Disclosure: I was provided a media pass for this year’s film festival coverage.
If there was ever a time to plan a trip to Wine Country, November is your month. Not only for the convenience and friendliness of all the local wineries in the area, but combine it with the Napa Valley Film Festival, and you’re guaranteed a great vacation.
Here’s my list of why taking the time to visit the Napa Valley Film Festival needs to be on your list:
1) Spread Out
Have you ever been to a place and everything’s in one area? It gets crowded, lines are long, and lets be honest, it’s a genuine pain in the ass. WELL. Reason number one why the Napa Valley Film Festival is so great is that it’s truly spread out. The festival takes place across 4 villages: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
You want a more quiet day, head north on highway 29 and put yourself in St. Helena or Calistoga. Smaller lines, unique venue spaces, and still the same great selection of movies to choose from.
2) The Venues
With over 12 Venues participating in this year’s film festival, part of the fun while attending is visiting each one to see how the spaces have been transformed.
From taking in a screening at the beautiful Napa Opera House to seeing how an old Hanger has been transformed into a screening facility in Calistoga to the beautiful Barrel Room, Napa has some beautiful spaces and venues for the film screenings.
3) The Lifestyle Pavilion
New to the festival this year was the Lifestyle Pavilion, host of this year’s Festival Gala. The pavilion, which was opened to the public, included different lounges throughout from the Cadillac lounge to the Wine Pavilion to the Dacor Kitchen Culinary Stage to Stella Artois Lounge to the Sony Lounge.
There were also elevated experiences for Passholders, Pass Plus, and Patron Circle members of the festival. Try out the new sony gear, sit back and enjoy a kitchen demo at the Culinary stage and try out a variety of Wine during the wine pavilion hours Friday through Sunday. And of course, anytime you wanted a Stella, grab a glass and enjoy the rest of the afternoon or evening. There were even opportunities to sit in the newest Cadillac’s, all sponsors of the festival this year.
4) The Towns
But part of the charm of this festival is taking in the towns that are participating. Stopping into the Calistoga Depot to walk through the various shops, or getting a bite to eat at the amazing eateries around Downtown Napa or stopping into a nearby art gallery. The towns truly add an ambiance to the festival. There were various merchants that also gave out discounts to Napa Valley Film Festival passholders.
5) The Q&A’s
The majority of screenings had a live Q&A after the screening where Directors, Producers, Writers, Actors or Actresses would join the stage and answer live Q&A’s from the audience. The best part of these were not knowing who would appear apart of this.
Memorable moments this year included:
*Richard Dwyer and Roy Blakee after the screening of “The Fabulous Ice Age.”
*Michelle Forbes appeared as an actress in the film “Dear Sidewalk,” and was around after to answer questions along with Director Jake Oelman
*After Saving Mr. Banks: Director John Lee Hancock, Produce Alison Owen and Actor Colin Farrell.
*Abigal Breslin appeared for the Q&A after Wednesday nights screening of August: Osage County
*Dave Grohl showing up after the showing of “Who Shot Rock and Roll” on Sunday afternoon.
And many many more live action Q&A sessions. This was truly where you learned about the film, and not only that, truly saw the collaboration happening during the films… And who knows, you could very well be sitting next to someone.
6) Special Dinners
For members of the Patron Circle and select VIP Guests, throughout the festival, there were one of the kind dinner experiences offered by various chefs and wineries throughout Napa Valley. Truly a remarkable experience.
7) The Wines
Napa Green Wineries
Lets be honest here. A film festival in Napa Valley without wine? That’s unheard of. Throughout the weekend Friday through Sunday from 2:30 to 5pm each day there were wine pavilions in each village representing different wines throughout Napa Valley. Each wine pavilion had a different theme:
*Regional and Boutique Wineries of Napa*
*Women of the Vine*
*Yountville and Oakville Regional and Boutique Wineries*
*Stags Leap District Winegrowers*
*St. Helena Appellation*
*NG: Next Generation*
*Spring Mountain Appellation*
*Napa Green Wineries*
*Regional and Boutique Wineries of Calistoga*
Offering FREE tastings to passholder members. There were also an opportunity to participate in the tastings for a 20 dollar fee each day, if you were interested.
8) The Films
However, none of this couldn’t be possible without the films. The Napa Valley takes great pride in the films they choose each year of the festival. With over 750 submissions this year, they narrowed it down to over 100 films. From Narrative Features to Documentary Features to Narrative and Documentary Shorts to Studio Sneak peeks like: Philomena, August: Osage County, Saving Mr. Banks and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
There was a film for every die hard film fanatic. You could easily just spend a day at the festival, or all 5 days seeing all different films. The audience members would then vote for their favorites after with a ballot given to them. The votes would be added up and awards would be given out Sunday evening.
But, like I said earlier, Collaboration was the one word, for me, that truly described the Napa Valley Film Festival. From the towns to the wineries to the sponsors to the restaurants and shops in the neighborhoods. Collaboration with the filmmakers and their teams on creating the films to Collaboration on the successful completion of this festival.
In year’s to come, the Napa Valley Film Festival will be one of the best. With only its 3rd year completed, this is a festival that will be staying around for awhile.
More about the Wines and the Films within the next few weeks…
And tickets are ALREADY on sale for next year’s film festival at discounted prices. Check it out here.