Anchored by a set of romantic comedy staples and riding the pink wave of the rom-com renaissance, the first ever Rom Com Fest took over the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles from June 20th-23rd. Amongst a sea of pink, including a pink carpet, a pink Jenga game, and rose, Rom Com Fest offered everything sweet, and only a little bit of the sour, to celebrate both classic rom-coms and explorations of the genre.
Festival highlights included the film “Never Been Kissed” followed by a chat with Rachel Bloom, “Bride Wars” paired with a conversation with June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson, a live recording of the WhoHaHa Dirty Girl podcast, and a screening of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” On Sunday, the Rom Com Fest also brought together legendary screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde,” “She’s the Man”) for the 20th-anniversary screening of their film “10 Things I Hate About You”. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the ’90s, when this film made Heath Ledger, Julia Styles, and Letters to Cleo household references, 10 Things is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. As McCullah and Smith noted during their Q&A, “he’s not difficult to negotiate with when it comes to rights.”
Rewatching 10 Things not only inspires you to cheer with the audience at key moments but you might notice hilarious lines that went over your head as a teenager or appreciate intricate crane shots you didn’t notice in your youth or laugh at the ridiculousness that is wearing suits to a high school party. With such memorable lines such as “Remove head from sphincter, then drive!” it’s incredible to think that this was McCullah and Smith’s first script together. Though perhaps a few Coronas on the beach helped with that: the film was outlined on the beach, and, developed through snail mail as opposed to electronic mail or Google Drive (it was the 90’s after all). As for their guiding principles, they find inspiration from Elle Woods a la Legally Blonde: “You can’t possibly do this? Well, watch me then!”
The Rom Com Fest is the brainchild of Miraya Berke, who started putting the festival together only months ago. Guests were treated to Not Pot gift bags, featuring vegan CBD gummies, Chameleon Cold Brew, and My//Mo Mochi Ice cream (and I have to say: Mochi is arguably one of the most unromantic foods due to the melting nature of ice cream plus the powder on the outside that sticks to your lips)
Rom Com Fest also had a set of awards to celebrate the works. Ann Lupo’s film “In Reality” received the Jury Prize for Best Feature Film, and Erin Brown Thomas earned the Jury Prize for Best Short Film for “Rekindled.” In addition, the audience played a part in honoring select films with help from Frolic: Joseph Cross’ Summer Night and Alexandra Kyle’s “Anxiety’s Wilma.” Rom Com Fest closed their festivities with a party at the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA, wrapping up a pink and sugary weekend.