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January 2011 Newsletter






Vera Farmiga and Meira Blaustein back at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival where Vera received a Special Jury Prize for acting in Debra Granick's
Down to the Bone

Vera is back at Sundance with
her directorial debut
Higher Ground.

Happy New Year to all of our friends! 2011 has arrived and with it WFF prepares its annual pilgrimage to Park City, Utah where thousands of filmmakers, actors, industry members, press and film lovers from all over the world will travel to see this year's most promising crop of new films from the U.S. and abroad. Deals will be made, projects will be kicked off, careers will be launched and ideas will be exchanged.

As in the past, the Sundance lineup is packed with Woodstock Film Festival friends, films and filmmakers from New York's beautiful Hudson Valley region.

Vera Farmiga will world premiere her directorial debut Higher Ground, which was shot in our backyard with assistance from the Hudson Valley Film Commission. Martha Marcy May Marlene from executive producer and 2009 WFF Trailblazer Ted Hope, is also premiering. It's another one of the many productions that was filmed in the Hudson Valley in 2010.

Other highlights include Red State, a new film from 2008 WFF Honorary Maverick Award recipient Kevin Smith. My Idiot Brother, produced by WFF advisory board member Peter Saraf; Homework from producers Jonathan Gray and Darren Goldberg, the film adaptation of Woodstocker Larry Beinhart's novel Salvation Boulevard and a special presentation of the genuine American indie classic Slacker, by 2009 WFF Honorary Maverick Award recipient Richard Linklater.

Co-Founder & Executive Director Meira Blaustein will be on hand Jan 20-27 along with WFF Director of Communications Ilene Marder and Operations Director Heidi Johnson.

WFF Board Member Steven Hays of 120dB Films will also be in Park City. Along with the NYS Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development, 120dB Films will host a breakfast celebration for the Woodstock Film Festival and the Hudson Valley Film Commission.

If you are interested in attending our WFF/HVFC Breakfast Celebration, setting up a meeting, sending a party invite, or discussing film submissions, sponsorship opportunities or producing your next film in the Hudson Valley, feel free to get in touch.

You can contact Meira at, Ilene at and Heidi at

For Meira's daily reports from Sundance, check the WFF blog, the Poughkeepsie Journal and their blog Peace Love and Movies. Listen for live radio interviews on WAMC Northeast Public Radio's Roundtable, with Up and Running with Rick on WKZE and with Gattine & Brett on WDST. You can also catch Meira along with reporter Stewart Nusbaumer on video reporting from Park City for the Huffington Post.

Happy New Year everyone, see you all at the movies!


My Idiot Brother - Narrative World Premiere

Producer and WFF founding Advisory Board member Peter Saraf (Little Miss Sunshine, Adaptation) will be attending Sundance for the world premiere of My Idiot Brother. Despite looking for the good in every situation and the best in every person, Ned always seems to find himself holding the short end of the stick—being conned into selling pot to a uniformed cop, being dumped by his girlfriend, and worse yet, losing custody of his beloved dog, Willie Nelson. When he turns to family, he is passed from sister to sister while he gets back on his feet. Ned’s best intentions produce hilariously disastrous results, bringing the family to the cusp of chaos and ultimately the brink of clarity. Directed by Jesse Peretz, the film stars Paul Rudd as Ned and a slew of stellar female leads including Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer.

Red State - Narrative World Premiere

2008 WFF Honorary Maverick Award Recipient Kevin Smith world premieres Red State. Instead of relying on archetypes and predictable formulas, Smith meticulously fashions all-too-real characters, utilizing exceptional performances (notably by Michael Parks) and an intelligent script. His realistic style gives the film an intimate feeling, heightening the terror to biblical proportions. Red State is a shocking new kind of horror film that aggressively confronts higher powers and extreme doctrines with a vengeance. The film features actors Michael Parks, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, John Goodman and long time festival friend and Academy Award® nominee Melissa Leo.

