Napa Valley Film Festival – The Highlights

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo Projection
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Film Tasting

Napa Valley known as wine country once again magically transformed into movie country with a touch of “Hollywood.” The third annual Napa Valley Film Festival—November 13-17th 2013—showcased 125 independent films to enthusiastic audiences. A gathering of 300 varied filmmakers attracted high-profile celebs like Colin Farrell, original Batman Adam West, Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio, Alan Cumming, filmmaker John Lee Hancock and Glee’s Dianna Agron. Check out the sizzle reel in the middle of the article to see them as well as other great festival moments. Producers and supportive filmmakers alike believe the success of the festival enhances the economic diversity and cultural landscape the Napa Valley Region and could influence the quality of film nationally, even internationally.

The Festival

Inside a building at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

The festival took place in four nearby towns in the Napa Valley Region: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Along with the hundred plus films, other events included a veteran’s day program with veteran-themed films, a studio sneak peek at big studio films before distribution, as well as a gala, awards ceremony and wrap party.

Grapes (flavor image)                                                                                          Grapes (flavor image)

Festival attendees not only experienced great cinema but also sampled scrumptious cuisine prepared by the region’s leading chefs and showcased at the Dacor culinary stage. The Zesty Contest encouraged patrons to identify movie-inspired dishes and tag them on social media while wine flowed in area pavilions located in each town.VIP filmmakers and celebrities were treated to delightful winemaker dinners with participating vineyards  including: Beaulieu Vineyards, Cardinale Winery, Hall Wines and Jessup Cellars.

Attendees on the front porch at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

For relaxation, the festival sponsored luxury lounges, while other spaces called gathering porches encouraged attendees to mingle with filmmakers. This year the festival opened yet another social venue that mixed food, tech and media. At the Sony Digital Lounge located in the Napa Lifestyle Pavilion patrons experienced the Sony 4K TV.

Napa Valley Film Festival Logo

Check out some of the amazing festival moments captured on film in the sizzle reel.

And the Winner Is…

Giving out awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Winners included:

–Best Feature Documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth directed by Pratibha Pramer follows the story of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author and activist.

–Best Narrative Feature Hank and Asha directed by James E. Duff offers a new approach to love-letter correspondence.

–Best Animated Short Sleight of Hand directed by Michael Cusack uses stop-motion to reveal illusions.

— Best Short Documentary Sky Burial  directed by Tad Fettig uncovers a Mongolian tribe’s view of death.

For a complete list of jury winners and audience awards, check out the festival’s results page. You may also purchase tickets and passes for next year’s festival which is proving to be even bigger.

Education and Outreach

Speaking about filmmaking at a school basketball court
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

A Goal: Inspiring the next generation is a leading goal of the Napa Valley Film Festival. During the week of the festival, 1,500 middle and high school student attended documentary screenings and immersed themselves in the world of cinema. They also participated in exciting discussions with the stars and filmmakers. Through the education and outreach programs, the festival offered socially-conscious films to local schools and encouraged the next generation to create a critical audience for independent cinema.

Demonstrations of filmmaking before an audience of students
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

Past Achievements: The Napa Valley Film Festival has sponsored educational programs including: film screenings to more the 2,400 students in 11 different schools; a contest for student to create and produce their own short films and showcase them in the Student Works Program that premiered at the festival; an internship program to give students hands-on experience dealing with festival production and the programming staff, and to help turn these interns into working students throughout the year.


Photograph of festival founders Marc & Brenda Lhormer
Photo Taken From NVFF Website

About the Founders: Festival founders Marc Lhormer a veteran event planner and his wife expert marketer Brenda Lhormer, run a small production company Zin Haze Productions that brings independent films to life. One of their best known films, Bottle Shock, looks at the early days of California wine making. Other past accomplishments include Brenda handling public relations for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, as well as seminar marketing programs at Oracle and Microsoft while Marc wrote the business plan for Bain Capitol’s original start up venture. Along with his dedication to the film festival, Marc’s passion for helping students and schools succeed led him to sponsor the City Year Program (a nonprofit organization to engage students in a full-year of service) in Seattle.




