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Napa Valley Film Festival

The 10th Napa Valley Film Festival takes place November 10-14, 2021 in the four walk-able villagesof Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Each year the festival features 125 new independent films, 300+ filmmakers and film industry guests, 150 wineries, 30 chefs, and an array of culinary demonstrations, wine tasting pavilions, and special events.

The Napa Valley Film Festival is produced by Cinema Napa Valley, a registered 501c3 non-profit organization headquartered in Napa, California. The festival's co-creators (and Cinema Napa Valley Founders) are Brenda and Marc Lhormer, producers and distributors of the feature film BOTTLE SHOCK, about the historic upset victory by Napa Valley wines over the French at the infamous 1976 wine-tasting competition in Paris. BOTTLE SHOCK premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival before going on to international theatrical distribution. The husband-and-wife team also ran the successful Sonoma Valley Film Festival from 2001 through 2008. In addition to producing the annual Napa Valley Film Festival, Cinema Napa Valley presents special film programs throughout the year and provides support to student filmmaking programs in Napa Valley schools. To learn more, visit


Interview with Spencer K. Jones, Chelsea Alden and David Beatty for 'The Human Project' (2017) @ NVFF

Interview with Spencer K. Jones, Chelsea Alden and David Beatty for 'The Human Project' (2017) @ NVFF Interview with Spencer K. Jones, Chelsea Alden and David Beatty for 'The Human Project' (2017) @ NVFF

Interview with Spencer K. Jones, Chelsea Alden and David Beatty for 'The Human Project' (2017) @ NVFF

The Human Project (2017) is a heartfelt short about siblings dealing with the death of their father in conflicting ways. Reminiscent of Lars Von Trier's Melancholia (2011), the story is told with a poetic, albeit melancholy, depth that reels the viewer in with each intense moment, enlightening yet leaving one in suspense. Written by David Beatty, directed and edited by Spencer K. Jones and starring Chelsea Alden, their film screened at the 8th annual Napa Valley Film Festival. 

I interviewed Spencer, Chelsea and David about their film. Here is what they had to say:


Is the film inspired by real events?

SPENCER: A lot of it was inspired by the writer, David Beatty's own life. This isn't something that directly happened but just was inspired by the relationships within his family.

DAVID: Yes. The script captures the memory of my parents and my relationship with my sisters. In addition, all the small towns in Colorado we mention in the film are real. They are the names and places where my parents grew up. Also, when my father died, I noticed how different the grieving process was for everyone in my family. We reacted in very particular, sometimes conflicting, ways. My sisters and I argued our sadness in ugly, childish fights instead of simply giving each other a hug. We were also caring for our mother whose health was rapidly fading and just two years after our dad died, she also passed away. Yes, these were dark times and it nearly broke our family. However, the silver lining of this terrible beautiful experience was that it brought us all closer together.


Was it difficult getting your first film off the ground?

SPENCER: It actually wasn't too bad, we did a Kickstarter to raise the funds, which was a lot of work and stressful, but after that, it was more or less smooth sailing to get it going.

CHELSEA: Once all the pieces were together, it wasn’t difficult. But from the time the script was originally written to the point of actually shooting it, it was probably a good 2 years I think. Finding the right team of people to make a film is so key, but if you find them it makes the whole process so much easier.


How did you two meet and how long did it take to make the film?

SPENCER: Chelsea and I met through mutual friends ages ago, this was our first time working together. Her and David had worked on The Human Project as a play first, before we adapted it to a short film. Chelsea came to me looking for a director, and I told her I was interested and had some ideas on how to adapt it. Once we had the funds in place it didn't take too long, we shot the film in two days in big bear. Then the post-production took about two to three months.

CHELSEA: Yeah, Spencer and I have crossed paths many times over the years and this was our first time collaborating. David and I met in acting class actually, and part of the whole reason the script even came to be at all was simply because we wanted to work on material together! He wrote it for us to perform on stage, and audiences really seemed to enjoy it. I asked if I could produce it into a film, and David gave me the go ahead. That’s when I brought Spencer on, and you know the rest!


Do you think you will move on to direct features? If so, what is the feature you hope to make?

SPENCER: I definitely want to move on to features, I've got a couple scripts I'm looking at, I also just directed a thriller/horror short film and doing a feature in that space sounds really fun to me.

CHELSEA: I know this question is directed at Spencer, but I will say he was a phenomenal director and I HOPE he will continue on to features! I’d love to try my hand at it too… one day.


