Organizer Q&A: Napa Valley Film Festival

Napa Film 11.7.11 Feature

This month, we are hosting question and answer conversations with organizers from throughout the U.S. Today, we chat with Kyle Wiebalk, digital strategist for Napa Valley Film Festival.


You’re in an elevator with a group of people and have 30 seconds to convince them to buy a ticket to the film festival. What do you say?

Experience an array of 101 new independent films, more than 100 wines, 30 legendary chefs, and more than 250 filmmakers and industry guests. Plus, join a slew of special events like our Opening Night Gala at Robert Mondavi Winery, tributes to Actors Judy Greer and Jeffrey Wright, and awards ceremony and closing night wrap party. You’ll also enjoy private VIP lounges, dinners and after-parties with the filmmakers, celebrities and industry executives.

What are the goals of your event?

To build community around the art of visual storytelling, and celebrate the best new independent films from around the world, along with the artisan food, boutique wine, hospitality and natural beauty of the legendary Napa Valley.

What’s your team look like?

We have a core year-round staff of skilled talent hired from around the country. Additionally, we bring on a seasonal staff of 20, three months before the festival, to help execute a successful event. Lastly, the Napa Valley Film Festival works with more than 450 amazing volunteers to help operate during the festival week!

What was the inspiration behind kicking off your event this year?

The festival’s Co-Founder and Co-Directors are Brenda and Marc Lhormer, producers and distributors of the feature film Bottle Shock, about the historic upset victory by Napa Valley wines over the French at the infamous 1976 wine-tasting competition in Paris. Bottle Shock premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival before going on to international theatrical distribution. The husband-and-wife team also ran the successful Sonoma Valley Film Festival from 2001 through 2008. Brenda and Marc aspire to bring the best of Sundance, Telluride, Toronto and Cannes to Napa Valley.

What are some of the challenges that you’re facing as a first-year organizer?

There are certainly some challenges around generating funding for a first-year event, especially in tough economic times; but our local Napa Valley community has been amazingly supportive to help make this festival a reality!

What advice would you have for other first-time event organizers?


Located in the heart of Napa Valley, the film festival naturally weaves in wine and food celebrations.

Integrate and showcase the local community. Napa Valley wants to market itself as more than just food and wine.

The new mantra is food, wine and the arts. So we’ve positioned the festival to line-up with local business and community interests, and then designed the festival to enable local businesses – lodging establishments, wineries, restaurants, retail outlets – to have a key role in the festival experience. This helps with local awareness as well!

What have you done to market your event? What has worked well?

We’re marketing over major digital and social channels (i.e. NVFF Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare), ongoing creation of a promotional video series, documenting key year-round events with photography and video in addition to the festival itself. Since video is such an organic fit with a film festival, we’re working on an interactive video experience to showcase the craft of independent filmmaking, soon to be released.

In addition to our basic integrated marketing ecosystem, we’re cultivating a community of enthusiastic and engaging tastemakers in film, food, wine, and of course Napa Valley. We’ve created an ambassador program to encourage both digital and street team marketing support, in addition to traditional and digital PR. Contests, giveaways and incentives work especially well for an inaugural program or event. We’re experimenting, learning and optimizing on a regular basis—and already planning for next year’s Napa Valley Film Festival!

What has been your favorite part of planning this event?

We truly enjoy working with all of our supportive partners, sponsors, talented team, and dedicated community. Of course the best part is when the festival is smoothly planned and execute and to see everyone attending have such an amazing experience in Napa Valley.

Is there any non-profit portion for your event?

The Napa Valley Film Festival is produced by Cinema Napa Valley, a registered 501c3 non-profit organization headquartered in Napa, Calif. In addition to producing the annual film festival, Cinema Napa Valley presents special film programs throughout the year and provides support to student filmmaking programs in Napa Valley schools.

Complementing its work locally, the organization has partnered with the international organization Roots of Peace. Roots of Peace removes land-mines in war-torn regions of the world and replaces them with vineyards and other sustainable crops.

Do you have questions for an event organizer? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter and be included in our next interview.

Hosting your own event? Check out Eventbrite and see how easy it can be to plan, promote, and get payments for your event!

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