After a little break to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and remind myself of all the amazing things I am grateful for, I am back to tell you about the 5th and final day of the Napa Valley Film Festival! I had been excitedly waiting all week for Sunday to come. I had no red carpets to cover and was finally going to see the two movies that were on the top of my list!
Honeyglue, a gorgeously written and acted movie about love, self-discovery and what it means to truly live. The fact that the team that brought this story to the screen are animal loving vegetarians was a very happy coincidence. CLICK HERE to see the trailer! And Moments of Clarity a sweet, unique comedy of friendship and accepting others, quirks and all. CLICK HERE to watch the trailer. I have to admit, I was especially excited when I learned that two of the cast members in the film, Eric Roberts and Lyndsy Fonseca, are both vegan, animal rights advocates. All the (movie)stars aligned that day and both films happened to be playing upvalley in Calistoga with just enough time in between screenings for a quick lunch. Perfect!
Honeyglue was produced by Zombot Pictures, a truly independent film production company, founded by writer/director James Bird, actress/producer/author Adriana Mather and composer/producer Anya Remizova. The movie included an amazing cast led by Adriana Mather and Zach Villa. Christopher Heyerdahl, who I know best for playing the vengeful and dangerous character “the Swede” from Hell On Wheels, and BooBoo Stewart, known best for playing a werewolf on The Twilight Saga, (having no kids, I had to google to find that out!) both also gave incredible performances. And Amanda Plummer, who plays Jordan’s Mom, adds her unique style to the film. The story brings together two people from completely different backgrounds – Morgan is a young woman raised in a safe, conservative home and surrounded by a loving family while Jordan was raised in poverty by a single Mom that didn’t understand her son and his need to dress in women’s clothing. After Morgan is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she and Jordan fall in love and spend the last weeks of her life experiencing everything they can…together.
James Bird’s idea for the story about Morgan’s illness came from his loss of a friend to cancer. While the idea for the love story came from the beautiful relationship between a bee and a dragonfly. While James was working on the screenplay, he noticed a bee that kept ending up in his pool. Each time he would see the bee, he also noticed a dragonfly who would swoop down into the pool. As if the dragonfly was trying to remove enough water to save the bee. And in James’ Native American tribe the dragonfly represents the only insect that can fly in between life and death. The bee and dragonfly play an important role in this film along with a gorgeous combination of “duals” – happy/sad, gay/straight, boy/girl, liberal/conservative, digital/film, dragonfly/honeybee…
This tight-knit group that is Zombot Pictures has produced two other films – Chasing Shakespeare starring Danny Glover and Eat Spirit Eat which is also James’ directorial debut. They are a fiercely independent company that write, produce and star in movies that are, as James puts it, “as diverse as the world is”. James passion for writing began with his Mom. They lived in a car while he was growing up and his Mom told him a story every night. It was when he wrote the screenplay for Chasing Shakespeare, that the idea of Zombot Pictures began to take shape. As just the writer, he had no control on how the film was made. He found that they wanted to take this Native American story starring an African American man and remove everything edgy and controversial. Instead of letting his work be “whitewashed”, Zombot Pictures was born and he made the film the way he envisioned it. When Adriana and James first met, she was a vegetarian and they made a wager over a game of dice that if she won, he would never eat meat again. Nine years later and they are still meat free and also recently engaged! In fact, when they filmed Honeyglue they even hired a caterer that provided all organic, mostly vegetarian food for the cast and crew! And how can you not love a couple that are not only vegetarian but also have a pet pig named Sheldon. If you live in Santa Monica, you may even know him. Sheldon is known to like participating in the Santa Monica annual marathon.
Though I didn’t see Honeyglue until the end of the film fest, it was absolutely worth the wait. It is the best movie I have seen in years. After seeing the movie and listening to James and Adriana at the Q&A afterwards, I knew these were two people that I needed to meet. Anyone who can create these beautiful, multi-dimensional characters and then bring them to life on the screen, are the type of people that I want touching my life while I’m on this planet! It was amazing to see these artists do what they do. You too will fall in love with Morgan and Jordan and her entire family! The film will be released in March/April of next year in 10-15 major cities. Be sure to see this beautiful, creative, thought-provoking movie when it comes your way! To stay up-to-date on the film, follow their adventures on Twitter and Facebook.
After a very quick late lunch at Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen in St. Helena, I was back for movie #2. Kristen Wallace (Claire) and Lyndsy Fonseca (Danielle) star in the dark comedy, Moments of Clarity, as two teenage girls – one sheltered and naïve, the other rebellious and in pain, who through a weekend of adventure become friends. Mackenzie Astin, Saxon Trainor and Xander Berkeley round out the cast with quirky and endearing characters. And Eric Roberts starring as washed up porn star Hal Spreadum was brilliant! Though Claire and Danielle’s quest begins as an escape from their protective parents, it ultimately helps them to better understand themselves and the family they were trying to leave behind. The message of the movie in Kristin
Wallace’s words is, “for people to really be their weird, fun, authentic selves, you know?” “We are all individuals.” After the film, they too stayed for an in depth Q&A. Seeing producer/screenwriter/key cast member Kristin Wallace, cast member Lyndsay Fonseca, director Stev Elam, writer Christian Lloyd and producer David Philips together, they reminded me of a big, happy family. I was very fortunate to be able to sit down with Kristin Wallace the next day to discuss with her one on one her vision for her new production company Long Stem Pictures and her first film Moments of Clarity.
Originally from Toronto, Kristin trained in theater before making indie films and a web series about Canadian superheroes. And then one day she decided that it was time to move to L.A. So six years ago, not knowing anyone, she made the move from the east coast to Southern California. She even admits that she “was blindly naïve to how hard it would be”. Unfortunately, what she found was the typical L.A. stereotypes. She wasn’t impressed with the people she was meeting or the acting opportunities she was being offered. Feeling like “a needle in a haystack”, she was seeing a pattern of “surface level, ditzy and slutty roles”, feeling “overly sexualized” In fact, after just two years, she almost left L.A. to head back home. Instead, she started doing some work up in Vancouver which is where she began to write. Once she was able to share her screenplay, she went from wanting to leave L.A. to loving it because she was finally beginning to attract the people she wanted to work with. Feeling empowered by this experience, having control as a producer and “having a say” in the types of roles she plays, her goals with Long Stem Pictures are to do more collaborating, produce, write and develop new ideas all while creating “more diverse roles for females.” Being a female myself, it’s exciting to see this fresh attitude from a filmmaker. While they continue to rack up film festival awards from Best Director and Best Film in Boston to the Audience Award in Catalina, they hope to have the film released to theaters by early 2016. Be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
These were the experiences I had been hoping attending the Napa Valley Film Festival would give me. Bringing these incredibly talented artists together to share their beautifully crafted characters and stories. These are the types of films that will make me a fan of going to the movies again! I want to thank you all for following me through my film festival adventures. I hope you had as good a time as I did. I look forward to doing this again next year and sharing festival #6 with you and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!