As of last month, dissent and confusion continued to reign in the ongoing film festival wars that, for reasons no one can explain, have plagued Ventura for more than a year. The latest upset involves the Ojai Film Festival, the most established of the bunch, and the recent departure of the bulk of its board. Former director and chairman David Shor, who allegedly pushed the festival to expand into Ventura (hence its brief incarnation as the Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival), attempted to clarify the details of the upset in comments he made to the Ojai Valley News online. As it stands, Shor is retaining possession of the Ojai-Ventura name and may move forward with plans for what would then be the sixth film festival in the county. Others are the Ventura Film Society Festival, scheduled for March 25-28; the Ventura Film Festival, June 28-July 4; and, of course, the Ojai Film Festival, which is regrouping, and on its Web site declared no affiliation with the Ojai-International Film Festival. Ventura County is also home to the Jewish Film Festival and the Oxnard Independent Film Festival, a student competition.

Ventura County’s Four Star Theater Awards recently celebrated the area’s rich pool of talent in the community live theater arena and the camaraderie that keeps it viable. According to publicist John Hankins, winners are decided by consensus. “Three representatives from the five participating theater groups volunteer to go to all the plays at another theater, not their own. They take notes, and at the end of the year, the three meet and ponder each production and the performers.” Instead of winners in “best” categories, “outstanding” contributions are celebrated, thereby easing the sting of competition. The winning productions in 2009 for the theater groups involved were: Oklahoma! (Camarillo Community Theatre), Beauty Queen of Leenane (Elite Theatre Company), The Complete History of America, Abridged (High Street Art Center), Private Lives (Ojai Art Center Theatre) and Camping With Henry and Tom (Santa Paula Theater Center).

Congratulations also to Rubicon Theatre Company, which will be recognized by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in March for “sustained excellence in theater.” Rubicon will be awarded a $500 check, funded by Disney Theatricals.

More than 200 Ventura County visual artists along with art collectors from around the Southland gathered at the Sylvia White Gallery throughout Valentine’s Day to participate in an innovative, direct and immediate approach to fundraising for and by artists. Artists placed select works for auction at a hefty discount, with the idea that the bidding process would naturally garner a worthy price, and went home with half the final bid — and $4,500 in proceeds from the event went into a pot, with cash being raffled to artists. The largest prize, $1,000, went to longtime arts contributor Phil Taggart. “It was so much fun to hand Phil 10, 100-dollar bills,” said White. The idea sprang from discussions among White, artist Michele Chapin, Ventura Community Services Director Elena Brokaw, artist/activist Stephen “Schaf” Schafer and others about how to respond to budget cuts to the arts. Hardest hit were individual artist grants, so a community approach — artists taking care of artists — was conceptualized. White said that artists are always being asked to donate work to various causes, but never to benefit artists themselves. She called the event a “phenomenal” success. “It’s like all these little pockets in the art world got fed . . . the perfect storm of giving. Everything came together.”

Opportunites
Applications are being accepted for the Ventura County Arts Council Arts-in-the-Classroom Mini-Grants. Grants will be awarded in spring for amounts between $300 and $500. For an application, visit www.venturacountyartscouncil.org or call 658-2213.

The Ojai Lavender Festival is accepting submissions for its 2010 poster contest. Entries need to be delivered to the Lavender Inn, 210 E. Matilija St., Ojai, between Saturday, March 6, and March 8, 5 p.m. Call 646-6635 for more information.   

michel@vcreporter.com