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Notable Moments From Middleburg Film Festival 2021

Notable Moments From Middleburg Film Festival 2021

Written by Kaitlin Hill

Photos by Shannon Finney

Celebrating its ninth year and a return to fully in-person screenings, the 2021 Middleburg Film Festival did not disappoint. Passholders and ticket buyers were treated to celebrity appearances, fascinating Q&As, special spotlight events, well-deserved tributes to some of Hollywood’s finest, and, as always, a wonderfully diverse set of films with something for everyone. Here is a look back at some of the highlights from the mid-October weekend hosted by Sheila Johnson. 

Left: Women in Film luncheon hosted by Greenhill Winery with Red Rocket cast, Brittney Rodriguez, Suzanna Son, and Bree Elrod. Right: Women in Film luncheon hosted by Greenhill Winery with composer Kathryn Bostic, songwriter Diane Warren, actor Ann Dowd, and composers Lesley Barber and Amie Doherty.

BIG NAMES HEADLINE THE WEEKEND

Past Middleburg Film Festivals have always hosted their share of celebrities, and this year was no exception. Day two of the festival opened with a screening of “The Lost Daughter” at The Salamander Resort and Spa, followed by a tribute to lead actress Dakota Johnson. During the tribute and conversation, Johnson was awarded the actor spotlight award for her role opposite Academy Award winner Olivia Colman.

Also on-site throughout the weekend was actress Ann Dowd, perhaps best known for her role as the brutal Aunt Lydia in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Dowd attended the film festival as a representative of the film “Mass,” which debuted Friday afternoon at The Hill School. Dowd not only attended the post-screening tribute to her, but she also mixed, mingled, and posed for photos at the Women in Film luncheon at Greenhill Winery.

“Capote” (2005) and “Star Trek” (2009) fans will have recognized actor Clifton Collins Jr. who showed up to present his new film “Jockey” in which he plays the main character, Jackson Silva. In a post-screening conversation with Clayton Davis from Variety, Collins Jr. delighted viewers with anecdotes from filming on a live track with real jockeys. “I got there a week and a half early to hang out with the jockeys – spending all day with them, helping them with the horses, whatever I needed to do,” he says. “I didn’t want to be ‘the actor.’ I told [my producer] I don’t care if my house has burned down. I don’t want to know until I wrap because I have to be here.” His dedication to the project earned him a standing ovation as the credits rolled and the distinguished performance award.

Left: Lead actress Dakota Johnson “The Lost Daughter” at The Salamander Resort and Spa, MFF.
Right: Post-screening conversation with actor Clifton Collins Jr. from “Jockey.” 

A highly anticipated appearance of the weekend was that of actor, director, and five-time Academy Award nominee, Kenneth Branagh who came to Middleburg to showcase his autobiographical hit “Belfast.” “Belfast” was the sold-out centerpiece film of Saturday night with moviegoers eager to view the film following its success in Telluride and hear from Branagh in the subsequent Q&A session. Branagh also greeted festival attendees Sunday morning on the Salamander Resort Middleburg Terrace for a well-deserved and illuminating tribute. Those up early enough were treated to an artfully crafted highlight reel of Branagh’s best work from “Othello” to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Additionally, Branagh sat down with festival advisory board member John Horn for a conversation covering Branagh’s life and career where he described his latest project about childhood in Northern Ireland as “tender.” He also regaled the crowd with some of his favorite on-set moments with cast members Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Gerard Horan, and Jude Hill. For his work as the film’s director, Branagh was awarded the director spotlight award by Sheila Johnson.

RECOGNITION OF WOMEN IN FILM

Another bright spot of the weekend was the attention given to women in the film industry. Saturday morning’s Women in Film Music Conversation at the Salamander Resort Middleburg Terrace highlighted four talented film composers and songwriters including Kathryn Bostic (“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America”), Dianne Warren (“Four Good Days”), Lesley Barber (“Manchester by the Sea”), and Amie Doherty (“Spirit Untamed”) in a panel hosted by Jazz Tangcay, Variety’s Senior 

Artisans Editor. Women took the spotlight again at the Women in Film luncheon hosted by Greenhill Winery. The afternoon event was attended by Britney Rodriguez, Suzanna Son, and Bree Elrod from the film “Red Rocket,” as well as Ann Dowd from “Mass” who shared with attendees the realities of being a woman in the business.

Beyond luncheons and panels, notable women dominated the screen in the films on dock through the weekend. “Spencer” and “Julia” told the tales of real-life icons Princess Diana and Julia Childs. And “Passing,” “Prayers for the Stolen,” “Petit Maman,” and “The Lost Daughter” centered around female figures as well, powerfully sharing their stories.

