Behind-the-Scenes with Coronado Island Film Festival’s Planners

Coronado Island Film Festival Nov. 9-12, 2017
The second Coronado Island Film festival will be held November 9-12, 2017.

The second annual Coronado Island Film Festival is right around the corner, which means that the behind-the-scenes activity is in full motion! Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Doug St. Denis (Founder and Executive Director), Mary Sikes (President and Chief Executive Officer), Kris Grant (Director – Development/PR Media Relations), and Andy Friedenberg (Executive Director) about this year’s upcoming film festival, anticipated to be even bigger and more spectacular than last year’s inaugural triumph. One thousand people attended the Coronado Island Film Festival last year, and the team of planners are expecting that number to at least double this year.

With 106 films scheduled to be shown over the course of the four day festival, Doug, whose eyes light up as she talks about the significance of movies, says, “Last year we showed 85 films, and are excited to offer more this year. Visual storytelling is so powerful. Yes, certain stories can be read in a book, but it’s just not the same as seeing it up on the big screen. The Coronado Island Film Festival is absolutely wonderful!”

Coronado Island Film Festival
Left to Right: Andy Friedenberg, Kris Grant, Mary Sikes, and Doug St. Denis busy at work as the Coronado Island Film Festival draws nearer.

Opening Night

This year’s Opening Night is not to be missed! From 5:00-6:30 pm on November 9, 2017 in the Nautilus Room at the Coronado Community Center, all pass holders are invited to join in as sixteen restaurants participate in Taste of the Festival. After filling up on delicious local cuisine, pass holders will branch off to watch one of three opening night films, which include the following:

Tell me how you think last year’s inaugural Coronado Island Film Festival went.

Leonard Maltin
Iconic film critic Leonard Maltin will again serve as master-of-ceremonies at this year’s Coronado Island Film Festival.


“Let me quote Leonard Maltin (Festival Host, Honorary Jury President), who is probably the best known critic anywhere now. He was here last year, and wrote about six pages about us after last year’s festival. He said, ‘For a first year festival, it was an amazing home run!’ He adored Coronado, he loved the festival, and he had such a good time! It went great!  We didn’t know that it would be so embraced by everyone.”


“The part that surprised us was the magic associated with our volunteers. We had 200 volunteers last year, and we realized that even though we were the ones who came up with the plans, it was our volunteers who breathed life into the very soul of the film festival. The volunteers were so gracious as they took ownership of the festival, and so many of our pass holders said, ‘Your volunteers are wonderful!’ They [volunteers] just put their arms around it, and made it theirs.”


“One of the reasons why the film festival isn’t intrusive for this town is because, for the most part, pass holders are quietly sitting in theaters as they enjoy watching movies. It’s not an event that creates noise like those which involve boats and loud cars.” (She laughs as she notes that the only “noise” will most likely be the crunching of popcorn.)

What changes are coming to this year’s Coronado Island Film Festival?

Hospitality Lounge

Kris explained that with the opening of the John D. Spreckels Community Center, the Coronado Island Film Festival will be using the entire facility as a new venue this year, specifically as a hospitality lounge on Friday-Sunday. She describes the location as “perfect” since it is essentially at the epicenter of the film festival’s other venues, including host theater Village Theatres. “There will be things going on all day long at the Spreckels Center for anyone who is a pass holder,” Kris shares.

*See website for pass options:  VIP Crown City Pass, Ocean View Pass, Bayside Pass, Rush and Single Ticket Sales.

Even people who aren’t pass holders, who instead wish to purchase a one day pass as opposed to a pass for the entire film festival, can, for $20 per day, purchase a hospitality pass that will allow them access to all that will be offered at the Spreckels Center. Complimentary donuts and coffee will be served in the morning, and at lunchtime guests may purchase $10 boxed lunches from partner Which Wich. Later in the afternoon, complimentary snacks will be available, and pass holders will be thrilled for the opportunity to enjoy happy hour with live entertainment in the Hospitality Lounge on both Friday and Saturday nights.

Two of the panels will also be held at the Spreckels Center, including “Women in Film” (Saturday, November 11th from 1:00-2:00) and Leonard Maltin’s “Meet the Critics & Pundits” (Sunday, November 12th from 1:00-2:00).

