MIDDLEBURG, VA — Dr. Tanya Hyatt has been named Assistant Head of School at Foxcroft School, effective July 1, 2022. Dr. Hyatt, who has a wealth of boarding school administrative and teaching experience, comes to Foxcroft from Indian Springs School outside of Birmingham, AL, a day and boarding school for grades 8-12, where she was Dean of Faculty.
“I am thrilled to be at Foxcroft,” shared Dr. Hyatt. “As a scientist, I have always worked to increase girls’ engagement in STEM classes and careers and am excited to be at a school committed to empowering young women to reach their full potential and gain confidence in their abilities. The way Foxcroft nurtures every girl to find her passion(s), her voice, and her authentic self are what drew me here, and I look forward to working with each student to find the right learning path for them.”
As Dean of Faculty at Indian Springs, Dr. Hyatt led all aspects of hiring, mentoring new faculty, and planning faculty meetings and professional development, among other responsibilities. Under her leadership, Indian Springs revised the hiring process to work to eliminate bias and increase faculty of color. She also worked to implement a new annual faculty evaluation using Folio Collaborative. Prior to serving as Dean of Faculty, she was the School’s Dean of Academics, working to strengthen course offerings, improve the academic schedule, integrate study skills into the curriculum, and increase classroom technology use. The faculty, administrators, and Board of Trustees at Indian Springs held her in such esteem that she was appointed Acting Head of School for four months in 2019 when the Head left unexpectedly before the end of the academic year.
“While Dr. Hyatt is uniquely qualified for the Assistant Head of School position,” confirmed Foxcroft Head of School Cathy McGehee, “it was her warm spirit, calm presence, listening skills, and philosophy of educating the whole child that stood out during her meetings with our faculty, administrators, parents, and students. She impressed the search committee with her ‘all-in’ commitment to teaching and living at a boarding school.”
Dr. Hyatt earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science from the University of Alabama, Birmingham. She has published research on nutrition, some specifically related to women, and has also earned her paramedic license and national certification. While at Indian Springs, Dr. Hyatt held several positions, including Science Department Chair, Dorm Faculty, Administrator on Duty, and faculty liaison to the judiciary committee of the Student Government. She also taught a range of STEM courses, including AP Biology and AP Environmental Science, molecular genetics, research methods, human anatomy, and nutrition.
About Foxcroft School
Founded in 1914, Foxcroft School is a college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 and PG with a mission of helping every girl explore her unique voice and develop the skills, confidence, and courage to share it with the world. Foxcroft offers 72-76 courses, including 16+ AP classes and 5+ post-AP offerings, and a STEM program that inspires girls to pursue studies in fields where women are underrepresented. Foxcroft fields athletic teams in 11 sports and has a nationally known riding program. For more information about the School, please explore our website at www.foxcroft.org or call 540.687.5555.
For visitors of Middleburg’s National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM), the past 10 years have offered a delightful series of memorable exhibitions.
When it opened its doors to the public in 2011, the museum’s inaugural exhibition was entitled Afield in America: 400 Years of Animal & Sporting Art. It featured over 100 works, all of which were on loan from major institutions and private collections from across the country.
Henri DeLattre (French, 1801–1876) The Race Between Mac and Zachary Taylor at Hunting Park Course, Philadelphia, July 18, 1849, 1850, oil on canvas, 27 3/4 x 43 3/4 inches, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. F. Turner Reuter, Jr. and Anonymous, 2021. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum.
Built in 1804, the historic house which would become the museum was bequeathed to the National Sporting Library (NSL) by George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. It was then renovated and expanded in the two years prior to the museum’s opening with the addition of 10 small-to-medium galleries, two hall galleries, and an extended section boasting two large galleries. All the artworks installed in the main entry space and in the second-floor galleries were acquired through donations and bequests subsequent to the museum’s opening. According to Claudia Pfeiffer, the NSLM’s deputy director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. curator, when the permanent collection was initially installed in 2012, the museumwas only able to fill a quarter of the galleries.
