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Established 1995 serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.


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Festivalgoer rookie experience in Livermore Valley

Our First Film Festival

As I sit here at my desk with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I try to organize my thoughts on what has been one “Whirlwind” of a weekend. It has been unlike any I have ever had.

After countless rejection letters, our short film “The Queen of Spades” had finally been accepted into a film festival. The festival is called the “6th Annual California Independent Film Festival located in Livermore Valley’s Wine Country. I must admit, I had never been to Livermore’s Wine Country before but I was not only pleasantly surprised, I was blown away by the number of wineries located one right after another(some big, some small) in this part of the Bay Area. At least ½ a dozen wineries participated in this event and there were signs of the film festival wherever you went: the wineries themselves, the hotels, magazines, newspapers, etc. It’s like Napa without the crowds. A very well kept secret indeed.

My wife, Shely, and I had anticipated this event for a couple of months now. We were finally “In” and we decided we were going to make the most of it. We booked a room in the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, a festival sponsor, and received a discounted room rate. We paid $100.00 a head for tickets to the Gala Dinner event, a tribute to Tony Curtis for a lifetime achievement award. Shirley Jones and Robert Goulet were both scheduled to be there. Past Gala’s included Cloris Leachman and Martin Landeau. This was to be big. Then the worst happened. Days before the event, Tony Curtis had been hospitalized and had to cancel his appearance. This was a tremendous blow to the festival. This resulted in a cancellation of the whole Gala event. No Tony, no Shirley, and no Bob. This was not the only film festival to suffer the fate of last minute changes this year. The Malibu International Film Festival lost the lease of their theater and had to move the whole festival to Santa Monica. The Mill Valley Film Festival literally had the roof come down on their festival and had to move it to San Raphael.

We decided to make the most of it. After all, we were “In”(even if Tony was “Out”) and we were going to enjoy ourselves in these beautiful surroundings. We arrived at the base camp known as Rios-Lovell Estate Winery and received our film maker packet. Included in this packet, among other things were two name tags, each on the end of colorful royal blue ropes. In big bold letters, our names were displayed along with the word FILM MAKER, the Queen of Spades. We promptly placed them around our necks and didn’t take them off until we had arrived home the next day in Half Moon Bay, some fifty miles away. These tags would prove to be as much fun as any other aspect of the festival.

After sampling a few glasses of local wine(very good wine, too), we ventured off to a few wineries to take in a seminar, one of the many offered over the course of the weekend. We looked at our schedule supplied with every film maker packet and realized we had an hour to check into the hotel and get back for the wine tasting social. We didn’t want to miss that one as that’s where we hoped to meet studio big shots.

We arrived at the hotel reception desk and found numerous signs, literature, and movie posters promoting the films and festival itself. This prompted me to wave my name plate at the girl and request Tony Curtis’s room(since he wouldn’t be using it) at the same rate as my film maker rate($69.00). All in fun, the two girls giggled and said they would see what they could do. We dragged our suitcases down the hallway, found our room and threw open the door. Wow! There was a six foot Jacuzzi next to the bed in addition to the regular tub in the bathroom. That name plaque really works. We changed clothes and raced back to the winery for the social. There we tasted various wines and met other film makers, festival organizers, actors, directors, and others. I even overheard a fellow talking about his current project with a budget of $75,000,000.00. I slithered back to our table to talk to my wife about my current project with a budget of $75.00. I looked around and realized that a number of people were talking on their cell phones. Not to be out done, I quickly whipped out my cell phone and called one of my best friends in Palm Springs and told him I was calling from a film festival surrounded by big shots in the movie business. I’m sure he was impressed. It was announced that there was to be a party at the Goal line Productions sound studio nearby at eight o’clock.

