Deeds: Sun Valley Film Festival gears up for a party

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comMarch 7, 2014 

If you're wondering how much buzz there is about next week's Sun Valley Film Festival, consider this: It's even got Silent Bob talking.

"I'm thrilled to be going to the festival," writer, director and occasional actor Kevin Smith says.

"As soon as they invited me," he adds, "I was like, 'Is Bruce Willis gonna be there?' They said no. I said, 'I'm there!' "

The entertaining Smith — whose Silent Bob character is the opposite of his talkative real-life persona (the one who infamously described working with Willis on 2010's "Cop Out" as "soul crushing") — will provide plenty of personality at the March 13-16 event. But if Smith's presence isn't enough, there's always festival founder Teddy Grennan. He pretends that the third annual festival has not settled into a smoothly running groove.

"Are you kidding me? This is like rookie nation up here," he jokes.

Yeah, right. In 2013, the festival provided an economic bump of more than $3 million to Blaine County.

"I've been blown away by how well this festival has been received by Idaho," Grennan says.

Gov. Butch Otter and first lady Lori Otter will introduce the opening-night movie, Arie Posin's "The Face of Love," starring Ed Harris and Annette Bening. After that, the film parade at Sun Valley venues will include more than 50 features and shorts, plus industry-tailored events that will make movie buffs drool.

Screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack of "Dallas Buyers Club" fame will host a "Screenwriters Lab." Informal "Coffee Talks" will feature everyone from Smith to producer Ron Yerxa ("Nebraska") and actor Mariel Hemingway. Wired magazine Executive Editor Jason Tanz will lead a daytime "conTent" panel about the dynamic world of online digital distribution.

Smith fans are looking forward to a screening of his 1994 cult comedy hit "Clerks" — which, he reminds us, featured Nampa High grad David Klein as cinematographer. They shot the black-and-white movie for $27,575, mostly at a Quik Stop store where Smith worked for three years. It grossed more than $3 million.

"To have anybody remember that we made this movie — let alone want to build some programming around it at a festival, give it a pat on its back for its 20th anniversary — that still means the world to me," Smith says.

He also will attend a free screening of his 2011 action-horror movie "Red State."

"I can't vouch for the movies in terms of whether you'll like them or not," Smith says. "I like them, but I'm close to them. But I can tell you, you probably will like the Q&A afterward. I'm much better at Q&A than I am at making movies. So even if you don't like the flicks, stick around. The fun is coming, man, when the director comes out and tries to explain what just happened."

Grennan shares a similar affinity for watching directors squirm. One of his favorite parts of the festival is "WIP," or "work in progress" screenings — a hit last year. Filmmakers brought works that weren't finished, screened them, and let the audiences provide feedback.

"Getting people's thumbprints on a film as it's developed — that's exciting," Grennan says.

This year, he's even adding post-film margaritas to the "WIP" mix.

"Go out in the lobby ... let them digest the film, ingest a drink, come back in and have more of an animated discussion!" he explains happily.

Despite serious talks about films — and more than 100 filmmakers in attendance — this festival is by no means an academic event, Grennan says. Any movie fan will have a blast.

"We're not trying to educate anybody," he says. "I think the idea is to perhaps ... inspire people."

"Here's the thing: It's 'festival,' " he says. "That means 'party' in Latin."

Rocker J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. and up-and-coming indie act Those Darlins will perform. And wine and beer glasses will clink nonstop.

Oh, and if the action stops for a moment, everyone can gaze up at Baldy and remember that, yeah, they're in this gorgeous, unique ski haven called Sun Valley.

Smith says that despite his reputation as a hockey fan, he won't be taking advantage of any Idaho winter recreation opportunities.

"I was on a bunny slope once in high school," he says, "and the speed was terrifying. I made an agreement with myself almost 20 years ago when 'Clerks' got picked up by Miramax that said no more living dangerously. So in my world, that meant no more roller coasters. Skiing was a part of that package."

Online: Sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.

Michael Deeds' column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts "The Other Studio" at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.

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