Salvation Boulevard - Narrative World Premiere

Best known for American Hero (1994), the jaunty political novel that became the film Wag the Dog, Woodstocker Larry Beinhart will watch the premiere of his most recent novel Salvation Boulevard, which was brought to the screen by George Ratliff. Set in the world of mega-churches, a former Deadhead-turned-born again-Christian finds himself on the run from fundamentalist members of his congregation who will do anything to protect their larger-than-life pastor. The film stars Pierce Brosnan, Oscar® winners Jennifer Connelly and Marisa Tomei, Oscar® Nominees Greg Kinnear and Ed Harris.


Granito - Documentary World Premiere

Sometimes a film makes history; it doesn’t just document it. Such is the case with Granito, the astonishing new film by Pamela Yates. Part political thriller, part memoir, Granito takes us through a riveting, haunting tale of genocide and justice that spans four decades, two films, and in many ways, Yates’s own career.

Granito is the most recent documentary from WFF alumni producer Paco de Onis and director Pamela Yates (The Reckoning, State of Fear).

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - Documentary World Premiere

Acclaimed filmmaker, master provocateur [not to mention WFF alumnus and part time Hudson Valley resident] Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) returns to the Sundance Film Festival with tongue-in-cheek perfection as he examines the world of product placement, marketing, and advertising by making a film financed entirely by product placement, marketing, and advertising.


Buck - U.S. Documentary Competition

A living legend in the horse world, Buck Brannaman was the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer. For this true cowboy, horses are a mirror of the human soul. Reared by an abusive father, Buck eschews violence. By teaching people to communicate with horses through instinct, not punishment, he frees the spirit of the horse and its human comrade. Buck is produced by longtime WFF juror Julie Goldman and composed by WFF alumnus David Robbins.

Hot Coffee - U.S. Documentary Competition

For many Americans, the famous McDonald’s coffee case has become emblematic of the frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts and stall our justice system. Or is that exactly what McDonald’s wants us to think? Enter intrepid filmmaker Susan Saladoff. Using the now-infamous legal battle over a spilled cup of coffee as a springboard into investigating our civil-justice system, Saladoff exposes the way corporations have spent millions distorting this case to promote tort reform. Informative, entertaining, and a stirring call to action, Hot Coffee will make your blood boil. Produced by Carly Hugo (Higher Ground, The Art of Love)

Troubadours - U.S. Documentary Competition

Three time WFF vet Morgan Neville (Ray Charles America, Johnny Cash's America, The Cool School) creates a riveting chronicle of the time, weaving together archival footage, rare performances and interviews for his latest documentary Troubadours. Framed by the illustrious careers of James Taylor and Carole King, Troubadours delves into the quietly explosive singer-songwriter movement in Los Angeles during the early 1970s. From their home at impresario Doug Weston’s Troubadour club in West Hollywood, artists like Taylor, King, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, and Kris Kristofferson (the list goes on) wrote and performed songs with intimately personal lyrics, marking a transition from the politically focused songs of the ’60s. While some rock critics denigrated the music, the spirit among the musicians was one of collaboration and inspiration, and these singer songwriters flourished.


Benavides Born - U.S. Dramatic Competition

In a small south Texas town, there aren't many career options for young people besides oil rigs, the military, or fast-food restaurants. Luz Garcia, a fiery high-school athlete, is determined to forge a different future; she’s gained admission to the University of Texas at Austin. The problem is she can’t afford to go. With her one shot at a scholarship riding on the state power lifting championship, she sees no choice but to bend the rules to ensure her victory.

With wonderful production design by Woodstock resident Jade Healy, Benavides Born is a testament to strong female characters in a world they must fight to make their own.

Here - U.S. Dramatic Competition

Will (Ben Foster) is a satellite-mapping engineer conducting a survey of Armenia. One morning at his hotel, he meets Gadarine (Lubna Azabal), an Armenian expatriate and photographer, who has recently returned home. The pair impulsively decide to drive across the country together.

Edited by Woodstock resident and WFF alumnus Andrew Hafitz (Don't Let Me Drown), Here is an unlikely love story, but it is also a cerebral, self-reflexive road movie that arrives at a fascinating intersection of forms.

