Sun Valley Film Festival: There and Back Again, Part 5

Sunday came too soon and we were already saddened by the closing of Sun Valley Film Festival. But with an extra jump in our step and loads of inspiration, we were ready to conclude this awesome weekend with some short films, ice cream, and an awards ceremony.

I don’t quite recall in what order the ice cream eating happened, but it happened, and it was damn good. We were unable to catch the first Short Film program as that was showing just before our music video showed the day prior, but we were able to attend the second Short Film program. I always love watching short films. One, because those are mostly what we make, and two you can really get an idea of what other films people are making. Short Film programs allow you to experience a number of films from different genres and different areas of not just the US, but the entire world. We were given the chance to see some GREAT shorts and came away very pleased with what else this wonderful independent world of film makers has to offer.

Concluding the short film program, was a long Q&A in which the audience got to ask the different filmmakers questions about their projects and process. It was definitely a wonderful addition to the program.

From there, we headed back to our condo as we had to say goodbye to half of our party. Some people had to work the next day, so a few of us were left behind to attend the closing ceremonies.

Sun Valley Film Festival was very accommodating to their film makers and really made us all feel like we were a part of something grand. They had free wine and beer at the closing ceremony and gave off a very welcoming vibe. The welcoming vibe was there all along, but to feel it contained in a single building at the end of the festival was a great experience. Jodie Foster handed out the “Best in Fest” award and also received a Key to the City of Sun Valley, presented by the Mayor. She said something that really stuck with everyone (I am paraphrasing): Remember this festival the way it is now.

This year was only the second year for the Sun Valley Film Festival and already they had doubled their numbers in terms of attendance, and I believe in terms of film submissions. Jodie Foster, in her words, made us recognize that that weekend of film was akin to a young Sundance. While I have never attended Sundance, especially in its younger years, I might have to agree with her. It was intimate, inspiring, and everything I could have asked for. A huge thank you to the people who organized and executed the entire weekend. We will most definitely be returning, with or without a film in hand, that’s how wonderful this film festival was.

Until next time, Peace Out Film Lovers,

Stephanie Michelle Lokelani

Sun Valley Film Festival: There and Back Again, Part 4

Cast and Crew of "When Frida Became" at the Sun Valley Film Festival, 2013.

Cast and Crew of “When Frida Became” at the Sun Valley Film Festival, 2013.

On Saturday morning, we decided to “stay in,” and make each other breakfast. We woke up a bit later than the day before, started the coffee pot, and got to cooking. I have to say, I thoroughly love cooking breakfast with, and for, my friends. There was much laughter, great breakfast smells, and lots of talking. Not to mention a killer breakfast. We shall have to do it again some time.

The reason we chose to spend the morning cooking for each other, was because at exactly 2:45pm, our music video, “When Frida Became,” would be showing to an audience at Sun Valley Film Festival. Can I get an AAAAHHHHH!!!!! Nerves were high that morning along with excitement. Our faces couldn’t hide our joy and apprehensiveness at having a film of ours show at a film festival. I mean, this is one of the many reasons why we do these film projects: so people can see it. And one of the best places to show your film projects is at a film festival. To other people. Who are also there to appreciate and watch film. So, to say we were nervous, might be an understatement. At least for myself, I guess I can’t speak for anyone else.

After breakfast, and after we couldn’t stand being in that little condo staring at each other any longer, we left for town and to drink. We needed to loosen up somehow. So, we hit a local pizza joint for drinks. Then the time came to head to the theatre and prepare ourselves for our showing.

It was a small intimate theatre that could seat about 30 people. We took up two-and-a-half rows. Hey, when we’re asked to represent, we REPRESENT! The other music videos shown during this time came from all over the United States and showcased some very talented musicians and film makers. We were honored to be chosen and shown among these other great works of art.

As soon as the lights went down and the promo video for Sun Valley Film Festival began, a couple of tears slid down my face. This was a dream come true and we were living proof that if you work hard enough, you can see your projects come to life on the big screen. I am so very proud of the work that everyone put into this project. Watching “When Frida Became” at the 2013 Sun Valley Film Festival was an experience that I wouldn’t have missed.

After the showing there was a Q&A for one of the projects shown, and that was that. Everyone clapped, the lights came up, and we exited the theatre in silent excitement. As soon as we were outside in the open air, we gave each other hugs and congratulations. We’d made it through watching our film at a film festival, and we all survived.

Of course, more drinking was in order, so we headed to a local bar to share a couple pitchers of beer and bask in the glory of being movie stars. Unfortunately, no one asked for our autographs, but, who’s keeping track?

The one movie we chose to watch that Saturday was “Starlet,” by a young director named Sean Baker. This feature film, starring Dree Hemingway is making it’s rounds, and I can honestly say that I know why. “Starlet,” is an incredible film about a unique friendship between a 21-year-old woman and an elderly stranger. Trust me when I say, you must see this movie. It is being talked about by many and the director has made it to a list of top up-and-coming directors. That’s saying something. It really is a work of art and the acting helps pull you into the story. We all have odd friendships, and this particular film really allows you to examine your own friendships and what those people mean to you.

After that amazing film, we headed to the main event to see Built to Spill and Finn Riggins in concert. Imagine standing in a bar in Sun Valley, listening to awesome local music, and bumping into famous people who are at the same bar listening to the same bands! Yeah, that was our Saturday night.

