Newport Beach Film Festival is known for the glitz and glamour of local savory cuisine and cinema from around the world, all while guests are serenaded by the waves of the ocean crashing nearby. 

Founded in 1999, the festival would have reached 21 years of cinematic celebration in April, if it wasn’t for the coronavirus pandemic. 

Originally scheduled for April 23 through April 30, the festival was pushed to August 6 through August 13. But with continuously high numbers of coronavirus cases, the festival has been postponed yet again and is currently awaiting new dates.

“I just don’t know when we’ll be able to have a festival. I mean, obviously we thought we were going to have a festival in April, and we thought we were going to have one starting August 6. We’re just waiting, like everybody else is. Unfortunately, we don’t know,” said Todd Quartararo, co-founder and director of marketing for the Newport Beach Film Festival.

While the festival is still working out how, when and if to show their full slate of films, they are moving forward with their two marquee events: presenting the world premiere of Dana Brown’s film “A Life of Endless Summers: The Bruce Brown Story,” and honoring Eugene Levy with their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Levy in the Spotlight

On August 11, the Festival joins forces with Variety, a film and television news organization, to honor Levy. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded this year as part of this year’s TV Awards Showcase for the first time. 

Along with his recognition by the Newport Beach Film Festival, Levy has also been nominated this year for an Emmy for his work on the television show, “Schitt’s Creek” in the category of outstanding lead actor in a comedy series. The show has been nominated for a total of 15 Emmys this year.

“It’s been a big day for us, as (a team) who’s been ready to honor Eugene since April. We’re all big fans of his and he’s an amazing performer and comedian. It was a thrill for us to see the recognition not only for Eugene, but for the entire show of ‘Schitt’s Creek,’” Quartararo said. 

Levy was originally scheduled to receive the award at Newport Beach’s The Resort at Pelican Hill. The new plan has changed to presenting the award to Levy online. On August 11, the Festival and Variety will post a pre-recorded question-and-answer session with Levy where they will present him with the award. 

Generations of Endless Summers

“A Life of Endless Summers” will be shown on August 13 at 8:00 p.m. in a drive-in setting on the upper level of the parking structure located between Bloomingdale’s and  Nordstrom at Fashion Island. Tickets are available via Eventbright and are being sold for $75 per car. Each ticket purchase also comes with a $20 gift card for The Lot, a Fashion Island tote bag, as well as a limited-edition movie poster designed by artist Troy Lee and signed by the film’s director Dana Brown and Lee. 

The presentation of “A Life of Endless Summers” will also kick off The Lot’s weekly drive-in summer movie series, which will continue until Aug. 30. 

The documentary takes a look at the life of Bruce Brown, a filmmaker and an innovator in the surf-film industry. He was the director of the ground-breaking surf-film “The Endless Summer.” He was also a social butterfly who had friends all across the West, and a loving family man. Dana Brown, also a surf-filmmaker, is the oldest son of Bruce.

An unexpected hit in 1966, “The Endless Summer” follows Bruce Brown and fellow southern California surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson as they chased waves across Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and Tahiti.  The movie depicted surfers in a new perspective that opposed the film industry’s dumb surfer stereotype and the media’s thuggish outlook of them. Bruce Brown became an icon by telling the surfer narrative not through the lens of any fancy Hollywood director, but from the humble, genuine eyes of a surfer himself. 

Dana Brown and the rest of his siblings took their father on an almost three week trip in February 2012 to visit his lifelong heroes. Viewers watch as Bruce Brown reunites with his old friends through unexpected surprises, laughter and nostalgia. 

Dana Brown and his father Bruce Brown check out the waves during the filming of the documentary “A Life of Endless Summers: The Bruce Brown Story.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Luke Stirtz

The new film wasn’t originally going to be a film.  “We wanted to take him on a trip, and I was going to make little webisodes out of it, that was my thought,” Dana Brown said. “After (Bruce Brown) passed away, it dawned on me that now it’s a movie and the whole context of it changed. Now it was something bigger.”

“We love going to (Gordon Clark’s) place,” Dana Brown said. “Gordon and dad together were like the odd couple, like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, always teasing each other, so that was a lot of fun,” Dana Brown said. 

The Rest in Limbo

As for the rest of this year’s 300 films, they are still waiting for new showtimes.

Although the lineup experienced a few drop offs due to some distribution deals through streaming services or on-demand, the rest of the filmmakers are committed to the festival and thrilled to have their films featured in the festival, Quartararo said. 

“I know the (coronavirus) numbers are getting a little bit better. It’s good to be optimistic, but we also need to be realistic, and safety is our No.1 priority,” Quartararo said. 

The lineup will be announced once the festival has more information about the current health crisis and what it means for the future of the Newport Beach Film Festival. The crew is currently following all CDC guidelines, along with local and regional regulations for when the festival will be able to make a safe return, Quartararo said.

Kristina Garcia is an intern for Voice of OC Arts & Culture. She can be reached at

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