Higher Ground - U.S. Dramatic Competition

Hudson Valley resident Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air, Down to the Bone) world premiere's her directorial debut Higher Ground. As a child growing up in the 1960s, Corinne’s defining feature is her sense of inadequacy. When she reaches high school, her home life begins to unravel, driving her into the arms of Ethan, a guitarist in a local band. An event propels them to join a small fundamentalist community where they find meaning and stability. But some of its more conservative tenets leave Corinne unsettled, driving her into a profound crisis of faith that turns her world upside down.

Vera Farmiga gives yet another richly nuanced performance, but this time she unleashes her equally formidable talent behind the camera as well.

Higher Ground was shot in its entirety in New York's Hudson Valley and features many local actors, extras, crew (including art director Lisa Myers) and the towns of Ellenville, New Paltz, Kingston, Stone Ridge and many other picturesque regional locations. Read more at HVFC blog

Homework - U.S. Dramatic Competition

George (Freddie Highmore), a smart teenage loner, has made it to his senior year despite the fact that he has never completed an assignment. Enter Sally (Emma Roberts), the school beauty, who hides her melancholy behind the protective mask of popularity. An unlikely connection blooms as these kindred spirits bond over their troubled parental relationships. Buoyed by a gifted cast, Gavin Wiesen’s accomplished first feature is a winningly perceptive drama that breathes fresh life into the beloved coming-of-age genre.

Produced by WFF veteran Darren Goldberg (Splinterheads, Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story) and WFF juror/panelist Jonathan Gray.

Martha Marcy May Marlene - U.S. Dramatic Competition

Director and screenwriter Sean Durkin makes his feature directorial debut with Martha Marcy May Marlene. The film, which co-stars Elizabeth Olsen, Brady Corbet, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes and Sarah Paulson, tells the story of a young woman (Olsen) who is haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, as she struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.

2009 WFF Trailblazer Award recipient Ted Hope was one of the executive producers of Martha Marcy May Marlene, which filmed in New York's Hudson Valley during the summer of 2010. Durkin decided to shoot in Sullivan County because the family of one of the producers offered their farm as a location for part of the movie. Other locations included the bus station in Monticello. The film was edited by Zac Stuart-Pontier, a native of Narrowsburg. Stuart-Pontier also edited Catfish (2010 Sundance Film Festival). Read more at HVFC blog


Little Birds

Woodstock Film Festival alum and Woodstocker, Joey Carey is associated with two films screening at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Carey is a partner in Sundial Pictures, which has two of the year’s most provocative and highly-anticipated films, Pariah and Little Birds, premiering at Sundance.Pariah is playing opening night at Sundance on Thursday January 20. Little Birds premieres on Sunday, January 23.

Pariah is Dee Rees’ portrait of a Brooklyn teenager and the struggle and heartbreak that comes with sexual expression. Pariah features Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell, and Aasha Davis.

Little Birds is Elgin James’ riveting drama about two girls who run away to Los Angeles, starring Kay Panabaker and Juno Temple with Leslie Mann and Kate Bosworth.

Sundial develops, finances, and produces quality independent features and documentaries that both entertain and inspire change. Sundial has previously released the acclaimed documentaries Guest of Cindy Sherman (WFF 2009) and Greasy Rider (which Carey wrote, produced and directed with Woodstock's J.J. Beck), Playground and Small Town, Big Dreams.

Greasy Rider screened at the Woodstock Film Festival in 2006 and is currently in international distribution.


Meek’s Cutoff - Spotlight

WFF alumnus and visting Bard film professor Kelly Reichardt delivers her latest feature film following the critically acclaimed Wendy and Lucy.

Set in 1845 along the unforgiving Oregon Trail, Meek’s Cutoff follows three pioneer families who have entrusted a scout, Stephen Meek, with guiding their wagons across a supposed shortcut. Faced with dwindling water supplies, mounting uncertainty about Meek’s dependability, and growing disagreement over a captured Native American, the group begins to fray.


Slacker to screen as Sundance Institute announces new
"Collector's Circle" dedicated to film preservation

2009 WFF Honorary Maverick Award Recipient Richard Linklater will have his directorial debut Slacker screened on its 20th anniversary as part of the Sundance "Collectors Circle." Linklater is expected to introduce the film and attend the Q&A, hosted by Festival Director John Cooper, along with other special guests.

