It’s back! The Ventura Film Society (VFS), which ran in downtown Ventura from 2008 to 2016, will be returning with a new slate of films starting January 2019, under the leadership of newly-hired Executive Director Mike Miller.

That’s good news for independent film lovers, who enjoyed a wide variety of selections over the VFS’s former eight-year span, including gems such as 2012’s Live Forever, 2013’s The Source Family, and 2016’s Hearing is Believing, the documentary about local Oxnard musical prodigy Rachel Flowers made by former VFS Executive Director Lorenzo DeStefano.

Miller discovered DeStefano after attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival last year. When he asked the question, “Why can’t we do something like this in Ventura?” Miller’s research led him directly to the former VFS head.

Miller, who currently works at Red Guitar Advertising in Newbury Park as a film producer and editor, admitted to being nervous about taking on the position formerly held by filmmaker DeStefano. After the two engaged in extensive discussions, Miller learned two things: 1) He had big shoes to fill, and 2) DeStefano’s vision for VFS correlated closely with his own.

“He vetted me,” Miller admitted. “He interviewed me and he kind of gave me the history of the film society.”

But the discussions allowed Miller to appreciate the solid foundation that DeStefano had laid, and it’s why he plans to stick with what worked: “The more I got to learn about the VFS 1.0 that Lorenzo did, that was kind of right up my alley. He had a great and robust society. I’m just kind of approaching this to keep the ball rolling.”

To celebrate the new VFS, an opening reception was held at the Museum of Ventura County on Friday, Dec. 7. One of the hosts included Museum of Ventura County Programs Director Denise Sindelar. Before joining the museum’s staff, Sindelar was the community partnerships manager for the city of Ventura, and as such was involved in helping VFS get off the ground.

“The city was a grantor to the Ventura Film Society for many years,” she explained. “We provided seed funding when the society first began.”

Now she hopes to form a new partnership with VFS.

“We’ve met with the new executive director, and we’re very supportive of providing the pavilion at a subsidized rate so that he can kick off this new film series,” she said. “I’ve also encouraged him to work with the city to secure screening rights at Cinemark (Century 10 in downtown Ventura).”

Her hope is to coordinate with the society to bring film lovers downtown and to tie some film series into the museum’s exhibits.

“The museum would love to have a film series here,” she said, “and would like to work in collaboration with the film society to curate films that might refer back to some of our upcoming exhibits.”

While it’s still early days for the new VFS, there were some hints at the reception regarding films to come, including a showing of the feature film Bernard and Huey, which screens at Century 10 Downtown on Tuesday, Jan. 8. The film was directed by Dan Mirvish and written by Jules Feiffer, the Pulitzer Prize- and Oscar-winning cartoonist, playwright and screenwriter, known for his 1971 screenplay for Carnal Knowledge.

For Miller, producing a film series is a lot of work, but he looks forward to the challenge. 

“I wouldn’t take this job if Lorenzo wouldn’t have such a great program in place,” he said. “I think my charge is to make it better than what Lorenzo made it, and that’s a pretty tall task.”

Still, with support provided by the museum and the community of fans and former volunteers who attended the reception, Miller feels confident that all the pieces are in place: “The feeling I got from everybody in Ventura was, yes, let’s do this again. That’s why I’m here.”

Bernard and Huey will be screened on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. at Century 10 Downtown, 555 E. Main St., Ventura. For tickets, upcoming film screenings and more information, visit http://venturafilmsociety.com or the VFS Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VenturaFilmSociety.