At the time, initial plans for the museum focused on developing two loan exhibitions per year for the two large galleries and featuring the permanent collection in Vine Hill’s historic wing. “Those traveling exhibitions allowed a buffer of time for us to research, develop, and curate the museum’s own topics,” Pfeiffer says.
A Decade Afield features over 120 18th- to 20th-century American, British, and Continental artworks and pays tribute to the 10-year growth of the museum’s permanent collection. It is divided into 10 sections representing the “broadening scope and depth of NSLM’s holdings.” Some of the museum’s earliest pieces can be found in the Federal-style galleries in the Vine Hill mansion wing.
Left: Gallery wall. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Middle: Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877–1962) Portuguese Rejoneadores, a pair, modeled 1921, gilded bronze, 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Right: The NSLM on a beautiful summer’s day. Photo by Kaitlin Hill.
“It was a great opportunity to thematically organize the NSLM’s art collection and showcase the works with bold color choices for the walls,” Pfeiffer emphasizes. “The goal was to create an impactful visual experience for first-time and returning visitors alike and to give an overview of how the collection came to be and grew to what it is today.” The museum was closed for the month of May in preparation for the exhibition.
Today, the NSLM’s collection includes 1,445 objects encompassing a wide range of mediums including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, trophies, weathervanes, and dog collars.
Left: John Frederick Herring, Sr. (English, 1795–1865) Going to the Fair, 1841, oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 95 inches, Gift of Manuel H. and Mary Johnson, 2021. Right: Alfred Duke (British, 1863–1905) Game and Gun Dogs, late 19th/early 20th century, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 1/8 inches, Gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars, 2022. Courtesy of the National Sporting Library & Museum.
The beginning section of the exhibit, entitled “The Start,” creates an “aesthetic reminiscent of a country house, its inhabitants, and the country way of life,” Pfeiffer explains. Many of the best pieces in this section are portraits of key figures instrumental in expanding the library. The next section, “Setting the Course,” features two galleries dedicated to Felicia Warburg Rogan and honors her donation of 15 important British sporting art paintings. According to Pfeiffer, those works “set the bar for the NSLM’s standards moving forward and brought in iconic paintings by John Emms and Alfred James Munnings.”
The section “Mixed Bag” is an eclectic assortment of sporting works including a 41-inch English sterling silver model of a coach, NSLM’s earliest artwork, “Horse in a Landscape” by Abraham von Calraet, and paintings by Franklin Brooke Voss.
The remainder of the exhibition highlights the subsequent growth of the collection with such themes as “Spurring On,” “On Point,” “Casting the Line,” “Tally Ho!,” “The Menagerie,” “A Record Place,” and “Winners Circle.”
As for their next 10 years? “We look forward to what the future holds,” Pfeiffer says.
A Decade Afield will be on view through September 18, 2022. ML
This article first appeared in the July 2022 Issue.
Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program unveiled a new name and logo as part of rebrand initiative
Contact: Shelby Morrison Grants and Communications Manager Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL)
Photos by Tony Gibson
Clifton, VA – July 11, 2022 – The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, a leading provider of equine-assisted services to children and adults with disabilities, youth from marginalized communities, recovering military personnel, and others in need, has completed an extensive rebrand effort in response to organizational growth and future expansion. At the heart of the rebrand is a change of the program name to Cloverleaf Equine Center – representing services offered extend beyond the Northern Virginia area – and an update to the center’s logo.
Founded in 1980, the organization began as a small operation in Clifton, Virginia with a couple borrowed horses and a handful of clients and volunteers. Today, Cloverleaf Equine Center serves over 100 weekly clients from the DC Metro area with the help of more than 250 active volunteers and a herd of 18 horses on a 17-acre farm in Fairfax County. In addition to therapeutic riding, Cloverleaf’s services include physical therapy incorporating horses, equine-assisted learning and psychotherapy incorporating horses.
“This is a major milestone for the organization. We have grown so much in the last 20 years and are excited that our brand now reflects all we do,” said Kelsey Gallagher, executive director. “We are looking forward to the unlimited potential equine-assisted services brings to our clients and our community now and for many years to come.”
