coast Hwy. 101 in Encinitas). Tickets are $10 and cash only. sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com
Asian invasion: More than 120 movies from around the world will be showcased during the 10-day-long San Diego Asian Film Festival, from Thursday, Nov. 6, through Saturday, Nov. 15. This year, organizers will whet—nay, satisfy—your appetite with "Chew the Scene," a $35 event at the McMillan Event Center in Liberty Station that'll dish up Asian food from around San Diego. Check back early in the fall for the full schedule: pacarts.org.
Pencil-mustache man: Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray, Cry Baby—John Waters is one of the most creative and quirky filmmakers in American history. He's also an accomplished photographer, an author of six books and the guest star of one of the best-ever episodes of The Simpsons, the eighth season's "Homer Phobia." At 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 1, Waters will give what will assuredly be an entertaining talk at the North Park Theatre, for those 21 and older. Tickets are $40. thenorthparktheatre.com