Since 2009, Brenda and Marc Lhormer have built the four-day Napa Valley Film Festival with the offer of good times, good food, and good wine to filmmakers and actors, and a mission to present the very best independent films of the year. "We tell people, 'Open at Sundance and finish the festival season at Napa,'" Brenda Lhormer tells me by phone. But this year, the North Bay fires hit just as festival preparations were kicking into high gear. "All of us left town," Lhormer says, "and some of our seasonal staff lost their homes, so there were two days of frantic texting."
As the smoke cleared, the staff gathered to decide whether to go ahead with the festival. "And we sat around the table, lots of tears in our eyes," Lhormer said. "And we all went around the table one by one, and said, we think the community is going to need this more than ever. So then we took the next two days and emailed everyone, and every single one of our partners and venues were fine. And we took a big sigh, and we said, 'We've got to do this.'"
Lhormer says there were lots of cancellations from out-of-town attendees, so the festival is depending on Bay Area residents to pick up the slack. Ten percent of all proceeds will go to fire relief, and the festival is donating 1,000 tickets to those who've lost their homes. Details here.