There was only one line to get into the first event of the inaugural Los Angeles Festival of Movies, a fact that confused quite a few ticketholders who have grown accustomed to expedited entry at film festivals. As the crowd gathered outside of Vidiots, the hip movie theater/video rental store in Eagle Rock, a very patient usher kept reassuring everyone that there wasn’t a secret entrance for VIPs or press or friends of filmmakers that anybody was missing out on.

Everyone was on the same level as they entered the screening of Jane Schoenbrun‘s “I Saw the TV Glow,” creating an aura of egalitarianism that extended to the entire evening. While some festivals go to great lengths to shield their marquee talent from crowds, Schroenbrun and “I Saw the TV Glow” stars Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine mingled by the bar in the theater lobby before everyone filed into their seats. From the get-go, it was clear that the latest addition to the regional film festival circuit has a single purpose: celebrating movies and the community of people who love them.

The opening night festivities split the difference between a buzzy premiere and a cozy Thursday night at a packed local movie theater. As the lights dimmed and festival organizers LAFM co-founders Micah Gottlieb and Sarah Winshall took the stage, there was a simultaneous acknowledgement of the festival’s unlikely beginnings and the fact that this could very well be the start of something significant.

“This festival was a glimmer in our eye a year ago, maybe even two months ago,” Gottlieb said. “This is a film festival that, for us, is really about celebrating independent film and being able to platform movies that we think deserve an audience here in LA.”

Winshall was even more succinct when it was time to acknowledge the DIY origins of what she hopes will grow into a tradition among the Los Angeles cinephile community.

“Micah and I have never made a film festival before,” she said with a dry smile. “So we hope that it’s good.”

Regardless of what role the LAFM ultimately plays in the film festival ecosystem, the sold-out crowd at Vidiots was there to celebrate “I Saw the TV Glow.” Schoenbrun’s critically acclaimed genre-bending trans coming-of-age story was a massive hit at Sundance before playing Berlin, SXSW and this weekend’s Overlook Film Festival. But when the filmmaker took the stage to introduce it, they noted that many collaborators who worked on the film were in attendance and seeing it for the first time. They pointed out that some of their friends had anointed the LAFM screening as the film’s actual premiere, and Schoenbrun wasn’t about to disagree.

“This feels like the premiere,” Schoenbrun said. “It feels very warm to be in this awesome movie theater and video store with this particular audience.”

Schoenbrun embraced the communal nature of the event and shouted out legions of friends in the audience, but also pointed out that opening a brand new film festival isn’t an opportunity that comes around every day.

“This is special,” they said. “It’s cool because it’s the opening night of the opening edition of the festival. So that’s trivia! Especially if it becomes a big deal in a long time.” 

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