Do you think people are more isolated and less connected today, despite all the technology we have connecting us?

SPENCER: We do seem to be connected at distances but isolated in closer proximities.  However, I definitely think across the world, cultures and people are more connected than ever. Maybe I'm just more of a glass-half-full kind of person though!

CHELSEA: I think it’s both. I love that at the push of a button I can be Facetime-ing with my nieces, miles away. I can communicate with friends across the globe, like they’re sitting right next to me. It’s amazing what technology has done in that regard. But I definitely think it’s driving society into a strange social disconnect.

DAVID: Yes. Life is better led when it is lived rather than viewed. We are, unquestionably, more connected, however, I think that comes at the price of being isolated. These two things are sort of working together. It’s a symbiotic relationship. People who seek a connection to the rest of the world are doing it in a remote, isolated way. I think that is changing as we understand it better, but the tools and technology are engineered to be alone while you use them. So it’s currently a vicious circle of having to be alone in order to connect.


Do either of you have any anecdotes from filming or advice you'd like to share?

SPENCER: Filming went pretty smoothly actually, nothing too crazy! 

CHELSEA: Every project has it’s moments! It was a great shoot, overall. The very first thing we shot, of the whole film was the exterior golden hour scenes with me by the tent… racing against the sun to get the shots we needed, as the very first thing we did added a fun amount of stress to shooting. Hahahha

DAVID: Work with people you like. Find your artistic soul mates. Find your support group. Work with people who you think are incredibly talented and better than you. Challenge yourself. If you are not being truthful, start over. Make it fun while you make it. Make the movie you want to see. 


Do you think it's necessary to wear multiple hats in the film industry?

SPENCER: I don't know if it's necessary, but I'm a firm believer that it helps tremendously. The more you know about other hats the more it informs what you are doing with whatever hat you may be wearing. I come from a photography background and editing background. When Directing, knowing those things definitely helped inform what I wanted to do, what I shot, how I shot it etc. As an Actor, if you know cinematography, the better you can find your light, or if you know editing you know how your dialogue or action will cut together and that can inform your performance. It's like a web of knowledge that just builds on each other.

CHELSEA: I think it’s one of the smartest things you can do. The more you know, right?


You recently attended NVFF. How was that experience?

SPENCER: It was absolutely amazing, the people, the food, the wine, the parties, I almost want to make another film just so I can go back!

CHELSEA: An ABSOLUTE blast. I will certainly be going back, they know how to throw a party in Napa.

DAVID: Loved it! NVFF was a great experience. They truly know how to throw a great party and were exceptionally kind and welcoming to all the filmmakers. Besides.. wine, food and film.. that’s a delicious combination.


How did audiences react to the film?

SPENCER: Pretty well I think, It's always so humbling having someone come up to you afterward and say how much they loved it, or how much it touched them. I had one lady say she was going to go call her brother that she hasn't talked to in ages, I thought that was really cool; being apart of something that inspired her to get back in touch with her family.

CHELSEA: People seemed to really like it! I’ve gotten great feedback, and more often than not people have told me that they relate to it personally. That’s really all I can ask for.

DAVID:  A woman came up to me after and said “good to see somebody else’s family fighting for a change.” She explained how her mother died just about a year ago and her family was still dealing in legal battles. As we talked it became apparent how much of a relief it was to know that everybody shares these family dynamics. Nobody’s family is crazy because everybody’s family is crazy. The film relates to family and siblings who have to work together to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.


Can you tell us about your next project?

SPENCER: I Co-Directed a short film called A Thing of Dreams which was just at Fantastic Fest and then Nightmares Film Festival. We're working on the feature version of that right now, so we'll see how that goes! Other than that, I edited a film called "Sargasso" which stars Jeremy Sumpter and Tom Berenger that should be coming out soon.

CHELSEA: I’m currently working on another short film that we’ll be shooting in Dec. I’ll be acting and producing again. It’s a Victorian era period piece, which I’m so excited about because it’s completely different! Currently you can find me recurring in season 2 of the Netflix drama, 13 Reasons Why and in the 2x Emmy Nominated HBO feature film The Tale, opposite Laura Dern! For something completely different, I’ll be Guest Starring on the TruTV comedy series I’m Sorry in Jan. 2019. 

DAVID: I write, create and act in a show called The Wasteland. An anthology series set in a future dystopian world where government and technology have taken over our lives. We release season 2 in December.


Interview by Vanessa McMahon



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