A cloverleaf symbol already had great significance to the organization: The Cloverleaf name is a nod to the center’s early beginnings as the Fairfax County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program. The property is also located in an area that is called Cloverleaf Farm Estates, honoring the organization’s historical ties to the town of Clifton. Each leaf of a clover represents the different programs offered and the populations served through equine-assisted services.
About Cloverleaf: Originally chartered in 1980, Cloverleaf Equine Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing equine-assisted services to children and adults with disabilities, youth from marginalized communities, military service personnel and their families in an inclusive, community setting. Learning to ride and care for a horse not only improves the physical health of the rider but also generates a critically important sense of accomplishment. Clients participating in Cloverleaf programs represent a range of disabilities including attention deficit disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, and genetic syndromes. Cloverleaf is a Premier Center accredited by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl), and a member center of the Therapeutic Riding Association of Virginia (TRAV). Cloverleaf Equine Center is located in Clifton, VA.
Fairfax, Virginia (June 28, 2022) – NOVA Parks has acquired a 128-acre riverfront property in Loudoun County. A donation by philanthropists Chuck & Stacy Kuhn of half the value of the land ($900,ooo) and an equal grant from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) made this addition to the parks agency possible. The LWCF is a federal program which provides 50 percent matching funds to state agencies and localities for the acquisition and development of outdoor recreation resources.
“Acquiring this new land overlooking the Potomac River is right in line with NOVA Parks’ 2023-2027 Strategic Plan, which places a high value on protecting natural resources and our shared environment,” said NOVA Parks Chair Cate Magennis Wyatt. “NOVA Parks’ plans to plant trees and restore habitat will greatly increase the ecological value of the land and protect the Potomac River.”
This morning, Chuck & Stacy Kuhn, owners of JK Land Holdings, JK Moving Services, and CapRelo, NOVA Parks Chair Cate Magennis Wyatt, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, Supervisor Kristen Umstattd, and other community leaders signed the deed at the property, which will become Springdale Regional Park.
“Creating this new park helps fulfill our goals of having more green and open space and providing Loudoun citizens with opportunities to enjoy Loudoun’s beauty” said Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall. “We’re grateful to NOVA Parks and Chuck & Stacy Kuhn for their role as stewards of Loudoun County’s rich environmental, historic, and recreational resources.”
Over the past decade, the Kuhns have conserved more than 22,000 acres of land—land greater than the size of Manhattan—ensuring vulnerable vistas and habitats are preserved and protected for future generations. The Kuhns have also won numerous awards, including being recognized by the Washington Business Journal as a Top Corporate Philanthropist and the Old Dominion Land Conservancy for their conservation efforts. In addition to the NOVA Parks donation, they have protected multiple area landmarks and natural habitats by buying and conserving:
· 500-acre Wolver Hill Farm in Middleburg
· Historic White’s Ferry in Maryland
· 135-acre Westpark golf course in Leesburg that is being transformed into a park
· JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 acres in Loudoun with rare wetlands, native plants, and wildlife
· 150-acres in Purcellville used to start the JK Community Farm, a charitable effort that alleviates hunger by growing chemical free crops and livestock and donating them to local foodbanks
· Historic and now fully renovated Middleburg Training Center
· Several thousand acres near Loudoun’s historic villages
· Two contiguous parcels of land in Saint Louis, Virginia, one of county’s first African American townships, into conservation easement to protect the 42 acres from development
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation deemed the property eligible for this federal grant because it met the criteria of the Virginia Outdoors Plan (VOP) goals for land conservation. The VOP aims to protect undeveloped land and waterways that provide essential benefits to society, such as clean air, clean water, food, fiber, open space for recreation, and a sense of place. The VOP prioritizes land along major rivers, like the Potomac.
