The Napa Valley Film Festival’s (NVFF) Artists-in-Residence (AIR) program is a unique networking and development opportunity for independent filmmakers. The directors of the Narrative and Documentary films in competition receive a six-night stay at Meadowood Napa Valley, and participate in two days of workshops and panels with our esteemed Festival Faculty. With the impending release of our 2017 competition film lineup, we thought it would be great to take a look at what some of our past NVFF alums are working on now.
James Bird — Director, Honeyglue (NVFF15)
James Bird films are stellar examples of how independent films can be standard bearers for diversity on screen and behind the camera. NVFF festival goers would remember James for is his splendidly made, heartrending and somehow still optimistic Honeyglue. The film for all its successes found a truly inventive way to do away with gender expectations and traditional romance cliches. Because of this unique setting, the film creates a moving story of two people that come together to express themselves in the face of devastating circumstances.
Keeping Bird’s goals of promoting diversity while telling moving stories, his next film stars Orange is the New Black Emmy winning star Uzo Aduba, and two standouts from the Emmy nominated Westworld with Angela Sarafyan and Luke Hemsworth. The film follows Francesca (Sarafyan) as she searches for a loved one she never said bye to, but along the way begins encountering many people’s lives that are at crossroads to either happiness or tragedy. Like Honeyglue, We Are Boats promises to be a tear-jerker.
Louisa Krause — Actress, Jane Wants A Boyfriend (NVFF15)
After roles in major movies such as Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock and the critically lauded Martha May Marcy Marlene, Louisa Krause is on the verge of a breakout. Louisa first came to NVFF in 2014 for her lead role in Jane Wants a Boyfriend — for which she won the Audience Award for Best Actress. Since the festival Louisa has started work on high profile roles such as Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog and Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience. In the latter she will star next to Carmen Ejogo (Selma) and Anna Friel (Land of the Lost) in the Steven Soderbergh executive-produced second season of the highly acclaimed show.
The first season was noted for its daringness to go to dark, unconventional places, and expect the second season to follow a similar trajectory. Because of the hype surrounding peak TV at the moment, there’s no doubt Louisa will be in a prime spot to not only launch her career another step, but also leave an indelible mark on all who watch.
Katie Mustard — Producer, Sticky Notes, Custody, All We Had (NVFF16); Match, We’ll Never Have Paris, Growing Up and Other Lies (NVFF14)
Producer Katie Mustard has made quite the name for herself within the industry, having produced over 40 feature films, 20 shorts, dozens of commercials and taken on new media projects such as Virtual Reality. Katie first came to NVFF in 2014 where she was honored as one of Variety’s Top 10 Producers to Watch, and her produced films Match, Growing Up and Other Lies and We’ll Never Have Paris were shown at NVFF that year.
Last year, we were very lucky to have Katie return to NVFF with another three films. She participated in our Artists-in-Residence program with her film Sticky Notes, shared Custody (starring Viola Davis) with our festival audiences, and All We Had (Katie Holmes’ directorial debut) won the Jury Award for Best Lounge feature.
Currently, Katie is working on three high profile projects— all of which have extremely talented casts. First, there’s the comedy-drama Ideal Home with Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd, who play a gay couple having to take care of their grandson. Then, there’s the Alexander Skarsgard and Geoffrey Rush led Hold the Dark, directed by Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room, Blue Ruin). An adaption of the novel of the same tells a violent story set in the harsh winter of Alaska.
Lastly, Katie is in production on a film called The Angel, a film produced by Netflix, that stars Toby Kebbell (Rock N’Rolla and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). The film is based on the NY Times best-selling novel The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel by Uri Bar-Joseph.
Cecilia Peck — Director, Brave Miss World (NVFF13)
Cecilia Peck’s first film Shut Up and Sing was about the Dixie Chicks opposing the Iraq War and the controversy caused from the country band’s political stance. Her second documentary feature, Brave Miss World, was screened at NVFF to rapturous applause, in which the film shows an uplifting story about the bravery of 1988 Miss World pageant winner Linor Abargil. Abargil spoke out about her experience of being raped by her travel agent shortly before winning Miss World. Using Abargil’s account as a jumping off point, the film documents Abargil’s activism through confronting her past and reaching out to other rape survivors — in the hope for other women to speak out about rampant sexual violence across the world.
After those two very moving documentaries, Cecilia seems to once again have found a perfect subject to explore social and political dynamics within society. Breaking Bones, Breaking Barriers will look at the fight for inclusion of African Americans and women as stunt performers within the industry. With a story that mixes Civil Rights era social commentary with Hollywood’s own problematic history, Cecilia’s Breaking Bones, Breaking Barriers will surely once again be an eye-opener.
Jamie Sisley — Director, Farewell Ferris Wheel (NVFF16)
After being a band manager for six years, Jamie Sisley shifted gears and after only a few completed films, has already established himself as a must-see director. Each one of his films has left a mark on those who have seen his work. Jamie’s second short, Stay Awake, earned a berth at the 2015 Berlinale Film Festival.
Jamie’s next film, and his first feature length film, was the 2016 documentary Farewell Ferris Wheel, which he co-directed with Miguel Martinez. After premiering at the AFI Doc Fest, Farewell Ferris Wheel screened at NVFF. This film is an honest, thoughtful look at the many Mexican migrant workers who help set up summer carnivals and the differing ideologies they face from the carnival managers.
Next up for Jamie is the feature length adaption of his short Stay Awake. The story of this short shows the tough choice brothers have to make while helping their mother through a detox from her drug addictions. A harrowing, but cathartic film about familial bonds and addiction, the feature length adaption should garner even further acclaim for Jamie.
Jason Zeldes — Editor/Director, Romeo is Bleeding (NVFF15)
Jason Zeldes is primarily known for editing the Oscar winning Best Documentary Feature 20 Feet From Stardom, in which he also won the ACE (American Cinema Editors guild) prize for Best Documentary Editing. Along with that award-winning film, Jason’s directing debut Romeo is Bleeding left quite the impression as the film picked up the Jury Award for Best Documentary in 2015 here at the fest.
While shown in festivals in 2015, Romeo is Bleeding is now screening in New York at the IFC Center, with an August 1st iTunes release date for streaming. Outside of his directing debut, Zeldes remains an in-demand documentary editor having just edited the majority of the new Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art of the Design. The show received rave reviews from publications such as IndieWire for its insightful look into the minds and styles of designers across multiple mediums (footwear, automotive, architecture). You can watch the series, in its binge-worthy entirety, on Netflix now.
It has also been revealed that Jason’s next project behind the camera will be another Netflix documentary series, so keep a lookout for this burgeoning documentary filmmaker.