“We couldn’t be more pleased to partner with San Diego’s independent film festival and HBO to showcase this amazing venue,” said Lot General Manager Robert Smythe. “We have beautiful theaters, ample parking, and a fantastic restaurant to support what Hollywood and networks like HBO need to do. It’s a perfect marriage.”
Under a fine evening mist that blanketed the sky, the crowd of 300 film supporters and friends walked into the sophisticated and hip venue that combines entertainment with al fresco dining to preview the first two episodes of “Big Little Lies,” which stars Reese Witherspoon and was created by seven-time Emmy Award-winner David E. Kelley.
The opening night excitement was immediately replaced by a hush as festival director Tonya Mantooth took to the stage to introduce Tupper, who talked about the extraordinary experience shooting with director Jean-Marc Vallee.
Guests were treated to a lively red carpet followed by an after-party at the theater’s restaurant with actor James Tupper, who plays Nathan Carlson in the comedy-drama, and who, with his partner Anne Heche, enjoyed mingling with San Diego’s film lovers and cultural cosmopolites before and after the film.
“The director was the part of the puzzle that really was phenomenal for me,” said Tupper. “He kind of created a whole new way of filmmaking, where he hangs out with a camera and we shoot in one place for six hours—he just moves the handheld camera around and gets all these little nuances, little details—no lighting packages, no hair and makeup people around, just us.”
Based on the New York Times best-seller, “Big Little Lies” is a seven-episode “who done it” that deals with domestic violence and friendship in the seaside town of Monterey, CA. Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who bought the rights to the book and are two of the executive producers, lead a stellar cast that includes Tupper, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and Alexander Skarsgård.
Described by HBO as a tale told through the eyes of three mothers, Madeline (Witherspoon), Celeste (Kidman), and Jane (Woodley), befriend each other in a town fueled by rumors and divided into the “haves” and “have-nots.” Conflicts, secrets, and betrayals compromise relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children and friends and neighbors.
On the red carpet, Tupper was effusive in his praise for HBO but was most impressed with his accommodations during the shoot. “Working with HBO was amazing, and everyone on that set felt the same way but I really knew I made it when I walked into my trailer-I had a big flat screen and I brought my kids over and said ‘Come on, you gotta see what Dad is doing!’”
The “Big Little Lies” screening kicks off the SDIFF’s Insider Series and is the first in a sequence of six private screenings that will be held once a month from February through July in La Jolla. The series is available to the public and can be purchased for a limited period of time, at the reasonable price of $150. Created by Tonya Mantooth, the executive and artistic director of the SDIFF, the package includes private screenings, a cocktail party, and a “Q and A” session with special guests and a post champagne reception with dessert.
“The Insider Series gives people a chance to come out and see exclusive premieres, meet the actors or filmmakers and socialize with fellow film-lovers,” says Mantooth. “It is exactly the experience I want to create for our members. In a time when things are so divisive, the film reminds us that our bond is through human connection. San Diego International Film Festival is a place where people can come together, experience cinema, create dialog and maybe take in a new perspective.”
The 2017 festival, which begins on Oct. 4 and will run through Oct. 8, comes on the heels of the most successful year the festival has ever seen in terms of attendees and star power. A few of the Oscar-nominated independent films screened at the 2016 San Diego festival include the Weinstein Company’s “Lion,” nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, and “Hell or High Water,” which garnered four Academy Award nominations including Best Actor for Jeff Bridges.
According to Mantooth, the goal of the festival this year is to grow the awareness and audiences that attend the October festival and to increase the audience of film lovers in the San Diego and north county communities that want to engage in independent films all year long.
For more information on the Insider Series, visit www.sdfilmfest.com/.
Terri Stanley is the creator and executive producer of the Emmy award-winning Boston lifestyle show “styleboston” and former executive editor of Boston Common magazine. Since moving to the San Diego area, she freelances as a lifestyle writer and short film producer. Reach her at email@example.com.