Sundance NextFest 2015 Interview: Programmer Charlie Reff Talks LA's Event-Driven Fest

Editor, Festivals; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
Sundance NextFest 2015 Interview: Programmer Charlie Reff Talks LA's Event-Driven Fest

Sundance NextFest kicks off in Downtown LA today (if you missed our preview, check it out here) and Sundance Senior Programmer Charlie Reff took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with us about what we're calling one of the coolest and most innovative film festivals happening.

ScreenAnarchy: Tell us a bit about the philosophy of doing an event-driven film festival like Sundance NextFest.

Reff: The idea is that with doing festivals in L.A., it's not easy to get people's attention. So that became the whole goal. Let's do something special and let's do something unique that's only going to happen once. And let's do something that's a good value (that right there tends to draw people).

You have these very special things that have grown followings in L.A. - like the screenings in the cemetery and like FYF over the years. These have grown and have power and influence. And this is all being done just through quality - quality of programming and experience. That's how we looked at doing something totally unique. We asked, how can we expand these films from even outside themselves and outside of Sundance and outside the film world? We want to bring in different circles of people who maybe would miss them otherwise. It's people who have good taste and they want to experience something fresh and unique and cool and artistic.

NextFest is such a small program with only seven films. Is it a challenge to make the lineup as diverse as you've made it?

We really have a nice range. We love the idea of having these big, kind of cool established filmmakers like Noah Baumbach who are still willing to go back and make fun and unique films. So, it's great to have Mistress America -- but then we have films all the way to Cronies that is still looking for distribution. We wanted to keep it really diverse. So we brought in Finders Keepers that is a totally unique documentary. I feel like it's one of the funniest and sweetest I've seen in a long time.

Obviously what sets NextFest apart is that each film is paired either with a musical act or conversation.

Yeah, we're really excited about our conversation pieces. We had big filmmakers last year like Nic Refn and this year having Robert Townsend is definitely up there. His influence and the path that he carved in independent film is huge. The dude directed Eddie Murphy's Raw! He's an awesome dude.

Tell us a bit about the music. Sky Ferreira is a pretty big star, no?

They are all artists that I absolutely love. I was excited about the idea of Sky being involved and it was just a perfect match when Mistress America walked in. She's doing a lot of film stuff too - she's a pretty massive movie fan so she's excited to be involved.

Sharon Van Etten has even worked with Entertainment director Rick Alverson before I believe, correct?

Yep. And one thing I didn't find out until she said yes is that after Rick's first film played in New York in like 2010 I believe, she actually performed at the after party. So with his very first film -- and now with Entertainment as well.

With Turbo Kid I always wanted to do an 80s inspired night. That's been the dream. Turbo Kid is so awesomely 80s but it's also so incredibly sincere. And so we wanted artists that I felt had one foot in the 80s, but were totally non-ironic about it. So I'm pretty excited to have both Chaz (Bundick, aka Toro y Moi) and Alan (Palomo of Neon Indian) kind of team up and watch some really cool visuals. They absolutely love it and believe in it. So it should be kind of a fun, weird end to the whole festival.

NextFest starts tonight at Downtown LA's Ace Hotel. Find more info on the NextFest website.

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