Peace Out Film Lovers,

Stephanie Michelle Lokelani

Sun Valley Film Festival: There and Back Again, Part 3

Cast and Crew of "When Frida Became" with Stephen Gaghan at Sun Valley Film Festival

Cast and Crew of “When Frida Became” with Stephen Gaghan at Sun Valley Film Festival

Friday morning came early and bright. We had a long day ahead of us and we were already dragging ass. But it was a good drag, because we were living the life of filmmakers on a mission to learn, absorb, and participate. First on the docket was a Coffee Talk with Stephen Gaghan, Academy Award winning writer of “Traffic” (2000) and “Syriana” (2005). He blew us away with his knowledge and expertise on the Hollywood film industry. He told us of his adventures while writing both “Traffic” and “Syriana” and left us wanting to know more. All I could think was, “I want that life,” and he kept our attention for over an hour. If anyone ever gets the chance to listen to Stephen Gaghan talk about his career, we highly, highly recommend it.

Our first movie of the day was an independent film called “This Time Tomorrow,” shot in Philadelphia and New York, about a young man who calls up his ex-girlfriend the day before the last day of the world, December 21, 2012. We’ve all had those thoughts about what we might do before the end of the world, and this filmmaking team presented us with their interpretation of what a single person might do before his impending death.

From there, we watched “Starring Adam West,” about the life of our beloved Batman. This film wowed us and even made us shout for joy at the end. I won’t give any of it away, but let’s just say that I have a new found respect for Adam West and he has another fan to add to his long list of fans. What an incredible man, and I am so privileged to have been able to see this movie before it hits the larger theatres. If you ever get the chance to watch “Starring Adam West,” our entire Frida team gives it a huge TWO THUMBS UP.

Somewhere in between all of these films, the group of us sat down for food and drinks and to enjoy each other’s company. But we do that anyway… when we’re not working on other projects. ;)

The final film we watched on Friday, was “Craters of the Moon,” shot entirely at The Craters of the Moon national park in Idaho. It was an intense film about a couple who got stranded in the middle of a snow storm and couldn’t get out. What each of these people did to “survive” was what made this story an interesting ride through the human psyche.

Our asses were sore and our legs stiff from watching so many movies in a single day, but we had no complaints. We still had more films to watch. But for this group of misfits, we headed back to our little condo to party, talk, and discuss the films we were lucky to have seen.

Peace Out Film Lovers,

Stephanie Michelle Lokelani

Sun Valley Film Festival: There and Back Again, Part 2

We attended the Sun Valley Film Festival about two months ago, but it still feels like yesterday. Our party, which included seven of us, left Boise at 7:30am on Thursday, March 14th and arrived in Sun Valley at about 10am. Our first stop was Head Quarters to pick up our festival passes and schedules. As soon as we had our badges in hand, we were whisked away to a private corner in the VIP lounge for an interview with Michael Guillen. I’d say we started the weekend off the right way. It was wonderful chatting with him about our music video, When Frida Became, and going into detail about how the project was born, created, and executed. Everyone on our team got “face time,” and had the opportunity to indulge and tell their side of the story. This interview took us all by surprise and made us feel welcome and accepted at our first ever film festival.

When I talk about us, I’m talking about Gene and I; the man behind the music, Jared Hallock of Project 213;Ben Hamill, our animator; and Erin Westfall, our lead actress/dancer. We also had in tow, Katie Preston the directing genius behind our other music video Everybody Masturbate, and Erin’s husband, Alfonso. And us all stuck together the entire weekend. We shared a condo in Elkhorn Village, which was about a 10-15 minute drive from the heart of the Sun Valley Film Festival. We shared food, booze, laughter, and deep conversations. Friendships were strengthened and understood to a degree that none of us thought possible. This weekend of film and friendship surpassed our wildest imaginations.

After our interview with Michael, we grabbed lunch at a local coffee shop that also served mimosas (we had to start this weekend off the right way), then headed to the condo to unpack our overly stuffed vehicles and pick our rooms. Gene and I shared the living room with Ben, in front of the fireplace and next to the kitchen – it was perfect.

After we unpacked, we rushed to the screenwriter’s workshop with Will McCormack, writer and actor in Celeste & Jesse Forever. He had a table read of a television pilot that he has written with local actors, then opened the workshop up to questions about writing for film and television. He was real and shared the nitty-gritty of filmmaking with us all. He didn’t sugar coat it, and still left us all wanting to pursue this finicky career. This was our first brush with a celebrity at the Sun Valley Film Festival and we were already in love with the entire event. There was a whiskey reception in which some of us had to choke down whiskey, forgetting that we don’t like the flavor without a mixer, and some of us had more than one shot enjoying the fire as it dribbled down our throat.

From there, we headed to Sun Valley Lodge to await the first movie showing, Running From Crazy, a documentary starring Mariel Hemingway, about her personal journey regarding her family history of suicide. This movie made us cry buckets of tears as we watched and sympathized with Mariel, understanding the effects that suicide can have on family members and friends who have lost a loved one. After the film, Mariel, along with director Barbara Kopple, opened for Q&A, answering questions about Mariel’s life and the process of creating this moving documentary.

After the film, and a brief respite at the condo, we journeyed back to town for the opening night party at a bar called Casino. It was a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place, packed from door, to wall, to pool table. We all ordered a drink and stood hellishly close to each other trying not to bump passers-by or get hit by a pool cue. It felt like a high school party, where everyone thought they recognized everyone, but everyone just stayed in their tight-knit group. The act of networking hadn’t quite made its way into anyone’s system. Once we were decently drunk, we decided it was time to finish the party at our condo. So, we stumbled into the night (with the exception of myself, of course, the ever faithful DD) to find some grub and head to our weekend-home. Our first night as film festival attendees was a beautiful success.

Peace out Film Lovers,

Stephanie Michelle Lokelani