This didn’t give us much time to find a restaurant for dinner. We ended up at a large shopping center with plenty of restaurants to choose from. The problem we faced was plenty of lines outside the restaurants. We selected the Black Angus as it had no line outside. Much to our surprise, the line was inside! We inquired as to the wait time and were told two hours. In a move of desperation, I flipped out my name plaque and declared I was a FILM MAKER!!!!! All of the hostess’s once again giggled. I pleaded with the host and hostess’s for a table. They were sympathetic but unwilling to break the rules. Then I asked the host if he knew of a fine dining restaurant that might have a wee bit smaller line. He suggested one place(he told me he knew the owner) and told us that he would call and make reservations. He did just that and indicated that they were waiting for us with a table. Once again, those name tags come through.

Goal line Productions is a company owned by John Madden(the commentator/former football coach) and his son, Joe. They produce commercials and various other projects John is involved in. They are also one of the sponsors of the festival. There was wine, food, and entertainment. Pretty flashy. After a couple hours of rubbing elbows, we decided to head back to the hotel so we could get a good nights sleep for our “World Premiere” the next morning.

Our film was to be shown at a winery called “Murietta’s Well”. All of the wineries have these dark, cool( freezing really)wine tasting rooms that are perfect for showing films. I had read stories and accounts of film attendance being low(some only a few viewers)and I was prepared for the worse. However, upon our arrival, there was quite a gathering outside the tasting room. Since it was only 10:00 AM, I knew they weren’t here for the wine. I handed out fliers on our film and soon became a nervous wreck! I counted fifty people in attendance. We were the third film to be shown.

It is one thing to be on the stage in a live production and quite another to be in a film that you not only star in but wrote and directed as well, sitting amongst the audience in the seats. Would they like our film? Would they just sit there and scratch their heads? We both sat low in our seats. The tension would mount. The first film(all were on DVD) would not cue up. They spent ten full minutes playing with it and finally gave up. Someone went out to find another DVD of the film. That made the second film the first film. It would not cue up either. I jumped up to help. I asked for the remote and was told there were no batteries in it. I kept my cool, for once. A nice man brought in two batteries and we were off to the races.

The first film shown was about a young couple, engaged after only twelve months, and she tests positive for HIV. There was even a gratuitous nude scene(totally unnecessary) and that set the mood for the films to follow. The following movie was about a teenager that lost his father during WWII. Another film was about a sister that kills her brother in a car accident after a drinking binge. This crowd was ready for laughs but could we deliver? There was a brief Q & A session with the film makers in attendance after each screening. We were up next.

Our posture got lower and lower. We were both nervous as hell. The movie started. We were sick to our stomachs. Why did we subject ourselves to this torture? Then the first laugh came. I almost jumped out of my seat in horror! I had made a version of the 21 minute film with a laugh track. I jokingly labeled it “Network Executive Version” and had placed laughs after all the appropriate laugh lines and added some bonus laughs where they shouldn’t be, just like real television. In that instant, I god, I’ve given them the DVD with the laugh tracks! I soon realized I had not made the mistake and that it was actual laughing. In fact, they laughed all the way through it. Shely and I looked at each other and we both began to rise in our chairs. Here was a room of fifty complete strangers laughing over and over again at our film. We have been VALIDATED!!!!!

After the film, they all applauded and the moderator asked it anyone from the film was in attendance? I stood up and announced the entire cast and crew were in attendance. We both made our way to the front of the room and I immediately pulled out my camera and took a picture of the audience still laughing. Truly a memorable moment. Q & A was a treat. One gentlemen asked why our music score had not been nominated for an award. Another director said it was great to watch a movie that said so much with so little dialogue. Why did we do this? Where did the idea come from? How did we do this? It was great. When we returned to our seats, the older man sitting in front of me turned around and asked if I was selling DVD’s of the film? I told him no but I gave him the backup copy of the film. It made me feel good. Another lady told us that we were both so photogenic. And the comments kept flowing.

We decided we had won. We left the festival soon after the showing feeling that this was just the beginning of something new. How often does that feeling come along? We both proudly wore our name plaques all of the way home and talked endlessly about our adventure and the possibilities that future holds for us.

Jim Manning
Film Maker & HMB Resident

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