The Coronado Island Film Festival’s store, where merchandise such as T-shirts and bags will be available for purchase, will also be located at the Spreckels Center. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Doris, the festival mascot, seen below modeling one of last year’s shirts.

Kris points out that the addition of the Hospitality Lounge will give pass holders the opportunity to sit down and relax in between films. “You can chat with other people, and who knows, maybe you’ll see a celebrity there,” she says of the lounge. “To me, it’s just lovely that we have the Hospitality Lounge at the Spreckels Center this year,” she adds.

Music Element

Patricia Ward Kelly
Patricia Ward Kelly at Village Theatre at a special screening of “Cover Girl” in September of 2017. (Courtesy of Heather McNeil)

Andy explains, “Last year we had Jack Lemmon’s son Chris do a one man show on his late father, using a piano and visuals. It was really popular, and so what we’re doing this year is we are stretching this whole music element as a thread to the whole Coronado Island Film Festival. For example, Patricia Ward Kelly, Gene Kelly’s widow, is doing a show called “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” (Saturday, November 11th from 10:00-12:30 at the CoSA Theatre) on her late husband with clips, anecdotes, and what have you.” Doug adds, “She travels all over the world, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”

Andy continues, “We’re bringing in singer-songwriters who have been nominated for Academy Awards, and they’re going to be participating in a panel on “Music in the Movies” (Saturday, November 11th from 2:30-3:30 at the Coronado Marriott), where they will talking about their careers and performing. Stephen Bishop is one of the singer-songwriters who will be performing, and we will have a jazz trio, led by Raymond De Felitta, a filmmaker we will be honoring, that will perform the music of composer Jerome Kern. (For more information about the specific music related elements of the Coronado Island Film Festival, programs and films that are musically related are denoted with a music note on the festival schedule.)

“The addition of the music element to this year’s film festival is so important,” says Kris, “because when I remember movies, what comes to mind most is usually their soundtracks.” According to Kris, a movie’s whole tone is set by the music, evoking a sense of mood as the characters are developed.

Granzer Hall at Coronado Middle School

Due to the popularity of last year’s inaugural film festival, more venues needed to be added to this year’s festival. “Coronado Middle School is very kind to allow us to turn Granzer Hall into a movie theater. Thank goodness! We have so many films and filmmakers coming in this year, and the addition of this venue will allow us to accommodate all 106 films,” Andy says.

Why was the Coronado Island Film Festival moved to November this year when the previous one was held in January?

Last year’s film festival was held over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, but this year’s festival has been moved to Veterans Day weekend instead. The planners explained that they wanted to hold the film festival earlier in the “awards season” when all the major movie awards are held. Because last year’s film festival happened right before the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, many filmmakers who were on tighter budgets no longer could afford the travel involved in coming to Coronado to showcase their masterpieces. By holding the film festival a few months earlier, the planners are hoping more filmmakers will be able to afford to come to the four day event, and are also excited that the Coronado Island Film Festival will align more closely to when nominations are formally announced, creating a bigger buzz of excitement for filmmakers and move goers alike! (Plus, as Mary points out, “We like the weather so much better in November than January!)

Having the film festival over Veterans Day weekend also offers another benefit because, as Mary notes, “It’s more apropos to our ‘island’ since we have so many veterans here.” One documentary that will be featured prominently as this year’s film festival’s “Saute to Veterans Day” feature is  Take Me Home Huey (Saturday, November 11th from 4:00-6:30 at the CoSA Theatre.) The actual helicopter that the documentary focuses on will be parked right outside the CoSA Theatre that day!

Take Me Home Huey
Take Me Home Huey

Like all the films shown at the Coronado Island Film Festival, it’s no accident that Take Me Home Huey, a highly acclaimed documentary about “healing the invisible wounds of war”, was selected for the film festival. Andy Friedenberg travels to film festivals all over the world, and specifically recruits the filmmakers of those movies which he finds especially impressive and moving, encouraging them to bring their films to the Coronado Island Film Festival. Kris praises Andy for the quality of the films he brings to the Crown City’s film festival, and points out that the film industry jurors are just as top notch and reputable as the movies which will be shown. In addition to inviting filmmakers to the festival, Mary says, “We are open to submissions, which we get from all over the world.”