Documentary Filmmaking as the Ultimate Cultural Ambassador

American Film Showcase

Documentaries are a great way to be introduced to new ideas and learn about important issues, but they can also serve as a bridge to other countries and communities across the world. They excel at allowing the viewer to travel to another place without having to leave their couch or seat. No one understood this better than the United States Information Agency (USIA). The USIA was created in 1953 to confront anti-U.S. Propaganda and present us in a more positive light to other countries. Some of their work included sponsoring tours of artists and producing documentaries, with the likes of Edward R. Murrow and George Stevens Jr. The USIA was folded in the U.S. Department of State in 1999 and cultural diplomacy activities now fall under the Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The American Film Showcase

One of the most important programs that the Bureau oversees is the American Film Showcase, now in its second year of existence. I recently read an interesting article, written by Thomas White, about the showcase in Documentary magazine. While the Bureau funds the program via grants, it’s actually administered by The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.  Last year 21 different countries were visited by delegates that consisted of a filmmaker and “expert” who has a background in teaching in developing countries. These teams work with local American embassies, for seven to ten days, to screen relevant films and host workshops in various areas of production including writing, transcription, independent financing and distribution. Some of the topics touched upon by the screened films include adoption, freedom of the press, immigration and civil rights. While major cities are included in these tours, more rural areas with smaller towns and villages are also visited.

Building Diplomatic Bridges

The aim of the showcase is to utilize the power of documentary to foster a sense of understanding and create a dialogue between different cultures. This is particularly evident when you look at the content of the films that are shown. Filmmaker Steve James traveled to Mexico with his film The Interrupters ,which focuses on average Chicagoans trying to thwart violent crimes, and screened it to reformed gang members. Director and Producer Jim Whitaker took his 9/11 documentary Rebirth, which examines the process of grief over a seven year span, to where the tsunami had hit Japan a year and a half after it happened. As program administrator Rachel Gandin Mark explains, “It was extremely powerful to see people who were in the grieving process only a year and a half after the disaster to, in turn, see people who had obviously gone through a different kind of trauma [over a seven year period]. But in many ways the degree of national loss and personal loss was an amazing point of connection.”         

The Right Selection and a Global Reaction

For its first year, the roster included a total of 23 feature-length and short documentaries alongside nine fiction features and animated shorts. In its junior year, the showcase is increasing its numbers slightly with 30 docs and six narratives and and animated shorts. Mark Jonathan Harris, the head of the selection team, pointed out that these films aren’t picked because they are thought to be the best films in the U.S., but rather because they target certain themes and represent the diversity of American values. Some of these themes are youth empowerment, women’s rights, and diversity in civil society. Additionally, the program is seen as a way to reach out to future leaders and future video production professionals, who will hopefully see these films and be inspired. Word Wizards, Inc. applauds these programs because they can make a difference in people’s lives, both young and old, and can act as a universal language between different countries. This is just a small piece of the story, go on over to the article to read the rest.


Silverdocs No More

AFI Docs

A New Partner

Silverdocs, the premiere documentary festival in the Washington DC area, as well as a huge boon to the Silver Spring area, is getting some major changes. Its new iteration, which was announced just last week, will be known as AFI Docs Film Festival and will be backed by car manufacturer Audi instead of Discovery Communications. The new festival, running from June 19–23, will have an expanded presence as well as panels with greater focus on politics and other D.C.-centric issues. The festival will no longer take place solely in its home base of Silver Spring but will be presenting films at DC venues such as the Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History.