"In many ways Slacker is the perfect Collection film," said Cooper. "It launched a brilliant career, inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and paved the way for countless others. People don't necessarily think about preservation for newer films, and we are working to change that. What would it mean for our industry and for our culture if prints like these didn't exist?"

SLAMDANCE UPDATE January 21-27, 2011

Stranger Things - Narrative Competition

Stranger Things by Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal is among the many great films chosen for Narrative Competition at the 2011 Slamdance.

The film tells of the unusual and touching bond that forms between the isolated Oona and homeless Mani. Set against the backdrop of a quiet seaside village in England, this beautifully shot tale of one stranger reaching out to another is the feature debut of Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal. Together they have crafted a film that explores grief and loneliness, but has at its heart a unique and distinctive pair who are able to find solidarity and surprising intimacy in one another’s company.

Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal are a writing/directing duo who were featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Stranger Things – their feature film debut, was received the Lee Marvin Award for BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE at the 2010 Woodstock Film Festival.

Congratulations to filmmakers Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal and GOOD LUCK!

Gravity, written and directed by WFF alumus Pamela Romanowsky (Live Girls) will world premiere as part of the Slamdance narrative shorts slate. The film tells the story of Mae, who lives a quiet life in the north woods with her estranged husband. Amid alienation and brutality, Mae forms an unexpected connection with a wounded animal, and finds that its fate is tied to her own.

Gravity was produced in the Hudson Valley in spring 2010 and co stars Kate Udall and Laurent Rejto. Read the HVFC blog for more.


It's Playdate Time

Veteran Woodstock Film Festival Panel moderator Thelma Adams will be hosting a reading of her new book Playdate on January 21 at Dolly's Bookstore in Park City, UT! Adams has been the film critic at US Weekly since 2000 and has twice chaired the New York Film Critics Circle.

Playdate is the story of former weatherman Lance Ramsay. While he enjoys staying at home in the San Diego suburb of Encinitas, his 10-year-old daughter Belle's classmates consider him a loser, and his wife, Darlene, is so busy opening a new "Darlene's Diner," the franchise she started eight years ago in Barstow, CA, that lovemaking has become perfunctory. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

For more information visit Thelma's website. You can also read a review of Playdate at Chronogram or buy a copy at your local bookstore or online at Amazon.


Each year film and music lovers from around the world gather at the Woodstock Film Festival for an innovative variety of films, first-class concerts, workshops, celebrity-led panels, an awards ceremony, and fantastic parties. Be a part of the 12th Annual Woodstock Film Festival, September 21-25, 2011. For information about submitting your film, visit our Call for Entries

“The Woodstock Film Festival is always a pleasure to attend, and the talent that is showcased always amazes me. It's a wonderful and important showcase for any independent filmmaker.” -Steve Buscemi

"The Woodstock Film festival is among the finest of a dying breed: a festival that isn't trying to sell you anything, but simply and beautifully celebrating the art & craft of filmmaking."
-Ethan Hawke

"... It's just a straight up, wonderful event. Over the last decade you have built this into a truly great festival." -Peter Saraf, producer (My Idiot Brother, Little Miss Sunshine, Adapatation)

"We could not have had a better time. Woodstock is an incredible film festival and we are so honoured to have had the opportunity to be a part of it. It was a delight to share our film with such passionate audiences in a community that embraces independent filmmaking and we are absolutely glowing from winning the Best Feature Narrative Award. Thank you so much for everything!" -Eleanor Burke and Ron Eyal, Stranger Things (Lee Marvin Award Winner at 2010 Woodstock Film Festival)


Mark your calendars and join WFF in style for A NIGHT AT THE AWARDS.

You and your friends will enjoy decadent hors d’oeuvres, an enchanting buffet and an endless supply of bubbly throughout the evening. Add in door prizes, red-carpet photos and of course a special presentation of the Oscars® and you’ll feel as if Hollywood has come to you!

Sunday, February 27 at 7pm
Emerson Resort & Spa

5340 Rte 28, Mt. Tremper, NY

For tickets, visit A NIGHT AT THE AWARDS.