Photo Credit: Gene Chang & Sun Valley Film Festival
In the midst of modern day, Sun Valley, Idaho still has a sense of old Hollywood nostalgia from the Historic Sun Valley Lodge to the vintage Liberty Theatre. Sun Valley used to be the stomping grounds of Hollywood’s elite from the Hemingway’s, the Kennedy’s, and even tinsel town’s very own, Marilyn Monroe. Today Sun Valley is still frequented by many business execs, celebrities, professional athletes, and the like, and is home to the annual Sun Valley Film Festival, now in its second year.
The festival took place in Sun Valley during March 14-17th. Directors, producers, talent, and media from all over the nation arrived to Idaho to promote films, attend events, and network. The festival showcased over 30 films and documentaries, which were shown at local venues including Magic Lantern Cinemas and NexStage Theatre both in Ketchum, Idaho. Other venues for the film festival included the Sun Valley Opera House in Sun Valley, Idaho and the Liberty Theatre in Hailey, Idaho. The Sun Valley Lodge was also hot spot during the festival with many celebrity guests and industry elite.
I had the pleasure of meeting representative Christopher Albert, VP of Global Communications from National Geographic along with Mayu Mishina, Senior writer and Publications Manager of The African Wildlife Foundation at the Jodie Foster Coffee Talk. The two were present to launch a campaign known as the “Wild to Inspire” short film competition. The goal of this competition was to inspire participation of both local Idaho filmmakers and filmmakers from across the country. The winner of the short film competition will receive an all expense trip to the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2014 and a trip to Tanzania, Africa. Some of the popular films that National Geographic brought to the Sun Valley Film Festival included Nat Geo’s The Wild West and Kingdom of the Oceans.
Next up was the “Hollywood Heritage” event at the Sun Valley Lodge which was hosted and sponsored by Zions Bank. During the event, I caught up with actor Will McCormack whose notable credits include 2003’s Christmas classic Elf opposite Will Ferrell, the 2012 movieCeleste & Jesse with the talented Roshida Jones, and TV shows such as CSI and The Office. At the festival, Will McCormack hosted the Screen Writers Lab where he answered questions and gave insight to both filmmakers across the country and to local Idaho filmmakers. Will said that he was glad to be a part of the Sun Valley Film Festival and hopes to continue his involvement with Idaho filmmakers through this festival in the future.
One of the most sought after celebrities at the festival was Jodie Foster, whom I interviewed at the Coffee Talk event. Jodie told Press Pass LA that she has been coming to Idaho for years to escape the madness of Los Angeles. Jodie loves Sun Valley because it is a “sanctuary of pristine beauty.” It is Foster’s Shangri la. During our interview, Jodie said her career is more focused on directing where a number of years ago she was solely acting, in such film hits as 1991’s Silence of the Lambs and 2002’s Panic Room. Foster is empowered by her role as a director and hopes it will inspire other women to join the ranks of the industry’s movers and shakers. During the coffee talk, Jodie also touched on her childhood. Foster began acting at age three and feels as though she lost a part of her childhood but is glad to be involved with what she loves, filmmaking. Foster graciously answered questions from fans, locals, filmmakers, and especially enjoyed answering children’s questions about filmmaking.
Other honored guests of the festival included Barbara Kopple and Mariel Hemingway. I spoke with New York based director Barbara Kopple, who was asked to direct and orchestrate the documentaryRunning From Crazy, which was filmed in Ketchum, Idaho. Koppel has directed and produced over 20 documentaries and is especially famous for documentaries, which include Shut Up & Sing (2006),Havoc (2005), Harlan County USA (1976) and American Dream(1990). Oprah Winfrey served as the executive producer of the documentary along with Erica Forstadt and Lisa Erspamer. When I interviewed Kopple, said she felt as though she was a member of the Idaho community during filming since everyone she came across was so cordial. Koppel commented on the air quality and the beautiful presence of Idaho and the fact it was a great escape from her life in the Big Apple. Kopple mentioned that she would like to visit Sun Valley in the future and hopes to be a part of the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2014.
The documentary, Running From Crazy helps bring awareness not only to the legacy of the Hemingway family, but also sheds light on the need for public awareness of mental illness and suicide. The film stars Idaho’s very own Mariel Hemmingway, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the House of Luxury event and Creative Coalition event at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah earlier this year. Mariel Hemingway is granddaughter to the late, Nobel Prize winning writer, Ernest Hemingway. Mariel was glad to be a part of filming in Idaho as it is representative of her roots and upbringing, along with the trials and tribulations her family when faced with fame and mental illness. Mariel’s sister, Muffet Hemingway, a current resident of Sun Valley, also stars in the film. Video footage from the 80’s of Mariel’s father, the late Jack Hemingway, along with her late mother Byra Whittlesey was also present in the documentary. The late Margaux Hemingway’s presence in the documentary adds a glamorous yet turbulent look into the life of fame and its impacts on the Hemingway family. The Hemingway legacy will forever be apart of Idaho culture.
As for the future of the festival, I was able to interview Festival Director Candice Pate to learn more about her vision for 2014. “The attendance from last year to this year has doubled. I am so pleased with the results. Next year in 2014, the festival will be March 13-16th,” said Pete.
The Sun Valley Film Festival is putting Idaho on the map and giving it the notoriety that it so willingly deserves. Be sure to attend the third annual Sun Valley film festival next year in Sun Valley, Idaho to support local Idaho filmmakers and businesses.
For more information, visit SunValleyFilmFestival.org.