Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Questions for the Founders of the Napa Valley Film Festival

The Napa Valley Film Festival is coming up to its inaugural year, starting November 9th and running through November 13th, 2011. Our film Take Me Home is in the line-up (see our schedule here) and we can't wait to attend! Movies and wine? Who could ask for anything better?

Marc and Brenda Lhormer

Marc and Brenda Lhormer are the founders of the festival and Marc was kind enough to answer a few of my questions as to why they would start a film festival in Napa:

  • Tell us why you and Brenda decided to start a film festival?

We ran the festival in Sonoma for seven years, a wonderful under-the-radar experience that led to the opportunity to produce our first feature film BOTTLE SHOCK.  BOTTLE SHOCK tells of how Napa wines beat the French at a historic 1976 wine-tasting competition in Paris.  That adventure led us to Napa, as people asked us why there wasn't a world-class film festival in such a remarkable destination.

  • Why do you feel Napa is a good location for a film festival?

So beautiful, great food and wine, easy to get to, and a very film-friendly audience in a setting that isn't otherwise well-served with theaters (no art-house theater in Napa County).

  • What is the most challenging part of starting a new film festival? And how are you overcoming this challenge?

Financing.  We began development in the summer of 2009 in the depths of the recent depression.  Focused on private Founding Patrons rather than trying to find corporate sponsors.  It's been a long slog, but with the support of a bunch of wonderful people, and now also over 250 business partners involved, we are almost here at the inaugural NVFF ...!

  • How are you setting your festival apart from the rest? Is there a festival yours will aspire to be?

Top-notch programming representing the best new independent films of the year, regardless of having premiered earlier elsewhere ... mixed with late-season previews of Oscar-buzzing films, such as THE DESCENDANTS and J. EDGAR.  Of course the outstanding food and wine ... hard to beat.  And we are professional event planners by background, and now also film producers, so we know how to throw a great party on a large scale.  

As for aspirations, we look to Telluride as a role model for a well-run and respected destination festival ... and yet Napa can handle the size and scope of what Sundance, Cannes or Toronto offer.  Bottom line, assuming we survive this extremely ambitious launch, we hope to see NVFF considered amongst the world's great film festivals some day.

  • Are there certain kinds of films upon which this festival will focus?

Generally we look for uplifting stories that capture the richness of the human spirit.  Tends to go better with the wine!  But seriously, plenty of festivals showcase the seamy underbelly of humanity.  We're interested in showcasing mankind's potential ... thus stories about relationships, interesting characters, overcoming obstacles and supporting each other through dark times, etc.  And we're interested in seeing stories from a variety of cultures, both to appreciate the diversity and the commonality and universality of the human experience.

  • What are some of the highlights of this inaugural 2011 Napa Valley Film Festival?

5 nights, 4 walk-able festival villages, 12 screening venues, 101 films, 125 wineries pouring ... pretty terrific.
Also gotta shout out to:
- the opening night GALA at Robert Mondavi Winery ... should be one killer party
- the Artists-in-Residence Program featuring the 10 directors of our narrative feature competition films ... pretty unique to have this in a first year festival, and how cool that TAKE ME HOME is one of the films which means writer-director-star Sam Jaeger is one of the Artists-in-Residence at Meadowood throughout the festival.
- Tribute Night Program, honoring outstanding achievement in film, with Billy Bush of Access Hollywood hosting ... and a partnership with Roots of Peace who presents its Global Citizen Awards
- Veterans Day films on Friday, November 11

So much to cover ... but we encourage everyone to hit the website at ... peruse the program and come join us in Napa Valley!

Thanks for the opportunity ...

Marc Lhormer, Founder
Executive and Program Director
Napa Valley Film Festival

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