Dark spirits will prevail at Studio Movie Grill when cocktails inspired by “Poltergeist” and other films make their world premiere at the first Simi Film Fest.
The festival runs Sunday through Tuesday afternoons and evenings at the Simi Valley Theater — located at 1555 Simi Town Center Way and known for bringing frozen margaritas, bloody margaritas and other drinks to patrons’ seats.
The theater’s latest drinks, designed for the film festival, include drinks inspired by the Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022) and “The Big Lebowski” (1998). Like “Poltergeist” (1982), they were filmed in Simi Valley.
Festival director Joseph Metcalfe is keeping details of the new surprise cocktails under wraps, but said: “They’ve been tested. Everyone likes them.”
Cocktails are among the local connections for the festival, whose 40-plus independent films include some shot in Simi Valley, Newbury Park and elsewhere in Ventura County. Those interested can find the program and buy tickets at simiff.com.
Metcalf and fellow festival director Katie Garibaldi, a Simi Valley couple with considerable experience on the music side of movies, hope to raise awareness of the city’s role in film history.
“The thing about Simi, it’s very underrated. They don’t go around bragging about what they’ve done,” said Metcalfe, a native of Bournemouth, England, and film composer. “My favorite thing is watching a movie and later finding out it was made here.”
The festival will include a field trip to Corriganville Park, a Simi Valley location where classic westerns were filmed. CBS’s long-running “Gunsmoke” was also filmed at the movie ranch-turned-park, as well as director Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.”
Inspired by Brussels
Metcalfe and Garibaldi decided to start Simi Film Fest after being impressed with the Brussels International Film Festival, where Metcalfe won a world soundtrack award for his score to ‘The King’s Daughter’ (2022). Garibaldi, a singer-songwriter who sits on a Simi Film Fest panel on music, was the music supervisor handling licensing and consumer release of the soundtrack.
“The standard of the (Brussels) festival and its participants and honorees was outstanding,” Metcalf said. “We thought, ‘We have to bring this to the U.S.’
“We were looking at doing it in Ventura,” he said, but explained that the couple decided to bring the festival to Simi Valley, where they moved in March from different cities. Metcalf previously lived in Thousand Oaks. Garibaldi, the Bay Area where he grew up.
And Garibaldi directed one of the Simi Film Fest films – “This and That,” the 22-minute story of a screenwriter trying to break free from writer’s block.
“The inspiration came in late 2019 when I wanted to get more music credits (in movies),” Garibaldi said. “It was hard to find a job. But I was meeting a lot of filmmakers from virtual film festivals and I was inspired by these people who were constantly creating.
“I thought, ‘If this person can do it, I can do it. Why don’t I just make my own short film, stay creative and do music supervision?’ he said. “I woke up the next day with this idea for the film and started writing.”
More about Simi Film Fest
The festival films also include a stop-motion animated short created by Simi Valley fifth grader Kane Keenan Pilapil. “No Dog Allowed” tells the story of a fun-loving dog who doesn’t understand why he’s not welcome somewhere. The dog might just do something about it.
“The idea was brilliant,” Metcalfe said. “It’s a very sweet film.”
Also in the festival is another film shot in Simi Valley — “An Unkept Secret,” the story of a married couple trying to decide whether to report a violent crime they witnessed. As director Joe Koch’s 85-minute film unfolds, viewers will discover why the couple hesitates.
Another movie, this one shot in Newbury Park, is “Uncommon Negotiator,” the true story of a young pastor who suddenly finds himself in a dangerous hostage situation. The 23-minute film is directed by Brian Glassford.
“Good Vibrations” was also filmed in Ventura County. The 14-minute film by director Peter Fox is about Amy Pastor, a student who learns a lesson about life from her music teacher.
Director Steve Neill shot “But Something Is There,” a 46-minute film set in Ventura County, and the festival program has this to say about what’s out there: “I never said they were aliens…you did!”
In addition to presenting his film, Neill is on the panel ‘Aliens, Star Wars and Star Trek: Sets, Props and Beyond’. Neill will discuss his work as a makeup artist on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979), where his first assignment was to put Spock’s pointy ears on star Leonard Nimoy.
The panel will also feature Alan Roderick Jones, an artist and production designer who worked on “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” (1977).
The strength is obviously with the festival, where other panels will cover direction and low-budget visual effects.
“And we realize that Simi is a rich film-loving community, so we cater to the public so that everyone has access to all the filmmakers,” Metcalfe said.
Dave Mason covers East County for the Ventura County Star. You can reach him at [email protected].
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