Changing Sponsors

The change is a consequence of the festival’s rising prominence on the national documentary circuit, as well as Discovery Communication’s change in corporate focus that has seen it move away from documentary storytelling, according to festival director Sky Sitney. Sitney sees the change in sponsors as positive and thinks it will help the festival to grow and gain an even more vibrant topical focus as it moves further into the heart of DC. She also said that, rather of thinking of it as scattered, instead think of it as incorporating two compact campuses.


The festival was started in 2003 as a joint venture between Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute. It should be noted that both of these organizations were major catalysts in the rejuvenation of the Silver Spring Area.

The Silver Spring Community Reacts

While it’s being stressed that the festival will still have important events and screenings in Silver Spring with no plans to leave it behind, the reaction locally has been mixed. Many locals as well as those in the production and documentary community feel that something is being lost with the expansion and name change. For years, the fact that the festival took place entirely in this one area has made it an important part of the community. The festival, which has grown to be the pride of Silver Spring, helps shine the spotlight on independent filmmakers and the important stories they have to tell. Smaller companies such as Word Wizards Inc., which thrives on transcription footage and the talking heads footage that are the meat of most documentaries, think it important these festivals go on, even if they’re in new forms.

Social Justice and Web Series at Filmfest DC

film fest

If your looking for a fun little excursion and have a hankering for a different kind of cinema, check out the Filmfest DC. They’re collection, which plays till Sunday the 21st, is pretty impressive with over 80 features, documentaries and shorts from all corners of the earth. Word Wizards, Inc. of course loves docs, since their so jam packed with talking heads footage which means transcription, but encourages visitors to see all the festival has to offer. The festival which takes place at various commercial theaters throughout Washington, D.C. have a program that can be downloaded from the website at  

Social Justice

One of the unique highlights of the festival includes a Justice Matters Focus group of documentaries which uses the powerful medium of film to take a look at important social justice issues. Some of the subjects include affordable aids treatment, life in refugee camps, global change through entrepreneurship and protecting indigenous people. Word Wizards. Inc, loves these documentaries for a few reasons since they not only bring important topics to the masses that might be over looked, but also use lots of interview footage which requires transcription to great effect. For more information, check out their link here: 

Another unique panel looks at the outstanding quality of the different web series’s produced in the DC area entitled Best of the D.C. Web Series. Over the past decade a number of made for the internet shows, called webisodes, have sprung up in the area. They tend be the length of an average television show and are becoming increasingly popular since they’re cheap to make and can be distributed so easily. While they are intended for the internet, they are still make via the conventional production means. This entails shooting it with a camera which is followed  by plenty of transcription, logging and editing. For more info:  

Film festival’s like Filmfest DC are important since they give a voice to many films that otherwise would not be able to find an audience. Yes, some things like the internet and video sharing sites have made self distribution easier than before but its still tough to get them in front of people. Film festivals take only the best which means audiences have a certain quality to look forward to and that filmmakers have better chances to be recognized. To find out about all the screenings and films, check out the Filmfest DC website at




Marketing Documentaries to Academia: The Perfect Recipe


One of the obvious reasons why Word Wizards, Inc. loves Docs in Progress (DIP) is that they coach for projects with tons of interview footage.  We at “The Wiz” thrive on transcribing dozens of hours of talking head interviews per week. Transcription is very important to any documentary film maker, whether they use Word Wizards, some other company or (in most cases for people on a tight budget,) do it themselves.  Therefore Word Wizards is proud to sponsor DIP and we attend many of their meetings. Last weeks meeting on marketing to academia was a special treat.

Judith Dancoff

The guest speaker was film marketing Coach Judith Dancoff of New Film Marketing  She spoke about distribution of educational Docs using a strategy called “Distribute It Yourself” (or DIY).  Her strategy is applied specifically to marketing educational documentaries, but can be used to market and sell any Doc.  DIY takes a little bit of extra work but you get to keep all the money as a payoff.  Dancoff wants you to think of the documentary producer as a business person marketing and selling a valuable product to people who need it.