The purchase saves the property from residential development, as it was once destined to become a subdivision for 16 single family residential lots. Instead, with the adjacent land already owned by NOVA Parks, the new park will comprise 278 acres and ¾ of a mile of Potomac River front. Springdale Regional Park will be able to enhance the natural habitat and to offer future families the chance to visit the park, experience nature, and learn about its rich history. The property was once an important area for Native Americans, who fished along the nearby Heater’s Island.
The first pillar of NOVA Parks’ soon-to-be-finalized 2023-2027 Strategic Plan is protecting the environment. This includes actively acquiring and managing many of the largest intact natural areas in the region. NOVA Parks’ efforts to restore natural resources like riparian buffers—which protect waterways—and to plant trees—which remove ozone-depleting carbon from the air, address the root causes of climate change and help our region be more climate resilient.
About NOVA Parks
Founded in 1959 as a conservation organization, NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) is the only regional park authority in Virginia. It represents three Northern Virginia counties and three cities—Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church, and the City of Fairfax. The regional agency manages 34 parks with 12,335 acres of parkland, including waterparks, golf courses, campsites, historic sites, event venues, boat launches, annual holiday light shows, and a high adventure ropes course.
About JK Land Holdings
JK Land Holdings, LLC (JKLH) —owned by Chuck & Stacy Kuhn—seeks land acquisitions that can be sold, leased, developed, placed into conservation easement, or utilized by sister companies JK Moving Services and CapRelo, a global employee relocation and assignment management firm serving private and public sector clients. JKLH was founded in 2016, and has reinvested monies gained from land acquisition into protecting properties and tracts of land from future development.
Written by Shayda Windle Photos by Callie Broaddus
If Hunt Country is anything, it most certainly is not a place lacking in things to do or see. In addition to pastoral views of the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains, famed foxhunts, and steeplechase races, there is also a vibrant shopping district in the town of Middleburg that keeps visitors coming back for more. With its tree-lined brick sidewalks and 18th-century buildings, historic Middleburg has rows of lively restaurants and boutiques that attract people from all over. This intriguing mix of old and new can be found at Another Blue Moon, a luxury consignment shop in the heart of town. The unique secondhand store offers an assortment of antique and vintage furniture, decorative accessories, collectibles, and home goods.
What started out as a pop-up founded by six friends in 2018 has evolved into the brick-and-mortar retail store you see today on Washington Street. The store is co-owned by longtime friends Kerry Dale and Jennifer Andrews. As people began cleaning out their homes and looking to recycle possessions during the pandemic, Dale and Andrews saw an opportunity to continue the venture. At Another Blue Moon, you’ll find beautiful furniture, vintage mirrors, lamps, tables, rugs, tea sets, and so much more. What makes this boutique so special is that most items come from local homes and friends of the owners. So, when you buy a piece from Another Blue Moon, you’re not only supporting the local economy — you’re also giving back to the community of contributors who have decided to consign their goods here. You’re buying something special from another person’s sanctuary and continuing that treasure’s story.
“We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory.”
Dale says, “Because of our community and the nature of it, and as the real estate market has exploded, our business has grown too. We added space this year and now have barn space in the basement of the Middleburg Professional Center.” During the pandemic, Dale adds, “Instagram saved us. We would take photos and post them to social media. People would claim their goods online then come pick them up in-store.” Andrews chimes in, “Instagram not only provides an outlet for home shopping and dreaming, but continues to offer comic relief even today. What else could make you laugh about a needlepoint pillow, a Herend cat, or a shapely French chest? We learn something every day about the business and there’s always a fresh challenge around the corner.”
Left: A stack of books perfect for a home office. Center: Dale surrounded by the shop’s many treasures. Righ: Hunt Country accents are in no short supply.
“Many times, people will send me twenty pictures of what they want to consign, but we must curate what we take,” Dale explains. “We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory. We carry anything from antiques to contemporary to transitional and more traditional goods.” Another Blue Moon also considers whether items are on-trend, the condition they are in, and seasonality as they curate their collection. They will generally hold items for about 90 days, but Dale says they try very hard to sell with a quicker turnaround.
“If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?”