How was Darkest Hour selected as the opening film of the Coronado Island Film Festival?


“There are several reasons. First of all, Darkest Hour is a major Oscar contender this year. Critics are saying the lead actor [Gary Oldman] is a shoo-in to win best actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. Second of all, it’s a very prestigious film, beautifully crafted by Coronado’s own Lisa Bruce so choosing it as our opening film was a no-brainer. We were so honored to get it.”

Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR, a Focus Features release. Visitors to the Coronado Island Film Festival will get a sneak preview of this powerful motion picture.
Credit: Jack English/Focus Features.

How were the jurors selected?


“Serendipity! Ira Wohl (Documentaries Head Juror) came to our first reception, and told us, ‘I really want to help with this festival.’ When I found out exactly who he was, learning he was an Academy Award winning director and editor, I was thrilled that he wanted to be part of this! He’s wonderful, and now he’s on our board and has become even more committed.”

“Last year every juror we had asked [us], ‘Can we come back next year?’ They’re all world class, and each head juror selects his or her team for the specific category (Narrative Film, Documentaries, and Shorts).”

*On Friday, November 10th from 2:30-4:00 pm, a “Meet the Jury” event will be held at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Will the Coronado Island Film Festival be appealing to kids as well as adults?

Doug, Mary, Andy, and Kris: “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings starting at 10:00 am there will be a “Salute to Pixar’s Dave Mullins” at Village Theatre. Dave Mullins, an animator turned director, has worked on a number of popular Pixar films, including The Incredibles, Up, and Finding Nemo. Mullins’ new film, a short entitled LOU, will be shown on Saturday morning along with award winning Pixar short. Mullins himself will be in attendance to introduce his animated works each morning.

Noting how engaged the children who attended last year’s Coronado Island Film Festival were as they stood in line, eager to watch Kung Fu Panda 3, Mary says, “It was such a hit! We knew we had to do that again, having movies at the festival that kids will want to watch.”

While it may be fun for parents to include their children, obviously not all the movies shown at the Coronado Island Film Festival are appropriate for children. Kris reminds those interested in purchasing passes to the film festival that passes are transferable, meaning that if a mother and father wanted to allow their two children to use their passes for the 10:00 am Pixar films, that is certainly allowed.

Doug explains that if parents don’t want to transfer their passes, but instead wish to watch the Pixar films with their children, there is a Rush Line, where for a $10 fee per ticket, anyone without a pass may purchase a ticket for any available seats not being utilized by pass holders. (Pass holders receive first priority with seating with the VIP Crown City pass holders choosing their seats first, followed by the Ocean View pass holders, and then the Bayside pass holders. Rush ticketing is on a first come, first seated, space available following the seating of all pass holders.)

Which movies are each of you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Coronado Island Film Festival?

*For a list of all the films featured at the upcoming film festival, click here.


“That’s too complicated a question! There are so many!”


“I want to see Under the Same Sun. The director/writer Mitra Sen is coming, and we’ll be honoring her. Her first film was shortlisted for an Oscar right out of the box, and she has started a foundation for peace and children’s well being. She’s a young woman with the whole world in front of her, and she’s already on fire!”


“I want to see the two films that Andy Garcia is in, The Lost City and City Island. Raymond De Felitta, who directed City Island, will be receiving our Director Award, and I also want to see his film Two Family House.” (Doug shares that Leonard Maltin refers to De Felitta as “a guy who’s not a household name, but is a prince of a guy who is the most unsung filmmaker in the business.”)


“Part of our charitable mission is to support young filmmakers, and I’m looking forward to one of our best films, which was actually made by students at Coronado Middle School entitled The Awful Truth. Their documentary, which highlights the devastating impact on San Diego’s beaches due to the worsening Tijuana sewage issue, is one that I’m sure the community will agree is so unbelievably impressive! To think that they’re so young and already so talented blows my mind.” (Doug sings the praises of KCMS teacher Amy Steward and her students who created the documentary.)


“I’ll tell you about one of my favorites! A guy in Northern California (Nicholas Arioli) quit his job, which his wife didn’t like very much, and spent two years making a four minute animated short called Coin Operated. We’re predicting it will be nominated for an Oscar! It’s the cutest little short. I just love it!”


