Las Vegas Film Festival president loves to see his city shine

Vegas Voices is a weekly series featuring notable Las Vegans.

Milo Kostelecky was born and raised in Las Vegas, and his sense of civic pride has led him into areas he never expected, whether as a member of the Founding 50 group that helped bring the Golden Knights to town, despite his not being a hockey fan, or working with the Las Vegas Film Festival, which he eventually purchased in 2012.

“I just have a fondness for all things Vegas,” Kostelecky, 40, says. “I wanna do what I can to help the city, and I love to see our city succeed and shine.”

Kostelecky has a business degree from Arizona State University and worked in marketing for various developers. But when local construction ground to a halt in 2009, he became involved with the Las Vegas Film Festival through what he calls “just a random, kind of fate would have it” opportunity.

For its 10th anniversary, the festival has moved from downtown to Brenden Theatres at the Palms, where it will run Tuesday through Sunday. The lineup includes Sundance premieres “Lemon” (8 p.m. Tuesday), about a struggling actor (Brett Gelman) against whom the world seems to be conspiring; “Landline” (7 p.m. Sunday), which reteams “Obvious Child” writer-director Gillian Robespierre and actress Jenny Slate; and “Gook” (7 p.m. Saturday), Sundance’s Next Audience Award winner that looks at the 1992 L.A. riots from a Korean-American perspective.

A screening of the HBO documentary “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” (2 p.m. Sunday) will be followed by a Q&A with Reynolds’ son, Todd Fisher. (For more information and a complete schedule, see

Kostelecky took time away during the hectic final days of preparation to talk about the festival and his love of football and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

Review-Journal: Do you remember the first movie you saw that really moved you?

Kostelecky: The one that I remember the most in my life as a young child was “E.T.” It was just a fascinating experience. And I remember as a child that that kind of stayed with me for a really long time. And my stepfather (Douglas Stewart) wrote “An Officer and a Gentleman,” so that kind of was another layer to my passionate involvement in Hollywood and kind of seeing it from a different perspective.

How much of your year is devoted to the festival?

It’s always part of my routine, but it takes a good four (straight) months to focus on it.

How many of the submissions do you watch?

As many as I can. If there’s a thousand of them, maybe I can get through a hundred of them. And a lot of them are short films, so they range, like, 15-20 minutes. But we have a team that watches every single one.

How often do you get out and go see something at a movie theater like a civilian?

That’s a pastime that I really enjoy, so I go out probably once a week and check out a movie.

Do you watch mainstream movies? Or do you gravitate toward the smaller fare?

I like the indie fare. I really enjoyed “Hell or High Water” and “Captain Fantastic.” I love documentaries. … I like things that I can walk away with maybe having a learning experience or an understanding instead of just maybe some of the action movies that get so carried away. … I enjoy things that kind of enlighten or change my perspective on what’s happening in the world.

What do you do when you’re not watching movies?

I grew up playing golf. I played on my high school team. Golf has been a really nice outlet throughout my life. … I enjoy watching college sports immensely, especially college football. The Pac-12 and the SEC. I think football season’s a special time of year. And anything local I can support. I even like going to the high school games. High school football, high school basketball.

So this is the 10th anniversary of the festival. How are you celebrating?

Brenden Theatres is on board heavily this year as our primary sponsor. … So we’re kind of celebrating with the fact that we’re moving into this much bigger (venue) where we have a bigger platform to showcase the work. … We’re just thankful, basically. Every year is a celebration to us.

Is the CineVegas team (Robin Greenspun and Sundance programmers Trevor Groth and Mike Plante) as involved as they’ve been in the past few years?

Robin is very involved. And then Trevor and Mike are involved to a limited extent, because they’re such busy people. But they have a passion for basically mentoring us through a lot of the growing stages of our festival. They’ve become great resources to our programming team.

Is there a movie you’re most looking forward to audiences seeing?

“Gook.” … With our affiliation with Sundance, primarily Trevor, they always help us do the CineVegas Presents showcase, and this came at the top of their recommendation list.

With Netflix, Amazon, SundanceNow and other platforms, it’s easier than ever for people to see the types of movies that play the festival circuit at home. So what is it about the festival atmosphere that should make people want to come out for it?

The festival atmosphere gives you the opportunity to engage with the filmmakers and ask questions and gain a perspective that you can’t do alone at home. … There’s just something special about it. You’re among an amazing group of artists. … There’s all these great events and cocktail receptions and mixers and panels. What encompasses a film festival, you could never duplicate that yourself in your home. It’s just a special week.

What do you want people to take away from this year’s festival?

I want people to be engaged in culture and look at storytelling from other people’s perspectives and allow it to make them think, maybe create some new thoughts. It creates discussion. There’s so many things, but they’ll make a lot of meaningful connections. When I go to a film festival, I walk away inspired or I feel a different way or I’ve gained something. It’s a great opportunity to do something to better yourself and a stimulating thing for your life.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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