We had an impromptu get-away to Temecula this weekend for the Temecula Valley Film Festival. Our film Sublime Intervention was screening there as part of the 48 Hour Film Project showcase, and we had All-Access Filmmaker passes.
Mary and Paul generously agreed to host Jarrah for a sleepover, so David and I decided to maximize the experience by staying in a hotel near the festival (it's about an hour drive away.)
Readers, this turned out to be the most delightful mini-break. So delightful, in fact, that I've since suggested we make it an annual event, even if we don't get a free ride. Because Temecula is still an emerging film festival, there are no crowds, no lines, no heartbreaking shut-outs like we experienced at Sundance. If you find something on the schedule you want to see, you're in, and often with the extra-perk of a cast and crew Q&A afterward.
We were really impressed with the quality of the films, and I just love being able to flash my badge anytime I feel like going into the magical Hospitality Suite, a storefront near the theater transformed into a cushy artist lounge for the duration, filled with swag, alcohol, movie candy and entire meals (including homemade cookies and cake) absolutely, positively FREE if you're wearing that all-powerful lanyard around your neck. The Hospitality Suite is also the site of the parties, held every evening, to honor the filmmakers and even some celebrities in town for the premieres. More on that anon.
We arrived Friday afternoon in time for a lively and delicious Italian dinner courtesy of Deo Volente Media--husband and wife team David and Dawn, and charismatic frequent star Maurice--as well as Robyn and Duane, who's the head programmer for the festival. I had so much fun hanging out with them, and especially getting to goof around with Maurice, who dazzles me a bit since I've been seeing him on the big screen for a few years now.
We skedaddled into our screening in the nick of time, and were pleased to see a packed house. After, I was once again the only woman at the front of the theater (third time this season!) for the Q&A, which is a little weird but still fun.
David and I got a kick out of going straight into another theater--love those All-Access passes!--to see Karaoke Man, a sweet, smart romantic comedy about a young man who dresses as a super-hero to sing in the karaoke bar where his love works. The film features mostly new talent, but we did recognize James Denton from Desperate Housewives in the role of the bar owner.
When we came out, most of our crew was gathered outside, and the warm night was filled with the sound of live music--the festival also features up-and-coming bands and musicians. It all felt very festive, and we hung around until a bunch of people carrying buckets of ice let us know that the Hospitality Suite was open for party business.
And here is where everything got all very Hollywood-ish. While we were milling around, Robyn pointed out James Denton, "Mike the plumber" from Desperate Housewives. For a second I was amazed to see him, drinking a beer in a baseball cap in Temecula, then I remembered I'd just seen him in the movie. Robyn said I should ask to take a photo with him. I responded that I have never been able to act normal around celebrities so no freakin' way. But then Duane was super-smooth and said he'd handle it. He introduced himself (he is the Lead Programmer for the festival, after all) and then--suave as all get-out--introduced a couple of his friends. Since I was standing there beaming like an idiot, I got to be one of those friends. Mr. Denton stuck out his hand and said "Hi, I'm Jamie!" seeming for all the world like a sweet guy who hasn't been on prime-time TV for eight years. We all chatted for a while--about his movie, and ours (!) and he told Duane he'd really like to see the 48 Hour showcase, if he could get a DVD (!!) since he'd missed the last screening. And Readers, I got brave enough to act semi-normal. He was talking about the speeded-up schedule on an independent film, and remarked ruefully, "It's a young man's game." "Tell me about it." I chimed in, and he laughed. Readers: He laughed!!! We took a photo, after which I noticed that my eyes are completely closed, and Duane followed him to report this. He came back immediately, with a big smile, and threw his arm around me with a booming, "Well, we can't have that, can we?" I tell you, the man is a prince among actors. 'Course, I don't know a lot of actors.
The night made, it seemed only right to depart on a high note, so David and I left for the Marriott suites. Either our room was particularly inviting or we were just bone-tired, because we slept like we rarely do in hotels. After a (slightly less than satisfying) FREE breakfast, we were ready for Film Fest: Part Deux.
We returned at 11:00 a.m. just in time for a documentary we'd heard about, Hollywood to Dollywood. Two adorable twin brothers, Gary and Larry, rent a RV they name "Jolene" and drive it cross-country to Pigeon Forge, TN to hand-deliver a script they've written for their idol, Dolly Parton. Hijinks ensue, and we encounter lots of colorful characters on the way. The real message of the film is acceptance and tolerance, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. And it was a real treat to have a Q&A with the brothers themselves afterward--they were beyond excited to be sharing their film--soooo charming.
Next we had lunch at The Public House in Old Town with Robyn and Dwayne, where the brisket sliders were divine and you gotta love the housemade (I kept calling it "house-churned") cream soda on tap with real vanilla bean-bits floating in it. Now the day was getting a bit steamy, and you know what's awesome to do on a hot, lazy Saturday? See air-conditioned movies. FOR FREE. Oh, yeah.
Soon we were back to the theater for a feature called The Pill, a film with a frankly sexual premise that was really a rom-com with a difference, because it was smart and thought-provoking, and you could actually see the characters changing. The dialogue and the acting were tres sophisticated, and David and I liked it a lot. At this point, I was like "What's the deal with Temecula? Do they only choose good, interesting films, or what?" I'm not sure why this was so surprising to me.
Now we were wanting to go straight into a star-studded feature called Mayor Cupcake, but alas, it was time to return to real life and go claim our child. Luckily, this was fun, too, since we got to have dinner with Mary and Paul and fill them in on the highlights of the weekend thus far.
I say "thus far" because by now we'd somewhat recklessly decided to return the following night for the closing night Gala at Pechanga Casino, despite my repellent experience at the SDAFF gala a few months back. Readers, it was the right decision. For one thing, this time I wore a dress that wasn't mercilessly squeezing my organs. So already, the night was a winner. For another, Robyn and Duane scored us some VIP seats at some congressman's table, right in the front row. By the time I'd slurped two complimentary glasses of the Wilson Creek almond-flavored champagne (oooh, will be getting more of that) and spotted the illustrious Booboo Stewart at the next table (much mirth about this Twilight-starring young man throughout the night) I was in fine spirits indeed.
After a surprisingly good meal, we were escorted to the Pechanga Ballroom for the "show." I hadn't realized there was going to be an actual show, though I knew there would be honorees and acceptance speeches. But after a lengthy wait, we also got dance numbers and and a slightly scary sister-act duo singing a repetitive song, during which they commanded us to clap. But I have to admit, the production values were high. We even got two hosts, who bantered in a way that may or may not have been determined by the TeLePrompter. The show was longish, because there was no orchestra to play anyone off, so not only did the recipients speak luxuriously, so did their presenters. And each honoree got their own "reel," ranging from mysterious (the first thing one honoree did upon reaching the mike was disavow any knowledge of the contents of his) to loving-hands-at-home (the series of slow stills set to a song for Connie Stevens.) Booboo Stewart thanked divine intervention and Temecula for his award, but mentioned four or five times that he was too nervous to make a real speech. Dude, there was no uncertainty this evening--you were getting a statuette. Write something. The best speech was courtesy of the lovely and regal Virginia Madsen, who was resplendent in a yellow dress and spoke movingly of the importance of independent film, and was introduced by her kvelling mother, who was nearly as eloquent.