But the theme of powerful women perhaps most notably extended to the awards granted throughout the weekend. In addition to Dakota Johnson’s actor spotlight award, Ann Dowd was recognized with the Agnès Varda trailblazing film artist award, and “The Power of the Dog” cinematographer Ari Wegner was awarded the distinguished cinematographer award.

Left: John Horn, a host on KPCC and a member of the festival’s advisory board, with Kenneth Branagh on stage at Salamander. Middle: Tim Gordon (from DC Radio/Keeping it Real with Film Gordon/co-President of the Washington Area Film Critics Association), Benjamin Price from Kids First! and Washington Post Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday. Right: Filmgoers at MFF.

A HEARTWARMING WINNER

As always, attendees were given the chance to rate each film with one, two, three, or four stars immediately after viewing by ripping a slip of paper and returning it to one of the festival’s many helpful volunteers. Of the 34 films representing every genre, including documentaries and international entries, Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” was awarded the audience’s highest honor of top narrative prize. The film, which was sold out for both screenings, documents Branagh’s Northern Irish upbringing through the character “Buddy,” played by Jude Hill. Set in the 1960s, at the beginning of The Troubles, the black and white film blends meaningful humor with moments of tense violence, for a well-rounded film deserving of every laugh, tear, and standing ovation it received.

The crowd cheers at MFF for the Belfast Q&A with Kenneth Branagh. 

Branagh described the film best in his Sunday morning conversation with John Horn. He said writing this story was, “something riddled with pain and difficulty and loss, but through which there must be some way to find hope and a future. The film seems to be opening a portal for other people’s experiences of their own childhood. And that is the big thrill.” ML

This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.

Hollywood Meets Hunt Country: Inside the Weiss Family Mural

Written by Shayda Windle

Ever since Monica Weiss and her husband, Michael, have known each other, she’s endearingly been known as “Hollywood” to him. So, when the couple decided last February that it was time for a home renovation, it’s no surprise that Monica enlisted the most talented remodelers, designers, and artists in the area for help. Their 1823 Victorian-style home in Hamilton had already undergone several renovations when they purchased it in 2006, but after many years of hosting guests for Thanksgiving and other special events, the pair decided it was time to expand the space a bit more. 

Image Above: Patricia Taylor Holz explains the process of rendering sketches from Deb Morrow’s photographs. Photo by Shayda Windle.

            Monica says prior to the renovation, they never had a foyer so when the opportunity to decorate came along, she wanted to make it special. She knew she wanted something that was reminiscent of Hunt Country, and thought she’d be able to find it with new wallpaper. She set out on a mission to the Paint and Paper Place in Purcellville hoping she would find it there. When the salesperson told her they didn’t have what she was looking for, she asked if they knew anyone that painted murals. To her luck, local multi-media artist, Patricia Taylor Holz, was working at the store that day. 

           It turns out Monica struck gold upon meeting Taylor Holz, whose body of work includes clients from Disney, MTV, CBS, Phillip Morris, and Jim Henson, just to name a few. As a multi-talented set designer and artist whose experience with large-scale art spans every industry imaginable, it was clear Monica had found the perfect person for the final addition to her home renovation project: a mural that would depict the family’s love of Hunt Country, and the attributes that make this area so unique. It was also important to Monica that the mural would be personalized and include the ones they love the most — their dogs. 

           Taylor Holz visited the Weiss home to discuss Monica’s vision in more detail and quickly noticed the home had an antique aesthetic, with a wide variety of old-fashioned books, furniture, and décor on display. It was then that Taylor Holz began envisioning a historic equestrian and hunting scene reminiscent of the Civil war era with sepia and neutral tones to give it the right look and feel.  

Image Above: The final mural; photo by Shayda Windle.

           One caveat to the project was that it needed to be completed in advance of the next family event in a month. Taylor Holz knew the job would require more than one person so she enlisted local artist Penny Hauffe, whom she met through the local art community, for help to complete the job. Taylor Holz says she wanted to work with someone who “had positive energy, because, there is a lot of emotion that goes into artwork that’s put on display in your home and projected out to the viewers.” Taylor Holz says she considers her projects to be a “labor of love” and that she wanted to work with a “midwife who would help her deliver a bundle of joy” to their new clients. Hauffe was naturally the best fit for the role. 

           Hauffe already had street credibility with murals completed at The Leesburg Auto Wash, Leesburg’s King Street, One Life Fitness building in Brambleton, and the private dining room at the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg. The added bonus for Taylor Holz was Hauffe’s cheerful disposition and positive energy that she brought into the process. 

           The two began the creative process by searching for inspiration in photographs. Luckily, Taylor Holz had met local equine photographer, Deb Morrow, when she came into Western Loudoun’s art scene and they were Facebook friends. It was by chance that Morrow posted some of her recent work on Facebook and let her friends know they were free to use it for their artistic endeavors with her permission. 

