BY STEVE PERSALL
Times Movie Critic
Now in its eighth year, the Sunscreen Film Festival has carved its niche as a showcase for filmmakers who aren't quite there yet.
Talented, yes. Certainly productive, with 90 features, documentaries and shorts on tap this year. Yet generally not household names outside the households of their actors, crews and financiers.
What Sunscreen does better than most film festivals is provide education for aspiring film artists in a variety of creative and professional skills. Set their feet in the right direction to get them in the door.
This year's edition offers 11 workshops over three days, on laser-focused topics such as producing movies for appeal to Latino audiences, actor auditioning techniques, selling scripts to Hollywood and the impact of gun violence in movies. Toss in how-to seminars for actors, producers and screenwriters and Sunscreen's purpose beyond showing movies is clear.
Workshops are open to daily ($50) and VIP ($150) passholders only.
"It's an atypical event since a lot of festivals don't really do this kind of thing," said Sunscreen guest Matthew Ziff, 22, an actor from this year's centerpiece movie Treachery. Ziff co-stars with Jennifer Blanc and Caitlin Keats — who'll also attend Sunscreen — and veteran character actor Michael Biehn (Aliens, The Terminator) who won't.
"It's fantastic, with the workshops and everything," Ziff said in a telephone interview. "Some really cool stuff in there. It's really beneficial for people who want to get a good solid taste for where you need to go. … I think it'll be invaluable for people trying to get into it, or honing their skills."
Biehn was a late scratch from Sunscreen's guest list due to an acting gig that popped up, according to Sunscreen co-founder Tony Armer. He'll still be honored Sunday with a Lifetime Bada-- Award that the festival created for him, to be accepted by his wife Blanc.
Another addition to Sunscreen this year is a $5,000 grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, one of 23 that the organization best known for presenting Oscars doled out in 2013. Sunscreen is using the money to present its inaugural Spanish Language Filmmaker Showcase, starting with tonight's opener, the documentary Hecho en Mexico.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow him at @StevePersall on Twitter.