“I like the short Einstein-Rosen too. It’s a Spanish film written and directed by a woman named Olga Osorio.”


“The other thing which I think is very exciting and very different for a film festival is we’re bringing in a gentleman named William Squire, who is the fashion expert and stylist to the stars. (Mary gushes, “The little old ladies are going to love him! Actually, everyone will!”) He’s giving two presentations, one on Saturday and one on Sunday at the Winn Room at the Coronado Library.” (Saturday’s presentation, from 4:00-5:00 pm is “Secrets of the Red Carpet” and Sunday’s presentation, from 10:00-11:00 am is “True Hollywood Style”.)

What does the Coronado Island Film Festival mean to you personally?


“For me, it’s the realization of a dream because I’m the founder of it. I had a vision, but had no clue what it would take to bring this to fruition. And then you build a team, and all of a sudden, we’re now going into our second year. It’s my passion project fulfilled.”


“It means a couple things to me. First and foremost, these people right around the table are the core energy of building this festival. We couldn’t be more of a family! That joy that comes from working with these people has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.”

“Secondly, it’s the young filmmakers who make my heart warm because I admire how their souls burn to tell their stories. Even when they have no money, they sacrifice everything to make their films possible. The fact that they want to be here at our film festival means the world to me because I know how their films mean the world to them.”


“Ditto on the friendships, but it’s not just our group here, but also the volunteers. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this film festival, and I appreciate what a genuine collaboration it has been planning this. Collaboration is what this is all about!”

“The other part is I grew up in Los Angeles, but I never got involved in the film industry, and so I always wondered how everything involving in making films worked. In my old age, I’m finally learning how it all comes together, and I love to learn!”


“To me, to be involved with a world-class event in a magnificent setting in a village atmosphere with such distinguished films and filmmakers is a dream come true. I’ve attended film festivals all over the world, but none like the Coronado Island Film Festival.”


“The first person that I called when I began to get serious about planning a film festival in Coronado was Andy. As we talked over coffee at Cafe 1134, I asked, ‘What do you think about a film festival here?’ He responded, ‘I think it’s an idea whose time has come! It’s your lifelong dream, and I need to be involved with it!’ So here we are!”


“There are so many movies that have been filmed right here in Coronado so it’s only right that we host a film festival here, don’t you think?”

Are you still looking for volunteers for this year’s film festival?


“Yes! We are especially looking for some good photographers so we can have quality coverage of all the wonderful events we have planned. We are looking for videographers and photographers.”

If you could bring any movie star, alive or dead, to Opening Night as your guest, who would you pick and why?


Daniel Day-Lewis. I think he’s such a fine actor.”


“I’d pick Marilyn Monroe because one of our signature pieces as a closing event is her film Some Like It Hot (Sunday, November 12th from 6:00-8:00 pm). We are showing it at the beach at the Hotel del Coronado, right where the movie was filmed. I love how we’re planning on showing that every year at the Del.”


“Then I’d have to pick Jack Lemmon, who starred with Marilyn Monroe in that movie!” (Andy laughs and nods his head as he proclaims, “We’ll double date!”)

“How perfect would it be to bring those two to our “Bonfire Movie” on the Del Beach, sitting with them on the adirondack chairs or a beach blanket, eating grilled burgers and watching the movie?” (Leonard Maltin will once again introduce that movie.)


Robert Redford! I just saw his new film on Netflix, Our Souls at Night. Loved it!”

“On a side note, back to Some Like It Hot, besides being rated the number one comedy of all time by the American Film Institute, it’s a musical, which ties right back to our music element theme at this year’s film festival. The story is about two musicians on the lam who joined a girls’ band. Most people don’t think of it as a musical because it’s so funny, but it has wonderful songs.” (She proceeds to sing I Wanna Be Loved By You, a timeless classic most people are familiar with even if they’ve never seen the movie.)

Additional Information:

  • Contact Information:  Click here.
  • To Purchase Passes:  Click here.
  • Passes 411:  Click here.
  • Festival Schedule:  Click here.
  • Volunteer Opportunities:  Click here.



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