An Interview with Urs Baur, founder of The Topanga Film Festival

Jul 30, 2009 by Lisa Newton

The Topanga Film Festival also known as (“TFF”), is an open-air, boutique, local film festival. It receives entries from around the world, and showcases a broad range of short films ranging from documentaries, animation, drama/comedy and experimental filmmaking.

Now in its 5th year, it promises to be the biggest yet. The festival provides the opportunity for showcasing new and emerging filmmakers, and unparalleled exposure and opportunities for additional entries–as well as workshops, panels to meet the filmmakers, and to network with others in the industry.

The festival actually started in Urs and his wife Sara’s own home, and now it’s considered the “biggest little festival.” It was nominated as one of the top 25 “coolest” film festivals in the world by Movie Maker Magazine.

The festival runs from August 6-9, and is located in the hills of Topanga. It’s set in its iconic hills, and uses a big screen outdoors where the audience spreads out on blankets and beach chairs to watch the movies, enjoy the sunset, groove to the DJ’s music, and partake in the food and beverage vendors—all before the evening’s program.

The short film genre provides an eclecticism which typical films are unable to reproduce, while resembling short essays—but in a different format.

Urs took time out of his hectic schedule to take my questions and to provide Travelin’ Local’s discerning viewers additional information about the Topanga Film Festival, its humble beginnings, and other facts not well known outside the inner circle of the festival’s organizers and founders:

Tom Jones conducted the interview–also known as (“TJ”)—and is Travelin’ Local’s newest culture, film, feature contributor and essayist.

Among the plethora and explosion of “Film Festival’s” nationwide, TJ and Urs conducted the interview with the stated goal of getting the word out that TFF’s growth, brand, and emergence is a regional, national, and international showcase and arbiter for emerging cinematic trends:

TJ: “Tell our readers a bit about how you became involved with the TFF and how it all got started, a bit of its history, and how its location at Topanga Canyon makes it special.”

Urs: “Sara and I are its founders, and we started the TFF 5 years ago, somewhat on a whim. Filmmakers’ ourselves, we were inspired by ongoing festivals in the U.S. and in Europe. Europeans are into outdoor screenings and the U.S. as well had amazing ‘destination festivals.’ Our goal was to position TFF to deliver both.”

TJ: What’s your background and the other principal’s involved with the TFF?”

Urs: “Sara [Ed.note - Urs’ wife] and I met in Art school 20 years ago and came together on a variety of creative projects. She’s a painter, writer, and artist; and I had a successful career in advertising, so the creation of the Topanga Film Festival was a logical culmination of our collaborations.”

TJ: “What are the goals and objectives of the TFF?”

Urs: “To showcase a unique program in a fantastic location, create a sense of community and build cultural bridges through providing a shared experience centered around film.”

TJ: “How are those goals and objectives being met? Are they met?

Urs: “Since our growth has been calibrated and organic, TFF’s reputation is solid, we’re the real thing, and now in its fifth year–the TFF is quickly establishing itself as a stand out amongst the small independents.”

TJ: “What’s new and different for this year’s TFF?”

Urs: “We’re expanding the festival from a two-day to a four-day event, and tripling the number of events including an Opening Party and “Action Sports and other High Impact Shorts” program; an International Short Film Competition screening Saturday evening on TFF’s giant outdoor screen; a collaboration with Project Butterfly for the presentation of the feature film "What About Me?"– from the creators of the Grammy nominated film and album ‘1Giant Leap;’ and last but not least– the Best of Topanga at Froggy’s.”

TJ: “Who are this year’s judges, and guests?”

Urs: “Judges are Howard “Hawk” Koch Jr. Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Cardoso, and others to be announced. TFF attendees and guests include an eclectic mix of filmmakers, film aficionados, fun loving Angelinos, and of course, a few local celebrities included in the mix.”

Topanga Canyon has been the perennial home of artists, celebrities, and others who enjoy the spectacular area, views, culture, and “small town” and “neighborly” aspect of its prime location high in the hills above Malibu.

It’s obvious that when Travelin’ Local, how to read and watch a film, spring directly from their origins as short stories. As in essays, they provide the viewer and creator, the ability to showcase and enjoy their imagination via filmmaking.

If you have the inclination to watch international, independent, and experimental short films among the tranquil hills of Topanga, I’m sure it will make for an experience you won’t soon forget and in the inimitable Travelin’ Local tradition, have fun at the same time.

For further information, to purchase tickets, and for Topanga Canyon’s Film Festival’s schedule and itineraries, visit their website at Topanga Film Festival.

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3 Responses to “An Interview with Urs Baur, founder of The Topanga Film Festival”

  1. An Interview with Urs Baur, founder of The Topanga Film Festival » Nhan Images says:

    [...] Original post by An Interview with Urs Baur, founder of The Topanga Film Festival [...]

  2. Jannie Funster says:

    The creativity in that little movie was amazing. Imagine chasing a poor bird in bell bottoms and pink platforms. With a knife! And a gun! I think I’ll put my pink platforms in storage, yikes


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Jannie Funster, LOL……….I love creative animation. With a size 13 shoe, I never had the joy of wearing platforms. :(


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