Five Days of Film, Food and Wine in Napa Valley

Celebrating its fifth year, the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) (www.napavalleyfilmfest.org) is the ultimate celebration of film, food, and wine. This year the festival, which runs November 11th to 15th, features more than 125 new independent films, studio sneak peeks of awards season contenders, an array of spectacular special events, VIP winemaker dinners and receptions, culinary demonstrations, wine tasting, industry panel discussions and more. All of the festivities take place in the charming towns of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga this fall, the valley’s most beautiful time of the year.

The parties may be a big draw for many, but the heart and the soul of the film festival revolves around the films and filmmakers that come to Napa to meet with locals and visitors that attend this special festival. “It’s so enlightening and inspiring to witness the conversations between the filmmakers and our appreciative audiences,” says NVFF Co-Founder and Director Brenda Lhormer, who heads up the year-round non-profit organization the festival with husband Marc. “About 98 percent of the films will be represented by a filmmaker or a star – often both.” To that end, approximately 400 filmmakers and celebrities will appear at the festival, giving attendees plenty of opportunity to interact at screenings and other events.

Audiences consistently remark about the quality of the film program line up, as well as the unique theatre and event venues. New this year is the NVFF Riverfront Promenade along the Napa River (off Main and 3rd streets). This venue will exhibit the Culinary Demonstration Stage, the Stella Artois Beer Garden, Wine Pavilion, interactive sponsor exhibits; and more surprises yet to be announced. Other venues include: the Uptown Theatre, City Winery, Napa River Inn, Napa Library, and the Napa Valley College in Napa; the Lincoln Theatre and Napa Valley Museum in Yountville; Cameo Cinema, Native Sons, Farmstead at Longmeadow Ranch, and Cairdean Winery in St. Helena; and the Mount View Hotel and the Gliderport at Indian Springs in Calistoga.

And there is the wine! Wine tasting precedes most of the film screenings in the majority of the theatre venues, and there are wine tasting opportunities for passholders in each town in the mid afternoons Friday through Sunday.

“We’re really excited to announce that there will be several star-studded red carpet screenings this year,” added Ms. Lhormer. “Opening Night will shine bright with our world premiere of Into The Bottle – the follow-up to Jason Wise’s fascinating and entertaining 2012 documentary Somm. And we expect a packed house for our screening of Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara on our Gala Night November 12! Last year, Kevin Costner, Mike Myers, Shailene Woodley, Michelle Monaghan, Matthew Lillard, Carla Gugino, and Bill Paxton were just a few of the celebrities to walk the red carpets. This year, we anticipate even more star sightings in our gorgeous valley. The filmmakers and celebrities love Napa Valley and our warm communities.”

Other highlights include the Festival Gala on November 12; the Celebrity Tribute Program in Yountville on November 13, hosted by Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush; a series of VIP winemaker/filmmaker dinners on November 14; and Closing Night Red Carpet screening, Awards Ceremonies and Wrap party on Sunday November 15.

Past attendees will admit that there is so much to do at the festival that careful planning is in order. With so many films to choose from, passholder and ticket buyers are encouraged to block out as many of the 5 days as possible and get ready to immerse in the rich NVFF experience. Attendees can buy Day Passes, Festival Passes, Pass Plus (allows access to the parties), or VIP Patron Circle Passes. Individual rush tickets are sold at the theatre doors if there are seats still available once passholders are allowed entrance.

“We had more than 1,000 submissions this year, and our small Program team viewed and vetted each one,” explains Ms. Lhormer. “We focused on the films that were new and fresh, as well as thought-provoking and entertaining, because that’s what our audience wants to see. We also want to make sure that the filmmakers can attend, because the dialogue between our audiences and our filmmakers is such a key component for us.”

After five years, the Lhormers have learned that it’s simply not possible to run such a large, yet intimate and personal, event without the help of major sponsors, as well as hundreds of generous partners from Napa Valley. “The sponsors and partners who have been with us since the beginning, (and have) embraced our vision and saw the possibilities from the get go.” In addressing the vision, Ms. Lhormer says, “We’ve taken care to build a festival that engages the senses on all levels, and creates community. And it’s important to note that the NVFF is accessible to everyone. Our objective is to stay as close to our original goals as possible, forever.”

For Passes, Gala or Tribute Program tickets, and more information about the Napa Valley Film Festival, please visit www.napavalleyfilmfest.org. Or call 707-226-7500. A limited number of VIP Patron Circle Memberships are also still available. NVL