The Idyllwild Cinema-Fest returns invigorated for its fourth year, with new features designed to seal its steady progress toward becoming a major U.S. showcase for independent filmmakers.

Festival Chairman Phil Calderone. Photo by Marshall Smith

New venues, more films and film categories, expanded filmmaker submission processes, an upgraded website featuring online audience film previews and voting (Viewers Choice) in addition to links to view past “Alumni” festival selections, and a bargain price all-festival pass for locals are some of the new and important additions for ICF 2013. The festival returns to a five-day format, Wednesday, Jan. 9 through Sunday, Jan. 13. And as an extra bonus, although the film is not in competition, ICF Director Steve Savage brings his new film, “Vertical” for festival screening.

Savage credits ICF Chairman Phil Calderone with being the force responsible for enhancing the festival’s prospects and helping it to achieve such a firm footing as it enters its fourth year. “Phil’s stamp is firmly branded into the fiber of our festival,” Savage said, “I never doubted that, with his business savvy, organization brilliance and great love of film, he was the right man for the job.”

Calderone is clearly proud of what’s new this year, although with his quiet demeanor, he doesn’t gush. Instead he exudes confidence that what’s new for ICF 2013 season will make a difference with festival filmmakers and audiences.

First, two new venues add nearly 200 seats for festival screenings — the 100-seat Astrocamp Galaxy Theater and the 80 to 100-seat Idyllwild Town Hall provide large and good quality houses for festival screenings.

The iconic Rustic Theatre in the village center remains the festival’s primary venue, now upgraded with the highest quality digital projection and sound. Owner Shane Stewart said he made the $90,000 investment in April to guarantee a quality movie house would remain on the Hill and to enhance and perpetuate the Idyllwild CinemaFest. Caine Learning Center will now serve as the festival seminar site, rather than the Rustic. “This gives us more screening time at the Rustic and a more intimate setting for the seminars,” said Calderone of the change.

A new filmmaker submission process through, a paperless submission platform used by film festivals around the world, has expanded and simplified ICF’s ability to review and accept festival films.

“For over a month I’ve had enough films to go forward,” said Calderone, who was still accepting submissions though Thursday, Nov. 22. “It’s given us the ability to be more selective. Last year we had 67 festival films. This year I’m aiming for 80 and we might go higher. I’m not sure how much second plays we’ll have for the same films. We’ll need to find that balance so that locals who miss a film will have another opportunity to see it.”

New screening categories are Foreign and Amateur, which Calderone said he’s excited about adding to the festival format. Foreign films from non-English speaking countries, such as Egypt and Iran, will be screened with subtitles. Regarding the amateur category, Calderone said, “Now, everybody has the ability to make a film, not just dedicated filmmakers. We’ll have to determine, after submission, if it is in fact amateur, and select based on whether collectively there is something about it that makes it worthwhile and deserving to be seen. We may accept no projects in this category or we may accept a dozen. It depends on the quality,”.

Also new is Viewers’ Choice, that lets ICF website visitors and prospective festival attendees watch trailers of films under consideration and rate them. Calderone said that viewer ratings would not be determinative of what films make the festival but will be a factor he considers.

“It’s also a benefit for the filmmaker [the viewer ratings and feedback] beyond what is usually offered at festivals,” said Calderone. And that also is one of Calderone’s prime objectives — to offer attending filmmakers more benefits, acknowledgements and more personal treatment than other festivals provide.

Also new is ICF Online, with links to previous festival films, available for home viewing with charges, if any, dependent on the filmmakers’ vendors, such as or DynamoPlayer, etc. There is no ICF charge for the link.

And finally, Calderone plans to stage mini-events at local businesses in order to more involve the business community in festival activity. These events will be centered around specific films. “Last year we had one at Prairie Dove that was very successful,” he said.

An all-festival pass for locals, residents of Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Mountain Center, is only $20, less than half of the regular $50 price. Tickets are available at