Stars come out at LAFilmfest 2011 - Part 1
Stars come out at the 17th annual Los Angeles Film Festival presented by Los Angeles (June 16 – 26)

By Oliver Carnay

(Los Angeles, CA) June 21, 2011 - The ongoing 17th annual LA Filmfest (Los Angeles Film Festival, presented by Los Angeles Times), is almost halfway, and I’m loving covering this event for many years, not only to enjoy world-class movies but also mingling with industry professionals and emerging talents from around the world.

The LA Filmfest, which is being housed at the LA Live and the Regal Cinema theatres (adjacent to Nokia in downtown L.A.), features unique signature programs including the Filmmaker Retreat, Ford Amphitheatre Outdoor screenings, Poolside Chats, Coffee Talks, and free Conversations and panel discussions with notable directors, actors, and more. Additionally, the Festival screens short films created by high school students and has a special section devoted to music videos. Over 200 features, shorts, and music videos, representing more than 30 countries, make up the main body of the Festival.

I started my coverage on second day with the Premiere of “Drive” starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Carey wasn’t able to attend but other cast members including Albert Brooks, Ron Pearlman, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Oscar Isaac (one of the actors I look forward to seeing more onscreen), with Danish director, Nicolas Winding Refn. My favorite actor Ryan Gosling, plays a part-time stunt driver who also works as a car mechanic to mentor Bryan Cranston. Ryan (the “Driver”) falls in love with neighbor (Carey Mulligan), who raises a young son while her husband (Oscar Isaac) is in jail. The twist came in when the husband was released from jail and “Driver” (Ryan Gosling) got involved as he tries to help him from the villains (Albert Brooks and Ron Pealrman). The movie is gritty and suspenseful with great acting chops from veteran actors Brooks and Pearlman, as with all cast members.

Kat Coiro (second from left), director of "L!fe Happens"), joined Amber Sealey- director/writer/producer of "How to Cheat and Nicholas Ozeki- director/writer of "Mamitas" during the FREE Conversations and Panels Lunch program on Friday, June 17.

The following day, at “Life Happens” Premiere, preggy director Kat Coiro was joined by her cast, including Kate Bosworth, Jason Biggs, Justin Kirk, Rhys Coiro, Geoff Stults (who came with brother George Stults to support the movie), along with friends Scott Caan and Kevin Connelly (of “The Entourage” fame), and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad). “Life Happens’ is a comedy about two party girls, Deena (Kate Bosworth) and Kim (Krysten Ritter, who also wrote the screenplay), who are best friends trying to save their relationships when the latter becomes an unwed mother. Funny and entertaining, Ritter is very effective while Bosworth is sharp and smart.

Broadway actor Ephraim Sykes takes a breakthrough role in Sheldon Larry's musical comedy "Leave it on the Floor"

“Very entertaining and an engrossing film” to be included in the festival is Sheldon Larry’s musical comedy “Leave It on the Floor.” Set as the modern day “Paris is Burning,” with music from Beyonce’s music director, Kim Burse, and screenplay and lyrics by Glenn Gaylord, s well as the eye-popping dance numbers from Beyonce’s dance master Frank Gaston, Jr., the film has an amazing soundtrack you would want to collect (including the song Justin Timberlake would want to hear!). The story involves around Brad (Ephraim Sykes), a runaway kid who tumbles a ragtag new family involved in the L.A. ball scene. I talked to Sykes after the screening and found out he is a triple-threat actor based in New York and was only in L.A. briefly to promote the film. He was happy about this breakthrough role which will give him opportunity to crossover more roles in tv and film. He is currently in rehearsals, preparing a six month stint, as one of the leads in the upcoming Broadway presentation of “Rent”. If you missed this amazing film during the LA Filmfest, this film will also be playing on July 16, Saturday, 9:30 p.m. at the Directors Guild of America during the upcoming 2011 Outfest (tickets at You’ll have a chance to watch it and meet him next month, where he will be back to promote it.

Not to be missed during the L.A. Filmfest are the “Coffee Talk” series program, where audience have a close panel interactions with notable actors for an hour and a half. On Day 4, actors Derek Luke (from the upcoming “Captain America”), Rachael Harris (who stars in “Natural Selection’, one of the festival entries), Loretta Devine (Madea’s Big Happy Family, Jumping the Broom, and starring in the upcoming new Raven Simon tv sitcom series “State of Georgia”), and Jason Ritter (from the just folded tv series “The Event” and will be starring in the new tv series “Gravity Falls”) talked about how their breakthrough films, pet peeves, egos, and just about everything, as a working actor in the entertainment business.

(L-R) Actors Derek Luke, Loretta Devine, Jason Ritter, and Rachael Harris during the "Coffee Talk" held at Regal 12 Cinema.

Also shared anecdotes and tips as working directors for the “Coffee Talks” panel discussion were veterans Phillip Noyce (Salt, Catch a Fire, Clear and Present Danger, with several new films attached to direct), Richard Kelly (writer/producer/director of Donnie Darko and the producer of the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and Ruben Fleischer (director of the upcoming Sean Penn/Ryan Gosling starrer “The Gangster Squad” and four films in a row).

with Dir. Phillip Noyce

with Ruben Fleischer and Richard Kelly

If you missed any of the Coffee Talks panel discussions and other special clips, they are currently available online at