Top 5 Reasons to go to Middleburg Film Festival

My visit to the 2014 Middleburg Film Festival was my first, but it certainly won't be my last. It was one of the most entertaining, educational, and (even in spite of the hustling and work I had to do as a critic) relaxing film festivals I've been to. Here's my Top 5 Reasons why:

Photo: Salamander Resort & Spa

Photo: Salamander Resort & Spa

5. Wine Country and Salamander Resort &Spa

This may look like a glass of local wine and a burger and fries, but it was actually some of the best I've ever had. No joke!

This may look like a glass of local wine and a burger and fries, but it was actually some of the best I've ever had. No joke!

Just a little over an hour from the most powerful city in the world, Washington D.C., you can find yourself in the mountainous countryside of Middleburg, Virginia. With each mile you move away from the city, you get closer to relaxation. If you’re a big fan of wine, Middleburg has five vineyards within a ten mile radius. I had to have a glass of a local Merlot with a quick bite in between films and it was awesome! The Salamander Resort hosts the film festival each year, and the resort itself is gorgeous. If you’re an equestrian, hiker, wine connoisseur or just in need of a getaway, the festival gives you a chance to do all of these things while seeing great films!

4. Tributes to Industry Leaders

This year, the festival honored three time Academy Award Winner for Costume Design, Colleen Atwood with a Masquerade Ball, and hosted a concert honoring Academy Award Nominated composer Marco Beltrami. If the names Colleen Atwood and Marco Beltrami aren’t familiar to you, google them and you’ll automatically know their work. The fact that the Middleburg Film Festival has taken the time to honor these talented leaders is something you don’t see at most festivals, but should be done more often! Festival Founder Sheila Johnson and Executive Director Susan Koch appreciate the unsung heroes of film, and thus in honoring them they help increase public awareness and appreciation as well. 

3. Q&As and Panels

Panel on Film Distribution & Financing

Panel on Film Distribution & Financing

If you want to know more about the making of a film, who better to talk with than its director or producer? The film festival has no shortage of working industry directors, producers, and more on hand for Q&As and panels. For a film geek like me it’s great to see a film and hear about what went in to making it or increase my filmmaking knowledge by sitting in on a panel. The panels give you first hand industry insight into the filmmaking process. (Click here to watch the Panel on Film Distribution & Financing

Check out the Q&As after "Red Army" and "Low Down" here:

2. Networking

See number 3. In fact, just sitting down at the Salamander bar may give you face time with a producer like Ron Yerxa ("Nebraska", "Low Down") or CEO of Snag Films, Rick Allen. If you are serious about the craft, or a burgeoning filmmaker, this is the place to do be. Please, be smart. Don’t be “that person” that’s trying to push a product and hounding people that come to the festival. However, there’s no question that part of the reason Sheila Johnson founded the festival was to be able to create opportunities for connections to be made and collaborations to evolve amongst filmmakers, producers, and patrons!

1. Films

It always comes back to film! In its two years of existence, the Middleburg Film Festival has exhibited films before they hit theaters. This year I saw great films like "Two Days, One Night""Red Army", and "Dior and I". Some of the films exhibited at the festival go on to be Academy Award nominees. Which means that Middleburg is on the map as a go to festival for producers, the festival has engaging and entertaining films, and you will likely be among the first to see them! What more can you ask for from a festival?

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.