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. http://vimeo.com/81543047

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.

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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.

 

 

 




2013 Peer Awards – $500 Prize for Best Documentary Film

Docs In Progress logo   TIVA DC Peer Awards logo

The annual DC Peer Awards is always a special event, celebrating the best artists in the DC production community and bringing them together to reward their hard work. Word Wizards Inc. has been a proud sponsor for many years because we believe they honor the absolute best in the field and encourage aspiring professionals to continue their quest for excellence. This year however, the ceremony has a new award thanks to Word Wizards, with the inclusion of a unique Docs In Progress category that focuses on documentary works that have been produced with the assistance of Docs In Progress. The category, proudly sponsored by Word Wizards Inc., gives the winner a $500 cash reward. This new prize is meant to help promote organizations that help filmmakers who want to make their vision a reality but don’t know where to start. For almost a decade, Docs In Progress and it’s founder Erica Ginsberg have been a huge part of the DC film community has and helped dozens of filmmakers, both experienced veterans and fresh novices, tell meaningful stories and reach audiences.

Humble Beginnings

Photograph of founders Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt
Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt
Photo from Docs In Progress Website

The time was way back in 2004 and two DC area filmmakers, Erica Ginsberg and Adele Schmidt, were sharing a dinner and talking about their craft. They talked about their desire to create a space where artists and filmmakers could come together to give each other valuable feedback on their works in progress and thus the seeds of Docs In Progress were planted.  The first DIP screening took place at the Warehouse Theater on 7th Street in May of that year. The first films to be screened were Swing Legends and Up to the Mountain, Down to the Village. It wasn’t long before these screenings started attracting artists from all over the DC film community who came to critique each other’s work. Over the next nine years, the organization has grown to not only include screenings of under construction films but also production workshops to educate others, peer pitch programs which allows artists in the early stages of their films to receive peer feedback, a youth summer camp and even the first Silver Spring Stories Film Festival.

Modern Day

Docs In Progress screening
A typically packed Docs In Progress screening
Photo from Docs In Progress Website

Even though Docs In Progress has grown by leaps and bounds in it’s almost decade long history, the organization still strives every day to remain true to its founding mission and values. This mission includes programs that help nurture a vibrant documentary community as well as discussion groups and screenings to help grow public appreciation for the documentary art form. The DIP values are also important and are composed of cultivating community partnerships, building a supportive artistic environment and connecting the public with documentary filmmakers. It’s these values that made Word Wizards Inc, want to honor Docs In Progress with this special category at the Peer Awards. DIP helps people tell compelling real life stories and works tirelessly to bring these important stories to the forefront of people’s minds. Ever more impressive is their desire to help any filmmaker who is driven enough whether they are brand new to the biz or seasoned film veterans.

A Bright Future

With 2014 almost upon us, Docs In Progress is set to reach a milestone as the organization celebrates 10 years. As Erica puts it “In 2014, we celebrate 10 years of Docs in Progress in the DC-area film community.  In that time hundreds of aspiring, emerging, and established documentary filmmakers from Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and beyond have found purpose, professional development, and community through our offerings. We look forward to continuing to support films and filmmakers who have opened our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the world around us.” Erica is an accomplished documentary filmmaker herself who’s work includes Taking Threats about international student reaction to 9/11 as well as the in progress  American’s Park which looks at changes in American society and urban development specifically DC’s Meridian Hill Park and the surrounding neighborhood.

 




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.

 




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Returning Marines Find New Careers In Media

Marine Shooter

With Memorial Day soon upon us, our thoughts go to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to defend our country. I’ve also been thinking about those other brave individuals who fight in combat and are wounded but are able to make it home back to the U.S. What are they supposed to do when they get back after seeing all the chaos of war and how are they supposed to get used to a regular life again? Fortunately, there are some truly great organizations that are more than happy to help train these individuals in new lines of work so they can start to rebuild their lives. One of these groups is the Wounded Careers Marine Foundation whose media boot camp trains returning and wounded marines for new careers in video and media production.

Learning To Shoot Video

Documentary filmmaker Kev Lombard first had the idea to start the program when he was asked to film the stories of wounded veterans at military hospitals in 2006. He wanted to teach them how to tell their stories and decided to partner with his wife Judith Paixao to create the program. The couple uses a mix of corporate and private donations to fund the media course which is composed of two weekly sessions that both last ten weeks. The Wounded Careers Marine Foundation Media Program is headquartered in a camouflage-painted building on a San Diego production lot. While the expectation isn’t to turn out the next great film visionary like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg, the aim is to give these heroic veterans the proper skills to become a camera or boom operator and earn a well-paying job.

Expert Advice

Students learn all about the production and video business from 30 film professionals who are happy to pass on their knowledge. Some of the teachers include Amy Lemisch of the California Film Commission, Barry Green, an Emmy award-winning producer and Levie Issaaks, a Vietnam war veteran who is now an Emmy award-winning director of photography with work that includes Malcom in the Middle. These instructors have the veterans use equipment such as Panasonic HD Camcorders and MacBook Pros to learn skills such as editing, cinematography, lighting and sound design. The students learn nuts-and-bolts coursework that leaves them with solid skills not found in many college film schools, almost like an apprenticeship. Word Wizards Inc. thinks these kinds of programs are great since they really give back to those who have sacrificed a lot to fight for our country.