It’s clear how much these two women enjoy the process of building a business together, and their passion for “finding a new life for something that still has life in it” is even more inspiring. But perhaps Andrews puts it best. She says with a laugh, “I feel like I’m in an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, driving through Loudoun with a van full of old furniture to drop off at a barn. If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?” ML
Another Blue Moon is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Be sure to stop by the basement area of the Middleburg Professional Center on 119 The Plains Road for more from Another Blue Moon. You can also check them out on Instagram @anotherbluemoon to see what’s available now. New inventory is added regularly.
This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.
$5000 Scholarship Awarded to Kenny Bills to Help Fund His Creative Arts Study at VCU Arts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Matt Kraycinovich Email: matt @kraycopr.com
LEESBURG, VA – June 21, 2022 –- Award-winning interior designers and twin sisters Julie Hoffmann and Lori DuVal of J&L Interiors announced today Loudoun Valley High School student Kenny Bills as the first recipient of the J&L Interiors “Pathways of Design” Scholarship.
“We are delighted to award the 2022 J&L Interiors Pathways of Design Scholar to Kenny Bills, a graduating high school senior at Loudoun Valley High School who will attend VCU Arts this Fall,” stated Julie Hoffmann, principal and co-founder of J&L Interiors. She continued, “We created this scholarship to help a deserving and promising student in his or her studies and we are so excited for Kenny and his future in the creative arts.”
“Kenny is a talented arts student with a strong academic record and has contributed to the community as an Eagle Scout and through his volunteer work with Group Mission Trips and Workcamps, a weeklong summer retreat where Kenny helped to renovate and repair homes,” said Lori DuVal, principal and co-founder of J&L Interiors.
Hoffmann and DuVal created the J&L Interiors Pathways of Design Scholarship which totals $5,000 to celebrate J&L Interiors’ 25th business anniversary. The scholarship helps to fund expenses for higher education learning to include trade schools and universities with a preferred interest in a study abroad immersive experience. It will allow the student to explore, discover and be inspired by the city’s arts, culture, history, and more which – in turn – will nurture, cultivate and encourage the student in his or her own individual pathway toward a successful and rewarding career in the creative arts.
WHO: Julie Hoffmann & Lori DuVal of J&L Interiors and Loudoun Valley High School Student Kenny Bills
WHAT: Announced Loudoun Valley High School Student Kenny Bills as First Recipient of J&L Interiors Pathways of Design Scholarship totaling $5000
WHEN: June 21, 2022
WHERE: Leesburg & Loudoun County, Virginia
ABOUT J&L INTERIORS, LLC
J&L Interiors, LLC is an award-winning, full-scale interior design firm located 40 miles west of Washington, D.C. in historic Leesburg, Virginia with clients from Northern Virginia, Maryland, DC and beyond. Founded in 1997 by twin sisters Julie Hoffmann and Lori DuVal, the J&L Interiors design team provides both residential and commercial design services that reflect a deep passion for design and for creating truly unique interiors. For more information, visit www.jandlinteriors.net.
More than historic, the site of the Upperville Colt & Horse show is undeniably green. The sloping lawns, towering hundred-plus year-old trees, and the familiar evergreen paint on nearly every structure all contribute to a feeling of being one with nature upon entering the gates of the showground. And in recent years, there have been efforts to make Upperville even greener by operating the show with environmental impact in mind, led by a national campaign called Green is the New Blue and aided by local efforts supporting the cause.
Founded by amateur equestrian Stephanie Riggio Bulger, Green is the New Blue (GNB) partners with horse shows across the country to reduce the impact of equestrian events can on the planet. Emily Cleland of GNB shares, “With year-round horse show circuits available to us, we are such a transient population. And in the effort to get from show to show, we just don’t realize the amount of waste we produce, especially in the form of plastics: supplement tubs, shavings bags, twine, water bottles… just for one horse and rider, it really adds up.”
As the oldest horse show in the nation, it seems appropriate that Upperville was also Green is the New Blue’s original partner. Cleland says, “Upperville was actually our very first horse show partner!” She adds, “Its management team has made such a commitment to the future with their forward-thinking approaches to sustainability.”
