December 1

Napa Valley Film Festival – 5th And Final Day!

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A quick latte before the films begin!

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!

 

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Final evening at the Cairdean Estate in Calistoga.

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 Moments logo (186x275)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.

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Honeyglue cast at the Q&A!

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.

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Actor Adriana Mather, writer/director James Bird and me!

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.

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Christian Lloyd, Lyndsy Fonseca, Kristin Wallace, Stev Elam and David Philips from Moments of Clarity

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

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Writer Christian Lloyd

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!

November 25

Napa Valley Film Fest – Day 4!

Here we are at day 4 of the Napa Valley Film Festival. As much as I love drinking, dancing, parties, film screenings and talking to filmmakers, I am beginning to realize that being a member of the press is a little bit of work. Okay, nothing like the utility linemen out there that keep our electricity running after earthquakes, blizzards and hurricanes but…Okay, wait…never mind. When I compare it to what these men and women do, itlife on the line logo is not really like work at all. This is probably the largest group of workers that get the least recognition than anyone else out there. I know when I see them up in their big buckets all I ever think of is how much fun it would be to be up in one of those things. Never about the fact that they are out in every kind of inclement weather no matter what time of day or night it is! This is also one of the top 10 most dangerous professions based on fatalities. Can you imagine choosing this as your career? I can’t! Between 30 and 50 workers in every 100,000 are killed on the job every year! This statistic doesn’t even include the non-fatal injuries that also affect their lives. These courageous few have a fatality rate that is more than twice the fatality rate of police officers and firemen and are the true first responders. The last time that these men and women were recognized was 78 years ago by Henry Fonda and Pat O’Brien in the film Slim The Lineman (CLICK HERE to see the 1937 trailer!).

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John Travolta, Devon Sawa, screenwriter Chad Dubea with local PG&E linemen on the red carpet!

As I spoke to the actors and producers that were responsible for bringing this story, Life On The Line, to the Napa Valley Film Festival world premiere, I began to see a pattern of responses on why they got involved. It was time to acknowledge the very hard and dangerous work these folks do that allows me to write my blog in my well-lit and warm home and you to read it!

Life On The Line stars John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Kate Bosworth and Sharon Stone and is a tale of lineman Beau (John Travolta) who has raised his niece (Kate Bosworth) after her father, who was also a lineman, was killed on the job. There were many subplots that included PTSD, stalking, pregnancy, rape and murder. Oh yeah, and a huge storm! Very melodramatic! Screenwriter, Chad Dubea, who was a former utility lineman, was able to write this story, find financial backing, producers and John Travolta to bring this story to life. fallen linemen logoChad also spent a quarter of a million dollars to establish the non-profit Fallen Linemen Organization. The organization’s mission is to memorialize fallen line workers and offer financial and moral support to the families you have lost a loved one in the line of duty. They also assist if a lineman has been severely injured. But most importantly, they consolidate all accident and injury information to create a safer working environment so these injuries and deaths don’t happen in the first place! These men and women work under completely unforgiving conditions, in extreme weather, dressed in fire-resistant clothes including rubber gloves, must have physical stamina and a vast amount of knowledge. These skills take years to master, so great movie or not, try to honor all – those who have fallen as well as those that work every day to keep our lights on for us – by supporting the movie or donating to the Fallen Linemen Organization. This movie definitely opened my eyes and my heart to these overlooked linemen!

CLICK HERE to listen to John Travolta and Kelly Preston discuss what John T (204x288)attracted him to the role of Beau and what it was like to film Life On The Line.

Devon Sawa discusses his role and why he got involved in the film. CLICK HERE Devon Sawa

Producers Marvin Peart and Phillip Glasser talk about how they got involved! CLICK HERE

After the lights came up and the closing credits had rolled, I snuck out of the Q&A to head upvalley to beautiful Calistoga for another screening. I finally had the time to check out a movie that had more of an indie feel and wasn’t full of movie stars. The movie Crushed is about a troubled Crushedyoung woman who returns to her family vineyard after her father dies on the property. Only to find out that he was murdered! The big draw for me was that the film was set in wine country. Though the film was shot in Mudgee, New South Wales in Australia, winemaking is winemaking no matter where the grapes are grown. It was also my first visit to the newly completed Cairdean Estate. Calistoga’s newest wine and food village with stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains. It was the perfect way to end my final red carpet experience!

A big thanks to all of you who are reading my blog and following Napa Valley Vegan on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. I hope you are enjoying the film festival as much as I did and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

November 21

Napa Valley Film Festival – Days 2 and 3

Gala overview

Day 2 – The Festival Gala! You may remember me mentioning that the Napa Valley Film Festival knows how to throw great parties. My favorite has always been the annual Gala. It is one of the biggest parties I have ever attended and is a continuous onslaught of food, wine, cocktails, celebrities and live music! This year was absolutely no exception. Learning that it was going to be held at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, I struggled to envision it. I should have known better than to worry about it with the film festival in charge of the party planning. The evening began with a walk along the red carpet with everyone dressed in their cocktail attire and looking glamorous!

