The Other Venice Film Festival makes its own cinematic scene

By Christina Campodonico

Left: Eric Roberts and Elizabeth Rice in “Paradise Club” Right: Much of “Actor for Hire” was shot on location in Venice

Left: Eric Roberts and Elizabeth Rice in “Paradise Club” Right: Much of “Actor for Hire” was shot on location in Venice

Film festival organizer Reuben De La Casas, also known as “Ruby Tuesday,” doesn’t often go east of the 405. A surfer, he prefers to stay “A.W.O.L.” — “always west of Lincoln.”

“I go to Hollywood sometimes and they can tell you’re from Venice,” says De La Casas, who feels a little out of place there.

But that doesn’t stop him from bringing a touch of Tinseltown to Venice each year for the Other Venice Film Festival, now in its 12th year.

The festival (its very name a statement of alternative identity) opens Friday with “Actor for Hire.” Shot in and around Venice, the satiric comedy by L.A.-based director Marcus Mizelle follows a struggling actor as he attempts to break into the biz. The protagonist lacks a full head of hair, so he starts wearing a cheap wig to land roles. Though the film concerns itself with the not-so-glamorous side of job-hunting in Hollywood, Venice itself plays a crucial role in setting the mood for one pivotal scene.

“While location scouting, I had a light-bulb moment while driving through Venice. I parked at the Canals, got out and walked around. … The energy of this setting matched directly to the vibe of the scene in my mind — positive and happy and colorful,” Mizelle wrote in
an email interview.

As in “Actor for Hire,” the Other Venice Film Festival also gives the industry a distinctively Venice treatment.

Parties are mixed with premieres, art shows with art house, live music with music videos. Opening night boasts just such a blend of movies, music and visual art.

On Friday, an art show by local Venice artists Abbie Baron and Dan McNay, a live performance by the The Kaygle$ and an after party with DJ Mixwell accompany the screening of “Actor for Hire.”

The party continues Saturday night with a ‘60s themed masquerade party and screening of “Paradise Club,” starring Eric Roberts. Period-costumed moviegoers can get in free to this film about a young woman and bar owner embroiled in San Francisco’s club scene during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War, free love and peace movement.

At the Music Video Competition later that night viewers can jam to tunes by ROCKET, Madamn Hollywood and Robbery Inc., led by former Trapt guitarist Robb Torres.

This mixed programming is all a part of keeping the festival fresh, as well as authentic to Venice’s creative vibe.

“We’re always on the edge,” says De La Casas, who pioneered having a musical score section in the festival and hopes to add an iPhone movie category next year.

That edginess may now be more important than ever as startups and tech companies rapidly move into the area and threaten to price out Venice’s artistic scene, he says.

“We’re losing Venice culture,” says De La Casas, citing the movement of artists, musicians and performers away from the neighborhood due to rising housing prices.

To combat the change, De La Casas likes to keep things local during the festival, not only by presenting films that embody the “the spirit and diversity of Venice” but also by “inviting as many locals as possible,” he says. He wants the audience to reflect Venice’s unique local flavor, as well as embrace Venice’s eclectic way of life.

“We keep it alive with their wackiness and their craziness and tacky clothes and their tie-dye shirts and mismatched outfits,” De La Casas says. “That’s the Venice culture and the lifestyle; you keep it local.”

The Other Venice Film Festival opens at   6 p.m. Friday and continues through Sunday at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. For a schedule of films and ticket information, visit

Other Venice Film Festival Highlights

Friday, Oct. 9

Opening Night: Film, Music, Art; 6 p.m.

The festival opens with a red-carpet cocktail party and art show by Dan McNay and Abbie Bern, live performance by “The Kaygle$,” a short film by The Perez Brothers and the feature film “Actor For Hire,” directed by Marcus Mizelle. DJ Mixwell spins beats at the after party. $30.

Saturday, Oct. 10

Short Film Block; 1 to 2:30 p.m.

“Hungry”: Allison, a shy but big-hearted teacher, has a fear of speaking up in public (other than in front of her kids). But when she finds out that children in her school are going hungry as a result of cuts in the Farm Bill, it compels her to do things she wouldn’t have thought she could do, including confronting a congressman. $10.

Sci-Fi Series; 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“The Sun Devil and the Princess”: The realm is embroiled in war between two Goddesses. The Evil Queen, Goddess of the Moon, has captured the pure Princess Kyoko, but a mysterious warrior miraculously rescues the princess from the queen’s impenetrable fortress. $10.

Music Score Competition; 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“Indigo Grey: The Passage”: A young boy’s discovery of a mysterious gas mask provides a glimpse into an alternate reality. The film features Irish dance group “Hammerstep” from “America’s Got Talent,” 9-year-old karate wunderkind Aidan Lok, and an original score by Evanescence’s Amy Lee. $10.

Feature Film “Paradise Club” and Hippie Masquerade Party; 7 to 8:30 p.m.

A young woman (Elizabeth Rice) comes to 1960s San Francisco and starts dancing nude at the “Paradise Club,” where she gets entangled with the bar owner (Eric Roberts) and must decide whether to leave the nightlife behind to find her way back into the light. 18+; $10 or free with costume.

Music Video Competition; 8:30 p.m. to midnight

“Hey Baby:” A young guitar player rejects the EDM scene and consequently gets a backstage pass to his ultimate rock ‘n’ roll fantasy. Musical performances by Robbery Inc. (8:30 p.m.), ROCKET (10 p.m.) and Madamn Hollywood (11p.m.). $10, or $15 at the door.

Sunday, Oct. 11

Documentary Block; 1 to 2 p.m.

“Cuba Cubano Canibano”: Showcases the haunting and surreal images of Cuban photographer Raul Canibano, rarely seen in the U.S. $10.

Short Film Block; 2 to 3:30 p.m.

“Los Ninos Sicarios”: A day in the life of an American-born child hitman, or “little assassin.” Along the Southwestern border states, the most desired hitmen for Mexican drug cartels are teenage boys. After nine months of military training the boys are sent back into U.S. communities and kept on call for specific targets. $10.

Abbot Awards Ceremony; 5 to 7 p.m.

Awards are given to the films that best exemplify the “diversity, spirit and energy of Venice.” Live music by Ohm Mantra. Free.