That’s a wrap: Nevada City Film Festival highlights include FaceTime with Steve Carell, virtual reality showcase |

That’s a wrap: Nevada City Film Festival highlights include FaceTime with Steve Carell, virtual reality showcase

Nevada City Film Festival's Best of the Fest screened Sunday night at Ol' Republic brewery.
Submitted photo by Kial James |

Nevada City Film Festival director Jesse Locks was more than a little teary-eyed Sunday night as she thanked the team that helped her put on the annual four-day fest, which just wrapped up its 16th year.

“I don’t know why I got so emotional,” she said, after introducing the award-winning films shown outdoors to an audience packed into the parking lot of ol’ Republic Brewery.

“It’s all about the team,” Locks continued. “We’re these super- hustlers who give up our August to make this little film festival happen … It’s awesome.”

The festival sold just over 1,500 tickets this year, Locks said. As is typical for the film festival, the majority (66 percent) of the ticket buyers were from 25-plus miles away — Sacramento, Auburn, Yuba City, Roseville, Marysville, Davis, and the Bay Area.

The most popular programs were Best of the Fest, the 10th anniversary screening of “Little Miss Sunshine,” and a documentary that included many locals, “The Ataxian,” with a sold-out screening that prompted the festival to add a second screening.

Co-directors Jonathan Dayton — another former local — and Valerie Faris were on hand to discuss “Little Miss Sunshine” with an appreciative audience. Dayton then called star Steve Carell on the phone and he conducted an impromptu Q&A session with the audience via FaceTime.

While “Little Miss Sunshine” did end up being an enormously popular Academy Award winner, when it first came out, it was considered an indie film that was pushing the edge, Locks noted. As Dayton and Faris said after the screening, their casting of Carell was questioned by the studio, as he was little known at the time — this was before “Anchorman” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Locks said the film festival strives to push boundaries, for itself as well as its audience.

“We always try to outdo the last year,” she said. “This might have been our best selection of films so far — but we needed to raise the bar, to have a show-stopper.”

Locks was particularly proud of bringing the Kaleidoscope VR program to Nevada City, adding that coordinating the first-ever virtual reality program for the festival — requiring 26 volunteers to assist viewers — was “insane.”

“The (attendance) numbers were lower than what we had wanted, but the response from those who experienced (the showcase) was overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “I think they understood and appreciated what an incredible experience it was to see an international VR Film Festival in their hometown.”

Locks already is looking to delve a little deeper into the festival’s mission with its next project.

“Our next step is a residency program, launching in February. We will bring in 25 filmmakers for a four-day program,” she said. “We want to be able to cultivate more individuals interested in filmmaking and digital media.”

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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