Nov. 08--The sky may not be the limit for the Napa Valley Film Festival, but to Marc Lhormer, it's darn close.
Boasting 120 well-scrutinized films, some star power, and -- of course -- wine, the founder, executive and artistic director of the Nov. 13-17 event believes the county-wide screen gem can find its place among the elite.
"There are very established festivals that serve special purposes in the film industry," Lhormer said.
Sundance. Telluride. Cannes. Venice. South by Southwest.
"We're not trying to do what they're doing," Lhormer said. "We are trying to be 'the last stop' in the Fall (festival) line-up. We've found our niche. We can aspire to be the best overall festival experience. That's certainly something we're
When the talk revolves around the top festivals, "I'd certainly love to be in the top five," Lhormer said.
And if a film's already played Sundance or Cannes or South by Southwest, so be it, Lhormer said.
"We're not hung up on being the world premiere of something," he said.
While Cannes banks on the glamorous and the celebrities, Lhormer keeps whatever stars he can snag to a minimum. This year, it's Colin Farrell.
"We're not hanging our hat" on securing big names, Lhormer said. "Though I know that's something a lot of people care about. I want to lead with the quality of the film and the actual people who came up with ideas and worked with scripts or directed. If they have a star in the movie and the star is available and wants to come, great.
The Napa festival does honor director John Lee Hancock, who orchestrated "The Blind Side," a film "everyone on the planet has seen," Lhormer said.
Hancock directs the upcoming "Saving Mr. Banks," featuring Farrell and Tom Hanks that's one of the high-profile Napa Film Fest screenings.
What Lhormer and his co-founder and co-director wife, Brenda, do is gain insight in the public's awareness of the event and feedback that will help the following year.
"We walk around visiting the venues and talk to people in line and at the various events," Lhormer said. "We talk to everyone about their experience. If they say, 'This is the best time we ever had, thank you for creating this event in our community,' that's what we're look for. That's the feedback. Ultimately, what we're after is a sense of building community and weaving people closer together."
In addition to the 120 films, the festival has partnered with Sony to create five film-making 'teams" that have between Tuesday and Thursday to create five minute short films. Basically, 55 hours to use Sony's state-of-the-art equipment for the films that will be screened during the weekend.
As for the scheduled movies, the screening committee sifted through at least
All in a day's work, Lhormer said. Or, more accurately, year's work.
"That's what people who put on film festivals do,"
It's about, "first and foremost," showcasing the best independent films available, Lhormer said.
"And we, primarily, are showing domestic films," he said. "We do not set out to create an international film
With Mill Valley and San Francisco's more-international film fests earlier in the year, "there's no need for another international film festival," Lhormer said. "So we decided to focus strongly on the domestic market."
It's not just screening the films, but honoring those behind-the-scenes "that makes the experience most unique and enjoyable," Lhormer said.
There are some dark films, he noted, "but there are also some very fun films to complement the darker stories."
There are some high-profile screenings, including "Nebraska" on Nov. 12 with Will Forte and Bruce Dern.
"It's really powerful. People will be quite surprised," Lhormer said.
There's also "August: Osage County" with Meryl Streep playing Nov. 13 at the Napa Valley Opera House.
"That's' a film that people want to see. It's upbeat, feel good," Lhormer said.
Other top films include "The Immigrant' with Joaquin Phoenix, "Mandella: Long Walk to Freedom," and "Out of the Furnace," with Woody Harrelson and Christian Bale.
Cramming 120 films into a week isn't as challenging as it appears, Lhormer said.
"We kept it pretty simple. It's a very civilized daily schedule compared to other festivals, and that's by design," he said.
Some festivals lend a feeling of survival of the fittest, Lhormer said.
"They've had experience of maybe sleeping a little bit and getting up and doing it all again. The feeling you've survived another festival," he said. "We don't want people to have that feeling."
Four separate towns -- Napa, Yountville, Calistoga, and St. Helena -- hosts films.
"You go through the process to make it all work out," Lhormer said.
If you go ...
What: The Third Annual Napa Valley Film Festival
Where: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga
When: Nov. 13-17
Cost: Varies, visit napavalley2013.eventbrite.com
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