When Sonoma residents Brenda and Marc Lhormer took on their ultimate dream of producing an independent film, they never could have imagined the experience would lead them on a path straight to the Sundance Film Festival.
As members of the Sonoma Valley Film Society and organizers of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, the Lhormers were no strangers to life in the film industry, and they often rubbed elbows with screenwriters, producers and directors they met through the festival. Both had growing interest in making films.
According to the Sonoma News, in 2006, the Lhormers were given a script called “Bottle Shock,” written by Ross Schwartz. It told the story of Chateau Montelena, the Napa winery that took top prize in the Judgment of Paris blind winetasting in 1976. (That tasting marked the first time California wines beat French wines, which were considered the gold standard, in judging by French critics.) The film introduces audiences to Jim and Bo Barrett, the father/son team who ran the winery.
As soon as the Lhormers read the script, they knew they wanted to be involved in making the movie. They recruited the directing/producing team of Randy Miller and Jodi Savin, who rewrote the script and helped attract Hollywood talent like Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman.
The movie began filming around the Sonoma Valley in August, with scenes set on the Plaza, East Napa Street, Buena Vista Vineyards and the Jack London Inn.
For a month, Sonoma seemed a bit like Tinseltown, as hundreds of crew members worked to transform Sonoma into Paris in the ’70s, complete with lots of polyester and Farrah Fawcett feathers.
As soon as the filming wrapped at the end of August, Miller immediately began editing, motivated to work day and night to finish a rough cut of the film by October, the deadline to submit to the internationally recognized Sundance Film Festival.
“The whole process has been really quick,” Brenda Lhormer said. “I was really lucky to work with (Miller and Savin). They understand how to make a movie.”
In November, the Lhormers flew to Los Angeles to watch a screening of the movie with Miller, Savin and other producers.
“Everybody had a really positive reaction,” Lhormer said. “And Sonoma looks gorgeous.”
On Thanksgiving Day, the Lhormers found out “Bottle Shock” had been accepted in the American Spectrum category at Sundance.
“I was just thrilled,” Lhormer said. “We found out on Thanksgiving, and it was truly the best gift.”
The Sundance Film Festival runs January 17-27 in Park City, Utah, and is the largest annual networking event for independent filmmakers. Representatives of studios of all sizes attend, looking for the most promising new films of the year to purchase and distribute.