The Napa Valley’s smallest town may have met its match, as it is set to be paired with films of a shorter stature when the inaugural Yountville International Short Film Festival premieres next week, Feb. 8-11. One hundred films, from about two dozen countries will be shown in 20 themed block presentations over four days.
Blocks of films will include categories such as drama, documentary, world cinema, comedy, music, family films, animation, fantasy and horror. The blocks are typically about 90 minutes long.
Yountville will roll out the red carpet with pop-up cinematic venues at the Barrel Room at V Marketplace, the Heritage Room at the Yountville Community Center and the Bardessono Hotel.
The Yountville International Short Film Festival was inspired by the annual Jessup Cellars Art House Short Film Series. Bill Hargreaves, co-founder and festival director, has been producing a similar short film festival in San Jose for nearly a decade. The San Jose International Short Film Festival was founded by Hargreaves and Sinohui Hinojosa, Silicon Valley businessmen who are now bringing the model of their San Jose event to create the Yountville premiere.
With the success of the Napa Valley Film Festival, which wrapped its seventh season this past November, the Napa Valley seems conducive to cinematic events. The difference between this new festival and others, such as Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Hargreaves explained, is that the new Yountville festival will focus solely on the short films. “Our screenings may have four, five, even six or seven films shown in a block,” he said.
Hargreaves, a fan of film in general, said he has became a film festival junkie. “I had attended a number of film festivals as a fan and really kind of gravitated towards the short film genre. I remember seeing some short films I really enjoyed and was amazed how a film 10 or 12 minutes long could tell a complete story, and leave me as fulfilled as a two-hour feature. From there, I wanted to focus on that niche.”
“The budgets for the shorts are very small, but that actually plays into the genius,” Hargreaves said. “You can have a story, idea or concept, that wouldn’t even really work as a feature. These filmmakers can get enough money, with crowdfunding, or a senior thesis in school, and actually get a film made. Often, the director is also the writer, but this is also something for screenwriters too. If they can raise $5,000 or $10,000 they can make a film, sometimes for less than that. The rest is up to them and how good they are at their craft.”
He added, “Some of these films could go on to be turned into a full-length feature.”
For about five years, Hargreaves and Hinojosa have been partnering with Yountville’s Jessup Cellars for their short film events.
“We curated the films; Jessup would pour wines along with flavor-inspired popcorn. We would bring filmmakers and they would talk about the films. There were four short films, four wines and four different wine tastings. It kind of grew from there. The audience was very receptive,” Hargreaves said.
In addition to Jessup Cellars, they have worked with the town of Yountville and the Yountville Chamber of Commerce, as well as Hotels & Inns of Yountville, Bardessono Resort & Spa, Hotel Yountville and V Marketplace.
The small venues are one differing aspect of the new festival, Hargreaves said. “Typically, our festivals are in movie theaters. This kind of atmosphere is hard to get.” While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes small films as 40 minutes or shorter, “Our films are 30 minutes or less, with an average length of 12 to 15 minutes,” he said.
The filmmakers submitted their own films for consideration. Hargreaves and Hinojosa expect to have some filmmakers in attendance for Q&A sessions.
The organizers have scheduled morning-to-afternoon film blocks, as well as evening blocks, which create three- to four-hour “intermissions” for attendees to explore Yountville. The three pop-up cinema venues are in the center of town, making it easy for attendees to walk to local restaurants.
Hargreaves suggests small plates, wines-by-the-glass, a strategy similar to a progressive dinner, so that festival goers can experience multiple restaurants during the extended intermissions. “We’ve also created daily wine tasting experiences that are included in our VIP Passes,” he said.
“Our main goal this year is to produce a top-notch festival and not worry too much about the overall attendance,” he said. “Sometimes first-year events can overreach and then not deliver a great experience. We’ve built a great lineup of films, combined with special wine-and-food pairings, to provide a unique cinema-going experience for our first year.”
Festival passes, begin at $25 and go on up to $249 for a four-day VIP experience. They are available online at YISFF.com. Day-of passes will also be available at the Yountville International Short Film Festival Box Office, which will be located near the Heritage Room at the Yountville Community Center throughout the event.