Homemade Internet video, after all, is how Fred Sweet, CEO at San Diego Model Management, founded the La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival. Fifteen years ago, advances in color magazine photography and page production had come into their own as part of the “branding” phenomenon, wherein models and clothiers jockeyed for readers' attentions with sensuality as the fuel behind their artistry; the wholesale development of video portals was only a matter of time. Meanwhile, as the festival gears up for its fifth year Wednesday, July 23, to Saturday, July 26, producer Sweet said that the event is a watershed for La Jolla and for filmmaking in general.
Fashion film may be a niche industry, he explained, but that doesn't necessarily translate to limited appeal.
“When you talk about [France's] Cannes [International] Film Festival,” Sweet said, “you don't refer to it with the whole name. You just say 'Cannes,' and everybody knows. The La Jolla festival has the same kind of name recognition. People around the world just say 'La Jolla,' and they know what you mean.”
Tough talk for a guy with a staff of maybe five, whose off-season work is off the scale amid invitations to the haute couture and cinema elite. Italy's Paolo Santambrogio will represent his film “Eliza” at the festival, centering on Belgian model Eliza Sys; Ashley Avis' “Smoke” centers on a wife whose loutish husband is on the wrong end of her powers of seduction. Some 65 fashion media professionals, 26 producers and 81 directors from the U.S. to India will ply roughly 90 very short plot-based films (selected from a total of 11,000), dressed to compete with the finest examples of technological excellence, in a neighborhood whose name recognition precedes the event.
San Diego Community Newspaper Group, publisher of La Jolla Village News, is the sole print-media sponsor of the event.
Fashion is a nearly $300 billion commodity in the U.S., and that figure speaks to the lofty mentalities that drive many of today's niche industries. Ironically, Sweet's idea for the festival started with something considerably less costly – the same type Internet connection available to the general public. Add the exacting, delicate touches that characterize today's print, and the festival would soon materialize.
“The quality and aesthetic of the films starts with the fashion magazines in what's called the editorial spread,” Sweet explained. “I'd make a video [inspired] by a designer ad, and I'd show them around to friends, without thinking about a festival or event.” What followed in many quarters was the demise of the editorial spread. In its place stands an inventory of films that ideally give life to clothing and its wearers. The concept has propelled the La Jolla festival to its place as the world's largest event of its kind.
Sweet said that fashion film has quickly become a core means for designers to enter the public dialogue – still, ritzy La Jolla, and the household fashion names that soon will descend on it, might set a tone of exclusivity with a public otherwise inclined to attend.
Sweet said the concern is legitimate – but he's quick to acknowledge the side of the enterprise that doesn't revolve around around seven-figure budgets.
“Income disparity is always with us,” he explained. “But the films start with an idea, like the festival did. The [take-away] inspiration from a festival like this, in its infancy, is that with all the technology available, you can do it, you can succeed in the industry,” in which the science and art of fashion comes first.
For particulars, please see www.ljfff.com or call (619) 889-3238.