Not the Napa Valley Film Festival

By Dante DeAmicis

The third Napa Valley Film Festival wrapped up November 17th.  It was huge.  I crashed the one last year and it was huge.  The Festival’s fast start was obviously the product of big money, big talent, and big organization.  Oh yes, and big film connections such as Francis Coppola who hangs out in the area.  Understandably, many of the non film events at the Napa Festival revolved around wine.  Even though Lake County has placed all their hopes and dreams on wine tasting rooms the prospects and necessity of making similar cultural tie-ins has completely eluded our visionary leaders.

The most interesting part of the festival is not sitting in rooms, four-walling movies with a bunch of sophistos.  The only reason I would consider shelling out the big bucks for festival passes would be to take in the panels, power lunches, and speeches by real live directors and industry insiders.  I also find it interesting to see how new types of events are created by employing new technology and breaking down the fourth wall.

Back this year was the “Pitch Your Movie Idea” contest – the event I crashed last year with the help of three co-conspirators.  Another meat-and-potatoes panel tackled the intrusion of digital media into film turf and the many new ways of distribution made possible after production.  Social media expects and bloggers sneered at two years ago were given center stage on this panel.  Other panels are assembled groups of directors around a theme such as the “Environmental Program” and “Animation Panel.”

Big money attracts more big money.  Sony sponsored a short film contest then hauled a monster HDTV around the Valley behind a Cadillac to selected “front porch” locations to fete the winners.  Although a Napa gala can’t help being a spectacle of high priced wine and food, they can still showcase uplifting gems such as the “Make a Film Foundation.”  A group of noted writers, directors, and actors help children with life threatening conditions to create a film legacy of their life.

Weren’t there any movies worth going over the hill for?  If I had the cash I would have traveled to see “Bidder 70”, the story of economics graduate student Tim Christopher’s monkey-wrenching of the 2008 Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leasing auction.  A documentary of a true hero.  Once again, the main attraction is the living and breathing mucky muck interaction.  I can get video on the internet.  The film selections are geared toward tastes that will spend $250 to $500 for a festival pass.  There’s a little “see and be seen” game going on at this level.

So could Lake County be another Napa Valley Film Festival?  No.  We are Lake County – no money, little support for the arts, leaders with no imagination, and a small, damaged population.  There are no alternatives offered by government, schools, established non profits, and other entities who only use their official capacity to be in the way of anything except selling real estate to people working over the hill or skimming wine tasters from Napa Valley who got lost.  But there are options here for people with grit and imagination.  We just need to push the “leaders” out of the way.

Let’s look at what we have going for us.  We have a unique, isolated geography of water and mountains that is relatively close to big cities.  We have residents with more time than money to physically get involved.  This is an asset for producers who need cheap help.  We have numerous existing sets and natural sites just waiting to be cataloged by GPS.  There is a substantial network of musicians of various styles.  In spite of official neglect, an unappreciated core of other creative talent exists.  Just as the Napa Valley Film Festival formed their own non profit 501c3 for the purpose of creating something new and different, any Lake County effort will have to go through that same process.

Realistically, we will still have to reach beyond our County borders to surrounding counties and the internet.  Lucky us, we have some internet networkers.  Unlike places with big names and bigger backers we will have to create our own buzz.  The only way to pull this off is by doing things and producing things that will grab attention.  Quirky contests, bizarre creations, intriguing events, and anything that can be videotaped for export, highlighting a unique culture among people of modest means.  Our small and mean goobers will have to step aside for the weird and wonderful denizens.  Once we have proven through our publicized accomplishments we are worth a tank of gas then people will come here for other reasons than mistakes and desperation.

The key is videotaping everything creative and get it out on the internet, preferably with a Lake County tag.  Things will be done by people who “do” not by people who tell others “don’t.”

As an example here’s what I can do.  I can form a non profit where such a structure is necessary to function.  Already done – “Cache Creek Performance.”  I can write and videotape plays.  I can write, perform, and video slam poetry performances and contests.  I can write and sing music parodies.  I can improvise sets.  I suspect a few other locals will jump on board once things get rolling. Remember, everything is videoed.  Everything is hyped.  Everything is launched on the internet.

I can also produce video examples and do some training for two simple video contests.  The first is “The Mega Cheese Video Contest”, using cheap equipment to make science fiction and special effects videos.  Remember those goofy stop animation honkers?  The cheesiest video wins.  Even lower budget is the “Stripped Audio Massacre” where public meetings have their audio tracks stripped off before satirical dialog is added to chunks of rearranged video.  Both of these schlocky outrages are designed to appeal primarily to youth who have few opportunities in Lake County and fewer constructive outlets.

The pay off will be when residents and outsiders start seeing this cluster of communities as an incubator for edgy new ideas from edgier people instead of a dead zone to escape from.  By publicly contrasting our bootstrap localism with Napa’s polished imports we could get extra publicity from a mock rivalry.  Lake County would once again be a place to escape to by creating experiences people cannot get elsewhere.

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