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LA Film Fest's 2018 Poster Is A Whimsical Vintage Dream

Alia Penner designed the new poster for the festival with L.A. and its history in mind. (Photo: Courtesy of Film Independent).
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Upon first glance, the L.A. Film Festival's 2018 poster immediately stares back, but at something above you. A pair of eyes, tinted to look like they're from a 1940's magazine, gaze up at colorful stars sprinkled across a black background. It's whimsical, a fusion of vintage Hollywood and modern L.A. aesthetics.

The poster, shared first with LAist, is the work of Los Angeles-born and Topanga-raised artist Alia Penner. It serves as an early tease, since the full film lineup hasn't been announced yet. The festival comes later than usual this year, having moved from its traditional summertime spot to the fall.

Penner said the idea for the poster came from thinking about how L.A. film has influenced her life -- something she's used to doing, in fact.

Penner has used this city -- its writers, movie producers, artists and "other creative people" -- as a source of endless inspiration. She frequently uses faded and re-tinted black-and-white photographs, referencing a time of Hollywood glamour. She carefully curates colors to hint at a lightheartedness characteristic of this city. Each aspect of her work, and of this poster, seems like it's designed to call upon a specific L.A. memory.

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"I definitely draw a lot of inspiration from old movies and Old Hollywood, and I grew up in Topanga, so I do have a very whimsical and free, colorful style," Penner told LAist in an interview. "I am still embracing my inner child for sure -- wild-child style."

Penner said her process of creation is a combination of intuition and reflection on her previous pieces.

"The colors tell me what to do," she said. "I know that sounds silly, but especially when I'm painting at home or painting a mural, I feel like when I'm laying down colors, like when I lay a red down, it's going to tell me what to do next." What do the colors tell her? They tell her to focus on vibration. "I like putting something that's going to make the color next to it vibrate."

The scattering of cartoon stars, the playful colors, the glazed-over stare of the eyes -- it all comes together as a nod to the past, even as that feminine gaze suggests something else is at work.

"I think [the poster is] about having the people at the top [be] women, and working together and creating a new space for everyone," Penner said. "It's [festival director Jennifer Cochis's] vision, and she's inclusive, and she's trying to change it up. I'm excited to be a part of it, and I feel like the poster represents that."

Penner said "female curation" is a big part of it, both for the L.A. Film Festival and for the city. She said the festival is taking steps toward gender equality but that past posters have included mainly male artists.

For her own poster, Penner employed her friends Dallas Jay Hunter and Amanda Charchian as model and photographer, respectively.

"We put together a shoot, my friend Dallas [and I], and the photographer, Amanda Charchian. On set, I kept saying 'Here's all of your dreams, right here, you're looking at them.' So I feel like it is, for women, a time to dream and a time to work towards your dreams. That's really what the piece is about."

Penner is about to experience a little of that dream-catching herself. She said she has never had her artwork on a billboard or a bus in L.A., but the vibrating, retro, futuristic graphic of the 2018 LA Film Festival is going to be all over the city.

"And to think about your friend's eyeballs up in the sky, looking at everyone driving. It's an L.A. girl's dream come true," she said.

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The L.A. Film Festival goes into full swing on September 20. Although the movie lineup hasn't been announced, some of the panelists have. They include Tre'vell Anderson from the L.A. Times, Kate Hagan and Franklin Leonard from The Black List, Natasha Rottweil from Insecure, Krista Suh, the co-founder of The Pussyhat Project, and many more.

The full competition program will be revealed on July 31.