2013: Burbank International Film Festival


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Jeff Rector:  Burbank’s Leading Man in Film Festivals

While sitting to interview Burbank International Film Festival president, Jeff Rector, I couldn’t help but notice the many DVDs collecting on and around his coffee table.

“My biggest challenge is choosing the movies,” Jeff remarks, “It’s agonizing sometimes.”  He then adds, “The easy part is, we have great films.”

In its fifth year, the Burbank festival traditionally gets around 600 submissions a year and with a jury panel of around fifteen, that’s a lot of movies to get through. Jeff became president in 2012 after having been on the board for a year.  When the current president stepped down, Jeff decided he wanted to run the festival and try to elevate it to another level.  How, you might ask?

“I made our name bigger on the website,” Jeff jokes.

But more importantly, as a working actor himself and an award-winning filmmaker (Fatal Kiss and Revamped, to name a few), he had connections that other presidents in the past didn’t have.  Being able to tap into that aspect of Hollywood and bring on his friends, helped with the sponsorship of the festival, which is key.  Affiliates have also come forward, such as Woodbury University, to offer free seminars and industry panels as a form of community outreach.

“We’re not just trying to make money to keep the festival running, we’re giving back to the community as well, and giving back to anyone in the public that is interested in the art of filmmaking.”

What appealed to Jeff most about becoming an integral part of the Burbank festival was the sheer fact that Burbank is the media capital of the world.  With several major production companies and studios in our own backyard, Burbank should be the one city that should have a world-class festival, says the festival’s president.

Another factor that made Jeff want to take the reigns is the idea that he can help showcase hidden talents.  For example, last year 16-year old Ian Timothy from Kentucky became the winner of the student animation category.  He was then introduced to Mark Kirkland (director of The Simpsons) and Matt Senreich (creator of Robot Chicken) and is now contracted to create a new show for Cartoon Network.

“It’s connections like those that make it all worth while,” says Jeff.

Jeff Rector had humble beginnings, growing up in Michigan, admiring the classic monster movies like Frankenstein.  He remembers making monster movies in the woods with his friends, where the furthest thing from his mind was being a filmmaker; it was just something that spoke to him.  He moved to Los Angeles when he was seventeen after his father got transferred to a prestigious ad agency in L.A.  Jeff’s first gig?  A tour guide at Universal Studios.

“We were excited about the movie industry, and it was a cool summer job to have,” he remembers.  In addition to delighting guests with the beloved tour, Jeff used to sneak down to the lower lot and watch them film.

One of his favorite memories was asking one of the stars on set, what he can do to “get in.”  His big advice was to “be persistent.”

And he was right.

Years later when Jeff became a working actor, he was at an autograph signing for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and saw that same actor as one of the guests at a different exhibit.

“So here I was on the same stage with this guy, as a peer.  It’s a crazy wild ride.”

Another one of those moments came when Jeff was able to meet one of his childhood idols, John Agar, star of many of those monster movies Jeff grew up watching.  At another autograph signing, Jeff remembers looking over and there was Mr. Agar, sitting right next to him.  He told John how much he wanted to be like him when he was a kid and how he looked up to him.  Jeff remembers how John’s eyes lit up at having made such an impact on someone that made their way up in the industry.

“These moments help validate what I’m doing, that I’m making the right choices, picking the right projects.”


As a successful filmmaker and actor, Jeff has known every aspect of the business, and when the opportunity came along to spear-head the Burbank festival, he realized that everything he’s done so far has led him to it.

“And it’s bigger than me,” Jeff states.  “I raised $30,000 last year and I had never raised a penny in my life.”

He attributes most of these successes to having very supportive and loving parents growing up, who instilled a great work ethic in him.  Never relying on anyone but himself, he learned to love hearing the word “no.”

“If I took no for an answer, I would be done in elementary school.  Hearing ‘no’ made me want to do it all the more to prove them wrong.”

His favorite advice to new filmmakers is to just “do it.”

“There is absolutely no excuse not to make a movie,” he says, “you can be anything you want to be, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t.”

Jeff is extremely excited about many aspects of the festival this year:  from the opening night screening at Warner Bros, honoring Warner Bros. 90th Anniversary; to powerful film selections being shown; to local and beloved weatherman Fritz Coleman hosting the awards gala honoring industry icons and filmmakers.

He is forever grateful to all of his sponsors, supporters, volunteers, board of directors, the city of Burbank, and everyone else who has helped him along the way to make this festival happen.

Running a festival to many may seem like a full-time job they would be hesitant to take on, but for Jeff Rector, it’s just another challenge:

“If you sit at home, waiting for the phone to ring, nothing’s going to happen.  You gotta get out there, you never know where it’s going to lead.”

More Articles On Festival

The Burbank International Film Festival runs September 4th-8th.

There will be a summer pre-launch party on Saturday, July 13th

For more information on the festival, please visit: www.burbankfilmfest.org

Posted in: Events, Things To Do, This Is

About the Author:

Shaina Vorspan was born and raised in Suburbia, California, and turned to amateur filmmaking, performing, and writing as a way to keep busy and an outlet for her creativity. She earned her B.A. in theatre from the University of California, San Diego where she performed in and helped produce a number of productions, in addition to taking a plethora of writing classes. Back in L.A., she continues her passion for theatre, acting, and writing by being an involved member of The Knightsbridge Theatre, co-creating her own films, taking creative writing extension classes, and regularly collaborating with her friends on projects. Although her freelance writing career is a more recent endeavor, she has had the opportunity to assist many clients with a variety of needs, from website content to article writing. More information on her acting career can be found at www.shainavorspan.com and for all freelance information please visit www.shainavorspanfreelance.com.

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