The eighth edition of the Sunscreen Film Festival West has been in limbo since its usual home, the Hermosa Beach Community Center, has been closed since the coronavirus shutdown.
But the “show must go on” for the festival’s organizers, who teamed up with Gardena Cinema and the Los Angeles Arts Society for an evening of short films Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Gardena Cinema, located at 14948 Crenshaw Blvd.
Festival founder Robert Enriquez said the talent of these filmmakers needs to be shown on a big screen.
“Whether they're mostly in the Community Center, or if it's set on a sidewall of makeshift drive-in in Gardena, it's still getting that small town kind of vibe," said Enriquez of the festival.
Festival co-director Julie Nunis said there was no reason not to continue the festival.
“The thing we were met with was, how can we do it in a way where we adapt and evolve, so that everybody else can still have an outlet, have some entertainment, and we can still promote indie filmmakers?,” Nunis said.
The short films submitted this year run the gamut from animated to psychological thrillers, but filmmakers also tapped into the social discourse dominating the country.
“We have projects that touch on COVID-19 or just being in quarantine,” Enriquez said. “People really put these together fast. Artists are not just going to sit around and wait.”
Nunis added, “We have a huge variety of shorts. The ones that get into the festival are usually the ones (that) are the most diverse.”
The LA Arts Society Pop-Up Drive-In Cinema at the Gardena Cinema Back Lot was started this year as a way to provide entertainment in a safe environment in response to the coronavirus. For October, they are screening a series of horror films every weekend, including John Carpenter’s “Halloween” at 7 p.m. during the holiday weekend, followed by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” at 10 p.m.
“It has been an honor for us to team up with SSFFW for what is to be an exciting team effort to put on one of the first Drive-In Film Festivals in the nation,” said Alex Martinez, founding director of the LA Arts Society, in an email.
Gates for the event open at 5:30 p.m. and cars are placed first-come, first serve, based on size of car and viewing preference. The schedule is tentative, but a welcoming address takes place at 6:30 p.m. before the screening of the first round of short films, which begins at 7 p.m. There will be a 15-minute intermission, followed by more films at 8:30 p.m. and a tentatively planned question-and-answer session at the end of the evening.
“It's a standalone building that has an indoor theater,” said Enriquez of the cinema. “But because of the constraints that they're going through right now, they decided to make use their parking lot and put up this inflatable 40-foot screen to create an outdoor theater. Then as they kept going through trial and error... now they have a 100-foot screen.”
The white screen is now painted on the building, he said.
There are no outdoor speakers at the event, but the films can be heard through a car’s FM radio. Food can be brought in, but the cinema’s lobby will be open with popcorn, drink and more available for purchase.
Because of coronavirus restrictions, guests are not allowed to sit outside their vehicles in lawn chairs. However, guests can sit in truck beds as long as the are wearing face coverings. Hatches can be raised, but guests will be asked to park in rows that don’t obstruct views of other cars.
Tickets are $30, which covers everyone in the car.