Newport Beach Film Festival opens today

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NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) – Cherie Kerr was a founding member of the Groundlings comedy group and established a successful public relations firm, but calls debuting her first movie in the Newport Beach Film Festival, which starts Thursday, her ultimate accomplishment.

Kerr’s 93-minute comedy, “We’ve Got Balls,” is about a town of 52 people — Fountain Springs — and its battle against a greedy developer and Indian tribal chief who want to plow over the community’s bowling alley for a casino.

“It’s a quirky, dark comedy for the whole family,” Kerr said.

It has a deeper message woven into the hijinks, she added.

“What can seem like absolutely nothing to one person can mean everything to somebody else,” Kerr said. “This bowling alley is all this town has. It means everything to them and to this greedy developer, she could care less.”

Everyone, “has a tendency to blow things off that don’t mean much to them,” but it doesn’t mean it’s not significant to others, Kerr said.

The film climaxes with an “over-the-shoulder, under-the-arm bowling tournament,” and the stakes are the bowling alley’s future, Kerr said.

For one of her lead roles, she cast fellow veteran Groundling Gary Austin as the town’s crooked mayor trying to play both sides to his benefit.

“I said, `Hey, Gary, would you be in my movie?’ And he said, `I’d love it.’ It’s Gary’s first feature film,” Kerr said.

The movie is a little bit “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Raising Arizona,” and “Napoleon Dynamite,” Kerr said.

Most of the movie was shot at Fountain Bowl in Fountain Valley, Kerr said.

“I went around to several bowling alleys to ask if we could shoot and everybody said no, and when we went to them they were so gracious and terrific,” Kerr said.

A man working in the pro shop was a consultant on the 1998 comedy “The Big Lebowski,” which bowling figured heavily in, Kerr said.

Orange County residents will also recognize Fashion Island and other landmarks in the movie, Kerr said.

Its debut will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Triangle Square Cinemas in Costa Mesa. The screening is sold out, so a second was scheduled for May 2, Kerr said.

Kerr’s son, filmmaker Drake Doremus, is expected to attend. He’s got his own budding career with “Like Crazy,” the Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and “Breathe In,” which will be in theaters this fall.

Kerr said she sent festival organizers a rough cut of her film, hoping to be accepted, and thought, “`Wouldn’t it be great if they accept us?”‘

The acceptance “was the biggest honor,” Kerr said.

The film festival will begin Thursday night with the screening of “Broadway Idiot,” a documentary on the making of the Broadway musical based on pop-punk band Green Day’s album, “American Idiot.”

Steve Rosansky, president of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and a former city councilman, said he was looking forward to opening night, which will include a party afterward at Fashion Island.

The festival “provides a big economic boost to the city,” with visitors filling up hotel rooms and spending money at city stores, Rosansky said.

Just as important, however, is the value it brings to the city aside from the dollars, Rosansky said.

“It builds the brand of Newport Beach,” of being a “fun and vibrant place to be,” Rosansky said.

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