It's a wrap
SUSAN SARANDON with moderator Eames Yates during Saturday's Lifetime Achievement Award presentation.
Sonoma has emerged from the four-day haze of independent cinema, a seemingly never-ending series of parties and a tribute to actress Susan Sarandon where she discussed both her leading men and her breasts.
The 14th annual Sonoma International Film Festival wrapped up Sunday, taking with it the myriad filmmakers and stars who came to enjoy a wine-soaked weekend of movies.
The Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building was packed Saturday night with hundreds who came out to see screen legend Sarandon discuss her career, from her breakout in the cult classic "Rocky Horror Picture Show" to her five Oscar nominations and eventual win for the 1995 film "Dead Man Walking." Before the famous redhead came out, a clip reel of some of her most memorable movie moments was screened.
"I didn't realize I did that much drinking ... Breasts and drinking," she quipped, sending a roar of laughter through the auditorium.
Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Eames Yates conducted the interview with Sarandon, which meandered from her start in the industry to her famous co-stars to her plans for the future. The slight Sarandon, who was wrapped in a lavender pashmina over a deep fuchsia top and black leggings, kept the crowd engaged and laughing with her witticisms. When discussing "Joe," her first film in 1969, she said, "Knocking stuff off of shelves was really fun and I thought 'This is a good way to make a living.'"
Sarandon has never shied away from taking on controversial roles, from the sex kitten in "Bull Durham" to the rape survivor who becomes an outlaw in "Thelma and Louise." While to outside observers she seems to feed on pushing the limits, she explained that it really comes down to broadening her own horizons.
"One of the reasons I did 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' was that I had a phobia about singing out loud," she said. "Everyone should be able to hum out loud and sing without absolutely losing their ability to breath and I was not able to. So I thought well, if I get into a situation like that, they'll give me drugs or alcohol or something to get over my fear. They didn't."
Unlike many famous actors, Sarandon has had a career that has spanned decades without ever falling off the A-List, still commanding interesting and dynamic character roles. Although she admitted the nature of those roles has changed over the years.
"Mostly I either die or am someone's wife. Or both. I'm not so much the mistress anymore," she said, adding, "There's lots of ways to die."
Looking to the future, Sarandon said she still hopes to be involved in movie-making 35 years from now, both as an actress and producer. She discussed her plans to develop documentaries, including the one she is working on now about ping-pong players in a club in New York City.
"I'm a terrible ping-pong player and you'll never see me play in public because there's a rumor that I'm good and I don't want to dispel that," she said. "I'm very into documentaries, not just about ping-pong. I love the documentaries because you don't know what's going to happen."
After answering questions from the audience and signing a few autographs, Sarandon headed to a private dinner while the rest of the crowd went to Sebastiani Winery for the annual gala, where Crossfire performed dance hits. The party encapsulated Sarandon's career, complete with actors dressed as characters from "Rocky Horror" to a full-sized ping-pong table for guests to enjoy. See Kathleen Hill's column on Friday for a full rundown of the food and wine offerings.
Saturday was just one of the highlights of the long weekend of films. Following the opening film "Come Together: A Beatles Tribute" on Thursday, the crowd headed to Little Switzerland for an evening of Beatles music where the cover band the Sun Kings performed (see the video on the arts and entertainment page). On Friday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom accompanied his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, to the screening of the documentary she produced entitled "Miss Representation."
Saturday kicked off early with the Pitch Panel - where anyone with an idea for a film or television show can pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. The experts included screenwriter Jason White, producer and distributor David Garber ("Double Impact"), Screenwriter Darryl Ponicsan ("School Ties") and former HBO vice president and producer Ilene Power ("Gia"). Filmmaking hopefuls pitched all sorts of concepts, from the story of a mysterious package that makes its way around the world to a woman who has a fanciful affair with President Barack Obama that may or may not be entirely in her head. The panel offered their opinions on the pitches, as well as helpful hints for making it in the film industry.
"Ideas are a dime a dozen, but it's nice to protect it," White said of registering one's idea with the Writers Guild.
Sunday wrapped up the weekend with "Lunafest," a series of short films created for women, by women, at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. Finally, filmmakers took home awards for the best films of the festival, as selected by jurors and audiences, during the Award Ceremony and Closing Party Sunday night. (See the sidebar of awards).
Named one of the top 21 Film Festivals for Social Media by PBS.org, much of the action could be followed through the networking sites of Twitter and Facebook. Sonoma's own WordMice, a professional social media service, kept film-buffs in Sonoma and beyond in the loop of the entire weekend.
See photos and video of the weekend of events at www.sonomanews.com.
Film Festival Gallery