Caitlin Lane, executive director of Upperville Horse Shows, LLC notes, “We have been working with Green is the New Blue for a few years to develop a sustainability program. We’ve been brainstorming with them on how to expand the program and get more people involved, more sponsors.”
For this year’s show, the team at UCHS and GNB connected with Maria Eldredge and Anne McIntosh of Middleburg Real Estate and Atoka Properties. Lane shares, “In talking with Middleburg Real Estate, we put forward the idea that we wanted to add these hydration stations and it would be something new this year.”
Coincidentally, Eldredge explains, “Middleburg Real Estate had just come up with a new program where, as agents, if we wanted to sponsor something we could, and we’re trying to do more locally.” A single-use to reusable convert herself, Eldredge jumped the idea of sponsoring the hydration stations and partnered with McIntosh and Middleburg Real Estate to cover the $10,000 project. She says, “Instead of selling thousands of [single-use] plastic bottles, there will be tents set up with bamboo cups. You can refill your water bottle and there will be bigger jugs of water.”
This latest initiative is one of many that Upperville has adopted to reduce its environmental impact. Lane says, “We are doing wider facility recycling. We’ve been able to recycle the shavings bags which is a big source of plastic for us. We are trying to work on where the manure goes after an event, how it can be reused.” She adds, “We’re really looking at how we can be more sustainable. It’s deliberate choices on what products we can use and how we can set things up to reduce our footprint…Ideally, we are helping spread [the idea] to other events across the country.”
Cleland adds, “We want to see horse shows and facilities adopt initiatives that are reasonably actionable in their geographic areas. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ — some municipalities simply don’t have recycling programs for show organizers to utilize, for instance. Some facilities have the means to tackle issues like erosion and water runoff that other facilities don’t. That said, recently we’ve been inspired by the horse shows like UCHS that have substantially cut their use of single-use plastics by committing to water refill stations with compostable cups. That choice alone produces exponentially less plastic waste.”
In addition to national campaigns and locally sponsored programs, an impact can be made on an individual level too. Cleland says, “Make a habit out of bringing your own refillable water bottle to horse shows and everywhere you go! Be vocal! Let your horse show organizers and venue managers know that sustainable practices are important to you.”
As horses, trainers, and spectators show up June 6 through 12 to enjoy the 169th Upperville Colt & Horse Show, they will take part in the new green legacy of this historic event, as Cleland says, “to preserve our planet for generations of equestrians to come.” ML
This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.
What do Lady Macbeth, a trending Twitter stripper saga, and a rancher from 1925 Montana have in common? The answer is Australian-born cinematographer Ari Wegner’s talent for translating stories to screen. At just 37, Wegner’s resume is already impressive. She’s an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award Nominee (2016), British Independent Film Awards Winner (2017), and Toronto International Film Festival Artisan Award Winner (2021). During her first visit to the Middleburg Film Festival, Wegner presented her film “The Power of the Dog” and took home the well-deserved award for Distinguished Cinematography. Starting behind-the-scenes to the big screen reveal, Wegner shares her process for producing stunning films and how she and director Jane Campion bring “The Power of the Dog” to life.
When asked how she picks projects as different as “The Power of the Dog” (2021), a moody Western with a dark secret, and “Zola” (2020) a stripper’s story that starts in a Detroit Hooter’s and unravels over Twitter, Wegner says, “It’s really the combination of the director and the script … it’s a kind of alchemy or synchronicity of those two. Once I read the script and decide that it looks interesting, I’ll meet the director and see if there is chemistry.”
For “The Power of the Dog,” Wegner paired up with writer and director Jane Campion to adapt the 1967 Thomas Savage novel of the same name. Before learning the lighting of the landscape, framing the shots, and curating the color palette, Wegner starts new projects with a deep understanding of the director she is working with.