Me in my best looks! Vegan clothes from head to toes!

I’ve never seen the Center lobby look this stunning! Filmmakers, actors and directors were mingling with the crowd. Along with over 30 different culinary options there were 50 vintners, a cigar lounge, 10 live music performances throughout the evening, Stella Artois beer & cidre, and artisanal cocktails served at the Clever Root Bar. And the gorgeous Von Saal Lounge offered drinking and dancing on the Center’s stage! This year, hands down, offered the most vegan-friendly options since the Festival began. All of the previous years were very meat-centric. Of course, there was still plenty of meat being served but this year they had almost a half dozen vegan and vegetarian choices. All they had to do was make the nibbles without the cheese and voila’ – vegan! Surprisingly, Cole’s Chop House was my first stop. I did not expect this classic American steakhouse to offer anything vegetarian, let along vegan, but they had a delicious fruit chutney served on a crostini and were happy to make us a couple without the cheese. I always have to remember to never make assumptions! My next stop was at Azzuro Pizza’s table. Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised. They made several crostinis heaped with butternut squash & a drizzle of oil. They were simple and incredible! Lindt chocolate was giving away full sized chocolate bars so I slipped a couple of their dairy-free dark chocolate into my handbag! As I wandered through this incredible playground for the 21 and older crowd with a glass of wine in my hand, I next had some delish hummus & veggies from Tarla’s Mediterranean Bar + Grill. As I wandered past Napkin’s Bar + Grill table, I noticed huge bowls of chips, guacamole and tomatillo sauce. Vegans score again! My final, and probably favorite, find at the Gala was a fig and macadamia nut crostini, offered by Celadon. It was amazing!

As recently as last year, I was considering not attending the Gala anymore because of how incredibly unfriendly its food choices were. In fact, they actually carted a slaughtered pig through the lobby of the Copia and roasted him for all to eat. Even living in a non-vegan world, I was horrified by the total disregard the other party goers showed and that the Festival planners thought that was a good idea. I am so glad that the tides have turned and attitudes are becoming more open to offering some compassionate choices! The food aside, it is a party that should not be missed!

Day 3 – Celebrity Tribute

Emilie de Ravin dressed for the Gala!
Emilie de Ravin dressed for the Gala!

Day 3, I was back to work on the red carpet. Every year the Festival honors actors for their achievements and creative innovation. This year, they honored Bruce Dern for his long and distinguished career. John Travolta was also honored for his many contributions to the film industry. Keegan-Michael Key was honored with the Trailblazer Award to for his diverse skills and wide-ranging talent. Rising Star honorees included Finn Wittrock, Evan Peters. Lydia Hearst and Zoe Kazan.

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Keegan-Michael Key on the red carpet!

You know me…I couldn’t be easy and ask about their career or what projects they were working on. Instead, I found out some wonderful little gems about each of them. I was a bit disappointed that Bruce Dern could not attend the Tribute since he is such an avid and life-long animal rights activist. But I did learn that Lydia Hearst helped design vegan handbags for Puma a few years ago and her cousin Amanda through the organization Friends of Finn raids puppy mills and gives these dogs and puppies a second chance. CLICK HERE to see the interview! Finn Wittrock recently did a photo shoot with dogs for an animal welfare campaign that is helping get dogs into forever homes. In the midst of this he also adopted a dog! CLICK to check out his comments! Evan Peters also adopted a dog a couple years ago instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. CLICK HERE to see the

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Lydia Hearst & Evan Peters talking to the media!

interview! And most exciting of all was when I asked John Travolta if he would consider going vegan to prepare for a role and he said yes! In fact, his good friend Forest Whitaker, who was a long time vegetarian before becoming vegan, is so enthusiastic about his diet that John is tempted to give it a try. And though Kelly Preston admits to eating everything, she not only raved about some of the delicious vegan meals she has had but told me that I was glowing! How cool is that?! CLICK HERE to see what they had to say! Though I haven’t followed John Travolta’s career much since Pulp Fiction, I will always have a place in my heart for him. When I was in fourth grade, I got to go to the movie theater with a big group of kids and Moms to see Grease. Grease was the first movie that I had ever gone to that was for adults. Not a cartoon, not a Disney movie…a real live film! I had also never seen a musical before. But once they started singing and dancing, I was hooked forever! And even at 9 years old, I thought Sandi and Danny made a beautiful couple! So for that, John, I will always be a fan!

Finn Wittrock on his way in to the Tribute!
Finn Wittrock on his way into the Tribute!

Here we are with 3 days down and 2 more to go. Be prepared for more screenings, filmmaker Q&As and one more red carpet! And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!