She says to plan two marketing campaigns a year, one early in the fall semester and another in early winter but never Xmas or Spring breaks. The easiest way to break down her strategy is into an easy to follow 3 step recipe:

Step 1: Buy lists of potential academic buyers such as librarians and school content providers from private list providers like R.J. Dill. or to reach out to the American Library Association: Contact Personal and Organizational Members using 

Step 2: Put together a simple website to market to these people via email blast followed up by personal phone calls.  Academics hate flash so keep your site simple. You can build a very simple Doc site yourself for free using  Or, Word Wizards can design the shell and you fill in the text. For those that want customization, Word Wizards can design a template using a content management system such as WordPress. Your budget will drive the bells and whistles of your website. Check out our portfolio page at

Step 3: State right at the beginning, both in the subject line of your email blasts; and at the top of your web site what is different, educational and compelling about your film.  Why is your film especially relevant to the academic types that you are trying to sell to?   Review issues of Public Use Doctrine at  Set your price by seeing what other people charge,


 Tom Dziedzic

The fascinating thing about Docs in Progress is that professional film makers like Tom Dziedzic use DIP for coaching (see his award winning Redemption Stone at ) as well as want-to-be Doc makers from every walk of life.  With the upcoming tenth anniversary of DIP coming up next year expect to see a lot more about them in our upcoming blog articles.

Grand Movie Palaces versus Big Bad Multiplex

I recently volunteered at a panel, at the DC Independent Film Festival, about the history of movie theaters and palaces in the city of Washington D.C. During this panel, several images of old movie theaters that have been torn down were shown and their details discussed. I was struck by the individual beauty of these places and how different they were from each other. As someone with a strong interest in history, architecture and movies I’ve always felt bad that these places went out of style. While today’s multiplexes are nice and modern, they also seem a bit on the sterile and cold side. DC, like many other major cities, was once home to a huge population of stunning movie palaces with a few still remaining but most having gone the way of the wrecking ball.


Today with so many production companies and such a passionate media and video community, it seems like we are trying to keep the spirit of these places alive by telling rich captivating stories that draw people in the way these grand movie palaces of yesteryear did. Here at Word Wizards, Inc. we are focused on documentaries because time coded transcripts are part of our core business.  However, scripted films have been adored by audiences in ornate movie houses for over a hundred years. Come take a trip down memory lane as we look at a few of the more memorable one.


The Loews Theater was one of the first grand movie theaters in the area, constructed in 1918 at 1306 F Street, NW and built to hold an audience of over 2,000 people. In addition to movies, stage shows were also held here until the mid 30’s. This gem of a theater which featured some of the first air conditioning in DC was renovated in 1964 when theater sales started to decline. Loewe’s put it up for sale in the late 60’s and the building was torn down in the late 70’s. While the outside was nice, the inside was truly dazzling and put the word palace in “movie theater palaces.”

Loews Theater

Fortunately there are those who want to save these important land marks and have succeeded in keeping a few of them in a few different incarnations. The first is the Avalon theater house in Chevy Chase which dates from 1923 and was rescued by a group of concerned citizens in 2002. Today it offers lots of different programming such as first run commercial films, foreign and independent films as well as film festivals. A second theater the Atlas on 1333 H Street was built in the late 30’s, closed in the 70’s and brought back to life as a performing arts center in 2001. Today the Atlas showcases unique performances, offers arts education and serves as a major catalyst for much of the rapid economic revitalization happening on the H Street corridor.

Avalon Atlas

Many wonder why these opulent movie palaces fell out of favor with the general public with the main answer being the rise of multiplexes which had larger operating budgets and were able to attract people on ways that the small single screen theaters simply could not. Much of this has to do with offering more amenities, more of a place to hangout and often more convenient locations as many people started migrating to the suburbs. While the historic preservation movement of the early 60’s alerted the general public to the cause of preservation, today’s historic theater loving activists still face a very uphill battle.