“I love working with directors and really getting to know them,” Wegner says. “You find out how they see the world, what’s important to them, what interests them, how detail-oriented they are, and what details they will fixate on … I love to use that pre-production time to get to know [a director], and then be able to create a shot that, hopefully, they are going to love based on what I know about them.”
In getting to know Campion, Wegner discovered a common interest in art and artists like American realist painter Andrew Wyeth. “Jane has a fine arts background, and my father is a visual artist,” Wegner says. “So, we both had a pretty good common language in art. And usually, one of the first things I do when I start a new project is look at art. It really is a color palette. Or look at the minimalism of Wyeth’s work, I really love that. There is a real simplicity and minimalism of people in rooms or people in nature.”
Part-drama, part-romance, all-Western, “The Power of the Dog” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, tells the story of the Burbank Brothers and a twisted year of manipulation, intimidation, and gritty ranch work that takes place in the shadow of a menacing mountain which could fairly be considered an additional main character.
Avoiding any spoilers, as relationships shift and minds unravel, Wegner shapes the story with captivatingly simple shots and obvious influence from Wyeth. Transitions take place through open windows with unobstructed views of the imposing mountain in the distance. And empty rooms minimally laid with color schemes seemingly straight from Wyeth’s brush increase the feeling of isolation, so crucial to the film.
“We knew that we wanted to have a really restricted color palette … and Wyeth’s work really captured it,” Wegner says. “There is something in the atmosphere of his work that I like, the feel, the loneliness, or desperation. [His work] doesn’t romanticize the places. There is some kind of unease in his work that is hard to define.”
More than nailing this color palette, for Wegner transporting audiences to 1925 Montana and creating believable characters was about understanding the landscape, thus creating a set that felt “lived in.” “The landscape, in this film, in particular, is more than just a setting because the characters, especially Phil, have such a strong emotional connection to the place,” Wegner says.
For Phil Burbank, the film’s lead played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the sprawling family is part of his personality. “We wanted [the landscape] to be beautiful, striking, and hopefully, iconic,” Wegner says. “And we were also really interested in tiny things that make up a place – whether it is a micro shot of the grass or a big wide shot of the house with the mountain behind it.”
Beyond character and narrative development, Wegner’s blend of minuscule detail and big picture shots results in an audience experience that is immersive, captivating, and almost unnervingly real. This feat is particularly impressive, given the convincingly classic Americana Western was filmed in New Zealand. “Obviously, not all of New Zealand looks like Montana … It took some planning to make it convincing,” Wegner says, joking. “We did a lot of research and looked at photos of the landscape. I actually did a lot of driving around on Google Maps, just clicking along the road to see if this feels like New Zealand.”
In addition to pre-production research, onset framing was essential too. “We definitely needed to choose angles that worked,” Wegner says. And where others might lean on green or blue screens, Wegner took a different approach aimed at achieving authenticity. “We actually ended up printing these billboard-sized backdrops of photos that we shot on location. We printed them, stretched them out, and had them in the studio.” Filming with the printed backdrops, “allowed me to be riskier with my work because I knew what the final [look] was, versus having to be a bit safe because I couldn’t visualize what was going on outside the windows,” Wegner says. “That was something that started as a challenge, but ended up being incredibly satisfying and also just a super cool optical illusion.”
Perhaps optical illusionist is a better job title for Wegner, as her work on “The Power of the Dog” is nothing short of true movie magic. She pairs her razor-sharp vision with a willingness to let a film “reveal itself,” resulting in immersive viewing experiences that stay with her audiences and almost implore them to watch her films a second, if not third or fourth time.
“I think I can adapt to any style because I can break down the elements of something and pull them apart … but the really interesting part for me is knowing what image I want to create and then to create it,” she says. “I start to plan and then it starts to reveal itself even as I am shooting it.”
Though her next project is yet unknown, her success at the Middleburg Film Festival with “The Power of the Dog” (available to stream on Netflix starting December 1, 2021), it is a safe bet that Wegner’s talent will only continue to “reveal itself” and she is certainly a cinematographer worth watching. ML
This article first appeared in the November 2021 Issue.
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.
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.