The North Hollywood CineFest 2015: April 10-16


        The North Hollywood CineFest premiere night this past Friday opened with the first of several short film collections at the local Llaemle NoHo 7, followed by a quick Q&A with attending filmmakers. Among these was Debbie DeLisi, co-director of The Re-Gift, who ended the session with a call to arms, of sorts. “We all gotta help each other, right?!” DeLisi asked of the over-sold theater of captivated audience members, and was answered by an enthusiastic round of applause and cheers. There were clearly more than a few aspiring artists amidst the crowd, and DeLisi’s passionate final words struck a sincere cord for many in attendance.


        Last month at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, one of the sessions had a panel with top casting directors breaking down the significance of creating your own content these days. Randi Hiller from Disney stated that acting abilities can often only account for 7% of the reason why an actor will be hired for a part, while casting directors Paul Weber and Christian Kaplan remarked upon the significance of YouTube and Vine in searching for the next big star. DeLisi’s call for aspiring actors and filmmakers alike to help each other is even more necessary with this information, because film is a collaborative medium. Even in creating our own content, we each need help breathing life into our vision, and this must be a fact well-known by DeLisi; while The Re-Gift is a labor of love, a passion project that she co-wrote, co-starred in, and co-directed, Debbie has also made a significant name for herself as a casting director.


        DeLisi Creative is a specialized casting company headed up by Debbie DeLisi and Adam DeLisi, who are both shining examples of why the Academy Awards is desperately over-due for a category for casting. Most recently, they were responsible for helping Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu achieve his ambitious vision for Birdman by casting several difficult principal roles, not to mention over 3,000 background actors. They also recently had their fourth collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen in the upcoming period ensemble comedy, Hail Caesar! Debbie got her start as an intern on the film Fargo, which proves even further that this industry is often built upon relationships, further adding to the significance of her final words at the North Hollywood CineFest.


        Adam and Debbie put these skills to use in the creation of The Re-Gift, creating a wildly energetic comedic short with a surprisingly diverse group of talent. This includes a “punch-up” draft of Adam and Debbie’s original script by Emmy Award winner Paula Pell (“Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock,” etc), as well as a number of creative casting choices. Along with the latest addition to the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” Sasheer Zamata, and Adam in Debbie giving scene-stealing performances in two key roles, The Re-Gift also features the acting debut for native rock legend, Michael Thomas (Guns n’ Roses Steven Adler’s band Adler’s Appetite, Brand New Machine, Faster Pussycat), and an appearance from musician/composer Kevin Thomas. This is the type of film that needed to be made by filmmakers with a special eye for casting, because each new character is given an opportunity to shine in their individual moments, as well as the responsibility to keep the energy and the momentum going throughout the quick-paced 15-minute film.   


        Before the Q&A session for that opening presentation of shorts concluded, DeLisi turned to her fellow filmmakers onstage and inquired about the length of time spent on each idea, conception to completion. The answers were surprisingly varied; Jason M. Lange, director of Share, took seven years to carry out his vision, while Joe was a film quickly conceived by a group of non-working actors over the course of a few months. This is the type of variety you will find at the North Hollywood CineFest this week, with passion being the common denominator among them all.


        The opening night presentation of shorts was followed by the feature, Show Business, along with a full day of entertainment Saturday and Sunday. This afternoon was an industry panel at the Acme Comedy Theater, entitled “How to Make Movies That Sell.” Monday, April 13th is marked as “Horror Night!” with three additional features and the fittingly chosen shorts that make up the eighth session. The festival continues in this fashion all week, ending with a closing night feature presentation of Primrose Lane at 8pm on Thursday. Tickets are available online at, though I would suggest arriving early. The opening night session of short films was standing room only, packed with film fans and industry professionals alike, all eager to cheer on the ambition and passion of the festival’s filmmakers.  



The North Hollywood CineFest is proud to donate a portion of all ticket sales to the California Health Collaborative in order to support Cervical & Breast Cancer Awareness through the Every Woman Counts program.


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