When the Method Fest Film Festival begins tonight (March 25) the event finds itself in the second step of its evolution to become what its organizers hope will one day be a national festival. The poor economy, of course, has not been a help in making that transition. Budget constraints have resulted in the cancellation of other festivals and Method Fest has struggled for a second year in the sponsorship department. Still, festival Executive Director Don Franken keeps focused on the future and doing what is necessary to make Method Fest a national destination festival akin to Sundance in Park City, Utah and Tribeca in New York City that attracts national and even international coverage that filmmakers and sponsors can benefit from. “There are things in the works,” Franken said. After having been a local festival first in Burbank and then Calabasas, Method Fest is now a regional festival with screenings taking place at both the Calabasas Civic Center and the Regency Agoura Hills 8 Theatre. Throughout that evolution the festival has never veered from its mission to showcase films with great acting. Entries this year include performances by Anthony Hopkins, Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfus, and Bruce Dern, the recipient of the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Hiring an additional programmer resulted in Method Fest getting a few films that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. As in past year, a number of U.S. and world premieres will take place at Method Fest. “We worked harder and we ended up with more films to choose from,” Franken said. The 7-day festival wouldn’t be possible without corporate sponsorship and like last year getting those has been a struggle. There is no airline sponsor for a second year in a row and no car dealerships took part as well. One new sponsor is the Good Nite Inn in Calabasas, the host hotel. The hotel is ideally located between the two screening locations in Calabasas and Agoura Hills, said General Manager Randall Boyd. Whether it is the film festival, or any day-long event in the Valley area or into Malibu, guests want an inexpensive, clean place to stay, Boyd said. “They just need a place to crash so it works out well for us,” Boyd added. Post-screening parties take place from Woodland Hills to Agoura Hills, another example of the regional focus. The festival will screen films in two theaters at the Regency as compared to the one from last year. There have also been more musical acts added for the parties, including some whose work is used in festival films.