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:
5. Wine Country and Salamander Resort &Spa
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
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:
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!
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?