Image Above: Patricia Taylor Holz (on left) and homeowner Monica Weiss (on right). Photo by Shayda Windle.

           When Taylor Holz began sifting through Morrow’s work, she realized her equine photographs would be key in creating the hunt scene the Weiss’ were looking for. From there, she gathered the photo sources – from sidesaddle photographs by Morrow to photos of the Morven Park Mansion, Bluemont Vineyard, and Bear’s Den, and began working on the renderings for the mural. 

           She then created a concept of a 19th-century hand-colored sepia illustration on parchment with “just hints of opaque brown, black, red and white on the riders, animals, and dogwoods,” Taylor Holz says. She goes on to say that she wanted a transparent, aged quality to the whole mural, “like ink fading & flaking off old parchment,” and used a variety of mediums and techniques to achieve the look, including a palm sander for the distressed aesthetic. She also used a monochromatic underpainting technique called “grisaille” on the horses and riders, which she says, “involves lightly sketching a form, glazing it over completely, and then sculpting dimension by removing highlight areas with a rag or brush.”

           The final result has ended up to be nothing short of fascinating, so much so, that Monica tells us “it feels like you’re walking into the land of Narnia.” Guests have been so amazed by its intricacies that they will sit down with a glass of wine to stare at the scene for hours.  Upon entering the foyer, viewers are presented with a winter scene of two Victorian-styled ladies riding sidesaddle, which wraps around to a larger scene that includes more riders on horseback, overlooking the hills and vineyards of Hunt Country with the Weiss family dogs looking down from Bear’s Den. At the very end of the mural, Taylor Holz and Hauffe included a vintage, old-fashioned painting of the Morven Park Mansion in spring with Virginia’s state flower, the dogwood, in bloom. 

Image Above: Deb Morrow’s sidesaddle photo, shown top left. The rendering process, top right. The murals (bottom images). Photo by Patricia Taylor Holz..

           With so much talent to be shared between these women, there has been no shortage of interest in their work. Taylor Holz and Hauffe enjoyed their first collaboration together so much that they’ve continued working together on another mural for the Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America. Be on the lookout for an upcoming story about their next big project with the MFHA. ML

To view more of Patricia Taylor Holz’s work, visit her website at pthvisualarts.com. For more about Penny Hauffe, visit pennypaint.com. To see more of Deb Morrow’s photography, visit deborahmorrowphotography.smugmug.com.

This article first appeared in the June 2021 Issue.

Middleburg’s Town-Wide Arts Celebration

The Middleburg Arts Council and the Town of Middleburg will host the fall installment of its biannual arts celebration, Art in the Burg, on Sept. 22.

Artwork from more than 20 local and regional artists of different styles, forms and subject matter will be on display on Madison Street, next to King Street Oyster Bar, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Celebrating Middleburg as an arts destination, Art in the Burg, will also feature live music from local artist, Bess Putnam, the Blue Mountain Songbird. During this celebration of the arts, visitors can connect with artists and discuss the creative process. Art-lovers also get a rare opportunity to purchase original works of art without gallery fees.

“Art in the Burg gives visitors a unique opportunity to meet a variety of local artists in one place,” said Middleburg Arts Council Chair Deb Cadenas. “The town of Middleburg provides a picturesque setting for this wonderful event.”
The Middleburg Arts Council is currently raising funds for a planned 6-foot bronze fox statue. A life-sized replica of the statue will be on display during the event. A raffle will be held during Art in the Burg to help with the project. The raffle prize, a gift basket filled with a variety of items, will include a certificate for a commissioned pet portrait.

Visit the Middleburg Arts Council hospitality tent to enter the raffle. For additional information about Art in the Burg, contact the Middleburg Town Office at 540-687-5152.

 

This article first appeared in the September 2018 Issue.

2018 Middleburg Annual Arts Celebration 

2018 Middleburg Annual Arts Celebration

Featuring over 20 Local and Regional Artists offering their artwork for purchase, and live music from Blue Mountain Songbird.

Happening Sept. 22, 2018 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Madison Street, Middleburg Virginia

 

Sponsored by the Town of Middleburg and the Middleburg Arts Council

The Artists in Middleburg invites you to the 2018 Fall Benefit

The Artists in Middleburg (AiM) invites you to its Fall Fundraiser

 Enjoy a tapas buffet, bubbly to sip, art to purchase, and raffles galore!

When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 from 3-6 PM

Where: Wendy Lind Andrew’s, Fox Meadow Farm, 22330, Sam Fred Road, Middleburg, VA, 20117

Attire: Business Casual

Ticket Cost: $75 per person

Tickets available through ticketleap.com, by phone (540) 687-6600, or via mail. Visit our website, theartistsinmiddleburg.org for more information.

RSVP: with ticket purchase by Friday, September 7

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