Many were film school graduates, while others learned hands-on. Before producer/director Don Tayloe made The Last Elephants in Thailand, he was not a filmmaker. Passionate about a cause he believed in, he purchased a camera and made plans to visit Thailand to record the plight of the dwindling population of elephants. Shortly before his trip, a happy accident brought a recent film school graduate across his path, who agreed to accompany him on two excursions to Thailand. They filmed guerilla-style (without a government-issued permit, because ultimately the story they were after could be construed as speaking out against the government), shooting the film by laying their heads low, not knowing if they'd make it out of the country with their footage. They were ultimately successful in producing a moving documentary that continues to educate and inspire its audience.
Another inspirational short film, Beyond Limits, was filmed guerilla-style in Africa (they weren't able to obtain a permit and paid people off along the way as they captured footage of their trek up the tallest free-standing mountain in the world). Producer Mitchell McIntire (who graduated from film school), relayed some of this film's well-planned pre-production strategy, which included setting up a non-profit 501c3 organization to help finance the project. Later that day, in spite of a time-crunch, I attended a screening of this stimulating film, which chronicled the seemingly impossible journey of Bonner Paddock's attempt to scale Mount Kilimanjaro's 19,340 feet. Since Bonner was born with cerebral palsy and suffers from a weak lower body, spastic leg muscles, zero sense of balance and lack of climbing experience, his mission to reach the top and inspire children living with disabilities was quite a feat. He also founded the OM Foundation and plans to build centers for people with disabilities all over the world. Bonner was in attendance at the screening, and relayed that so far they've raised enough money for 80 centers.
When the afternoon screenings ended, I traipsed over to festival headquarters in my black dress and super-high heels (quite a feat in itself) for the annual King Vidor Awards reception. The wine flowed freely, the energy sparked, and the celebrities trickled in. Actors Robert Carradine and James Cromwell soon arrived, and later director Norman Jewison and King Vidor Award recipient, Alan Arkin, made their way amongst the jam-packed crowd. The mob was hoppin' and my festival fatigue vanished.
Later that evening, we assembled at the Fremont Theatre for the Independent Film Awards and King Vidor Award Presentation to Alan Arkin. Mr. Arkin's career highlights played on the big screen followed by a "roast" from several loved ones. After James Cromwell and Norman Jewison provided a lively question-and-answer with the King Vidor recipient, a screening of the 1966 comedy hit, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, followed, starring the guest of honor and directed by Norman Jewison.
But I admit...I was too tired to stay for the movie.
My aunt Pam and my mom, Joanne, and I enjoyed meeting Robert Carradine
My signature pose at festival events (James Cromwell pictured in the background this time)