Brenda and Marc Lhormer

Brenda and Marc Lhormer

Count yourself lucky if you once had or currently have a job you love.

You know the feeling. When you’re in your work “flow,” the days, weeks and years fly by. You manage ongoing challenges but the work is so rewarding that even your identity becomes defined by what you do for a living. You pour your heart, soul, energy and passion into what you strongly believe is worth the sacrifice, often prioritizing work over friends and family.

And then one day, that job you love is over.

Having been in a similar situation, I was reminded of that discomforting, unsettling experience, and I thought of Brenda and Marc Lhormer, co-founders and directors of the nonprofit Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF). In November 2018, they unexpectedly lost their roles and responsibilities after more than nine years at the helm. While never intending to run the festival for more than 10 years or so, differences with the board led to the Lhormers’ retiring earlier than planned.

“While we were working hard and putting on wonderful festivals year after year, we weren’t seeing eye to eye with our board,” said Brenda. “Sadly, this kind of break sometimes happens between founders/directors and boards. Not seeing any way to a resolution convinced us it was time to retire from day-to-day festival management.”

“We’re disappointed about how it came to an end, and our hearts still ache,” Marc said, “although it has been a refreshing change of pace to not have to be dealing with all of that pressure. Festivals of this magnitude are an immense undertaking.”

“We were responsible for everything. We built the festival from scratch, contributed our own money for many years, inspired a lot of people to come along on this ride to help us and worked hard to root the event in the community.”

“I admit to feeling a bit of homesickness,” Brenda said. “We’re not working any more on what we lived and breathed 24/7. The staff was my family.

“I miss the daily interaction with creative and inspiring people, local and around the country. I loved making magic by celebrating film, food, wine and Napa Valley at the festival and all year round. But I did give up so much of my personal life working all the time, so I’m looking forward to the new chapter of life ahead.”

Both Lhormers are reconnecting with friends and family and jumping into other creative endeavors. Brenda is producing videos for nonprofit organizations and starting work on a new short film about organic, horse-plowed farming.

On a grander scale, it’s been over 11 years since their first feature film, “Bottle Shock,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. A follow-up project shelved for many years due to their focus on NVFF is now set to begin shooting this October. Their second feature film is “Dear Zoe,” based on the coming-of-age novel by Philip Beard, with an adapted screenplay written by Marc.

While the Lhormers may not be shepherding the day-to-day details of the upcoming NVFF (Nov. 13–17), a newly-created “Founders Award” will annually pay tribute to their many contributions as festival creators and directors.

“We are really looking forward to the inaugural presentation of the Founders Award,” Marc said. “Each year, we will be selecting one courageous, risk-taking director of a feature-length narrative or documentary film to receive an award of $10,000. We truly appreciate that the festival is recognizing us in this way.”

“We are so very grateful for all of the incredible support from the community – all of the partners, sponsors, volunteers – who helped us build the festival to where it is today,” said Brenda. “Hopefully the board and staff will stay true to the core tenets of our mission and vision. We’ll cheer everyone on from the sidelines, and look forward to seeing how the festival develops in 2019 and beyond.”

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Evy Warshawski is co-founder/director of E & M Presents, bringing the Zoppé Italian Family Circus to the Napa Valley Expo, Oct. 4 – 6. For information, visit EandMPresents.org.