The reasons for this I think are two fold with the first being that the younger generation never experienced these lavish theaters so we don’t really know what were missing.  This in turn makes it tougher for historic activists and those passionate about preservation to reach people since their message is often falling on deaf ears. Yes, the multiplexes are a cool place to hang out, offer a bunch of films, there’s so many in malls and most are conveniently located close to major urban areas but they lack personal feel. The second issue is a much larger and pervasive one that has do with the multitude of options people have when it comes to home entertainment. Why should people leave their home when they have things like netflix, on-demand, redbox, the Internet, and so many different ways to be entertained without having to leave their couch? Going to the theater used to be a privilege and a chance to share unique a experience with real people immersed in a story but its an experience that seems to be having a curtain call.


Avalon Theater –

Atlas Arts Center –







Annapolis Film Festival Wrap Up


This past weekend the Annapolis Film Festival kicked off to some pretty critical acclaim. The festival, which ran from the 21 – 24, seeks to establish the city of Annapolis as a prime breeding ground for different filmmakers to come and show different perspectives through their work to hungry audiences. A previous incarnation actually existed from 2003 to 2006 and was produced by Ken Arnold, Maria Triandos and Demetrea Triantafillides. The founders of the present version hope that in the long term it will bring both cultural and economic growth to Annapolis and the surrounding area. The festival showcased all types of films from gripping fictional tales to thought provoking documentaries. Word Wizards especially loves documentaries because transcription, captioning and logging are among our core business capabilities.  During the weekend, more than 90 films which covered various topics were shown in addition to educational panels and various film showcases.

After the festival, the winners as voted by audience members were:

Best Feature Narrative: Exquisite Corpse Project

The Exquisite Corpse Project, directed by Ben Popik and directed by Joanna Popik, is the result of a challenge given to five members of a former comedy troupe, all good friends. Their task is to each write fifteen pages of a movie script having only read the previous writer’s last five pages. This one-of-a-kind narrative-doc crossover is hilarious and touching.

Best Feature Documentary: Charles Bradley: Soul of America

Charles Bradley: Soul of America, directed by Poull Brien, chronicles the story of 62 year old aspiring soul singer and James Brown impersonator who becomes a star. After a life of abandonment, homelessness and tragedy, his debut album rockets on to Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of 2011. Mr. Bradley will giving a concert at Ram’s Head OnStage, West Street, Annapolis on April 12th.

Best Narrative Short: The Silk

The Silk, directed by Nathalie Boltt and Clare Burgess, is from New Zealand. Fifty years before, Herb had brought home from the war a length of beautiful silk. As he approaches death, his wife, Amy, takes out the scissors and undertakes a project which transforms their sorrow.

Best Documentary Short: Good Karma $1

Good Karma $1, directed by Jason Berger and Amy Laslett, tells how Ad guru, Alex Bogusky collects signs from homeless people asking for money, wondering if he can help them get their message across better. It turns into a lesson in generosity and humility.

Some of the highlights of the festival included an environmental showcase where a panel of leaders and filmmakers discussed various environmental issues. The festival also celebrated the young filmmakers of tomorrow with their Student Showcase which shows short films from young filmmakers from all around the world. It’s these young people that will be the face of the video production and media industry and bring us films, documentaries, powerful stories and put the spotlight on important issues. Other noteworthy topics at the festival included a panel on the African-American Experience and Segregation in the American School System as well as a shorts program thematically looking at women’s issues.

With the festival having attracted over 2,000 people, that’s great news for independent cinema as a whole. It shows that there’s a desire for it in Annapolis and a generally strong one in the region itself. More importantly it’s yet another exampe of how our production community comes together to celebrate our hard work and support each other. With such a rich pool of talent in the DC/MD/VA area and the sheer number of productions and documentaries that we produce, it’s vital that festivals such as Annapolis thrive. They are not just a showcase for great work but are serve as an important venue for those not from te area to see the type of outstanding video work our professional  community does.


For more info on the festival, check out the link here: