L. Mimosa Jones

Poster for CineVegas
L. Mimosa Jones

After a number of years in Washington, DC, working
for the likes of Bill Clinton and Edward Kennedy, the often shark-infested
waters of the entertainment industry proved no match for L. Mimosa
Jones. In just three short years, she has transformed the Entertainment
Development Corporation (EDC) of Las Vegas from a start-up nonprofit
to a thriving film enterprise boasting more than 120 corporate members
and credit for bringing an additional $120 million in film production
revenues to the city of Las Vegas.

In March of 2001, Jones and the EDC acquired the CineVegas
International Film Festival. Now in its fourth year, with the help
of Jones, the event is getting a facelift–and hopefully establishing
itself as one of the country’s preeminent film forum and marketplace.
In an interview with MM, EDC’s CEO Jones speaks about her
organization’s mission, the revamping of a film festival and why
the "city of sin" is a perfect film venue.

Jennifer Wood (MM): This is the fourth year
of CineVegas, but the first year of EDC’s involvement with the event.
What was it about the previously existing festival that made you
want to continue it?

L. Mimosa Jones (MJ): I really felt that a
film festival in Las Vegas was a very good fit. Our mission at EDC
was, and is, to encourage and facilitate film and television production
here, so bringing the industry to Las Vegas for nine days of film-related
events made sense from a marketing standpoint. With ShoWest, NATPE,
NAB and other entertainment conferences held here every year, we
also felt that the possibility of CineVegas to grow into a marketplace
was significant.

MM: Why take over this event as opposed
to starting your own?

MJ: CineVegas had brand recognition,
which is why we chose to acquire it rather than start our own festival.
We wanted to join the efforts of the community, not compete against

MM: What aspects of the previously existing
event have remained in place? What aspects were the first you changed?

MJ: EDC has radically changed CineVegas. When
publicists and agents ask us to talk about last year’s event, we
just can’t do it: It seems unfair because it’s a totally different
festival. We wanted to make the festival younger, hipper–to focus
on great world and North American premieres and also bring the crowds
to some of the hottest locations in Las Vegas. This year we have
over 17 venues, including House of Blues, Whiskey Sky, Light, Studio
54 and Little Buddha, compared to only one or two in years past.
We put the ‘festive’ back into the festival, creating the ultimate
party and the ultimate film showcase.

MM: How has the scope or mission of CineVegas
changed since EDC’s involvement began?

MJ: We want CineVegas to become much bigger.
Las Vegas can accommodate hundreds of thousands of people and the
event really could grow to be as big as Cannes. That will take years,
of course, but one can dream.

MM: What steps are you taking toward attracting
more interest in filming in the Las Vegas area?

MJ: We do a lot of marketing with regard to
showcasing Las Vegas as a prime to spot to shoot. Most of the work
is television and people usually reach EDC through word of mouth–which
we love. Producers and directors have great experiences with us
and pass the word around the industry. We also have great relationships
with the studios, so if they ever have a problem here they know
who to call. We do ask all production companies that use our services
to make a non-profit donation. It helps keep our service level uncompromised,
and we pride ourselves on always being able to deliver.

MM: Is CineVegas primarily for the people
of Las Vegas or for a worldwide audience?

MJ: This is undoubtedly an international event.
Someone called us a regional festival the other day and I killed
him and buried him in the desert. Kidding aside, locals get to enjoy
the event as they do the Billboard Music Awards, VH1 Divas, ESPY
Awards, etc. It’s great to live here because we get all kinds of
international events in Las Vegas, and now CineVegas is one of them.

MM: How does the amount of tourism in Las
Vegas benefit what you are trying to accomplish? How does it hinder

MJ: I don’t think it hinders it at all. We
expect to bring an additional 5,000 to 10,000 people here for that
week, and next year and the year after jump exponentially. Our goal
is to create a situation like National Finals Rodeo, which brings
in 100,000-plus to the city each December. Lofty goals, but they
can be achieved.

MM: There’s excitement around every corner
in Las Vegas; what are the techniques you use to make people want
to come to your screenings and events?

MJ: Yes, that’s the hard part. There is always
something going on in this city. However, June is a good month to
spend your days in the ‘cool’–meaning air-conditioned–environment
of Brenden Theatres and to spend your nights–usually about 80 degrees–celebrating
at great outdoor venues. It’s the combo of the films and events
that really helps to sell the event. We can’t just promote one without
the other.

MM: Let’s talk about programming for a minute:
what kind of film does it take to keep people away from the casinos
and shows, and piling into the movie theater?

MJ: Two words: World Premieres. Vegas doesn’t
get excited unless it’s something they can’t see anywhere else.
Also, there’s got to be some star power. It’s not unlikely to see
Ben Affleck playing blackjack on a Saturday night in Vegas, so as
a festival we’ve really got to pull out the talent. On the flip
side, there are a lot of film lovers here. If we really want to
take CineVegas to the next level, we’ve got to show films that interest
the acquisitions people.

MM: Trevor Goth, who’s been a senior programmer
with Sundance for the past nine years, recently came aboard as your
Director of Programming. How has Trevor’s background helped to change
the face of CineVegas?

MJ: Trevor was and is a great asset to CineVegas.
I think there are a lot of good programmers out there, but Trevor
also fit with our team. As the CEO, I’m really into everyone getting
along. I started EDC because I wanted to work with a terrific group–and
he fit well with the established group. Well, of course he did,
it was all women at the time!

MM: What percentage of your films were invited
versus those that were accepted through your call for entries? There
are a number of big name moviemakers in the lineup, including John
Sayles, Michael Winterbottom and Michael Almereyda. Do you want
to continue previewing films in future fests, or is there more of
a desire to ‘discover’ new talent?

MJ: I think it has to be an even match. Obviously,
I’d like to have more films without distribution so that we grow
into becoming a marketplace. But CineVegas is also the perfect launching
pad for studio films and bigger premieres. We have the widest cross-section
of audiences in the world because of our visitor base here and that
can prove to be very helpful to studio executives.

MM: What are some of the events/screenings
you’re most excited about this year?

MJ: We have one event, hosted by my boyfriend,
John J. Tunney, III, and I, where every major Strip performer gets
together for a jam session. Last year, Clint Holmes was a doll and
helped us pull the whole thing together. We had him and Tom Jones
and Siegfried and Roy and Penn & Teller and the Blue Man Group
and. well, you name it–singing and drinking. It really was like
the magical Rat Pack era. This year we’ll do it again during the
festival. I couldn’t really single out one party or film beyond

MM: With the successful creation and execution
of a film festival, there’s always a learning curve. What have you
learned so far this year that will help you in creating next year’s

MJ: We need more staff, more volunteers, more
money. We’ve probably learned a million things, but most of them
probably won’t be realized until June 16th, when we’re
all doing our evaluations over many, many martinis.

MM: Five years from now, what would you
like CineVegas to be known for?

MJ: I would like CineVegas to be more like
Cannes. A marketplace, a party, a showcase, an event where everyone
in the industry has to be. Luckily for us we don’t have to twist
many arms to get the business here, but we do have to prove ourselves.
If we can build the largest hotels in the world in the middle of
the desert, we can build a world class film festival. It may take
time, but I’m 28, I’ve got a lot of it.