Notables participate in PRDFF
Posted: Monday, Nov 24th, 2008


Beginning Friday, the lights and sounds of movies and music invaded

Paso Robles for the first Paso Robles Digital Film Festival.


Addressing the crowd during a kick-off event held at the Hotel

Cheval Friday afternoon, organizer and producer Benford

Festival producer Benford Standley, Clint Eastwood

and Joel Cox, Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Photo by Richard Bastian

Standley said he was grateful to all the musicians and filmmakers in

attendance, and that the festival had grown quickly and larger than he’d originally imagined.

“There’s a lot of things going on all at once here,” he said. “There’s just been this bandwagon effect and so many people have wanted to get involved.”

Festival screenings began at 10 a.m. with award selections shown at the Park Ballroom and the Cattleman’s Lounge. Special screenings were also held at Martin and Weyrich Winery’s Tasting Room and at Hotel Cheval, while panel discussions were hosted at the Paso Robles City Library.

The first big event of the festival was the Friday night premiere of “This Is Not A Rodeo,” a new documentary film about Professional Bull Riders, Inc. At the press conference earlier in the day, film producers Joe Loverro, who also serves as a producer for the PBR, and Erik McMichael, who wrote and edited “This Is Not A Rodeo,” introduced some of the PBR riders and officials who were featured in the film, including CEO Randy Bernard and world champions Larry Mahan and Justin McBride, whose 2007 championship run is prominently featured in the film.

“This is something we’ve all been working on for a year and a half,” Loverro said. “And we’re thrilled to premiere it here at this festival.”

On Friday night at the Paso Robles Inn, a crowd packed the ballroom for the premiere of the film. “This Is Not A Rodeo” showcases the history of the sport of bull riding and tells the story of 20 riders who banded together, each putting up $1,000 to break away from the professional rodeo circuit to found a professional bull riding circuit run by riders.

The film, narrated by J.K. Simmons, focused on the founding of PBR, Inc., and how it’s grown to what it is today. The film featured interviews with a number of riders, including Tuff Hedeman, Ty Murray and Cody Lambert, and mixed the story of the PBR’s creation and rise with the 2007 season of the eventual champion, McBride.

The film doesn’t pull any punches, as subjects candidly talk about disputes within the group in addition to all the positives, and that’s just the way Loverro said he wanted it.

“I’ve been around the PBR for five years and I’ve wanted to do a story about it since the first year,” he said. “I’ve seen so many done, and they’ve all been well-done, but I never felt any of them captured the essence of the sport, the athletes and the character of it. Last year, when PBR sold to Spire and this storyline played out, I knew it was time to jump in.”

Loverro contacted Chris Carter, who served as executive producer for the film, and the two realized it was a story that needed to be shared.

“The reason I wanted to be involved in this is because everyone that worked on this film was passionate about it,” said producer Jim Kreitman.

For McMichael, the challenge as the writer and editor was to figure out how to sequence the film.

“There are so many different story beats along the path,” he said. “There are some story points that are important to the history of the PBR, but we had to take them out because there was too much going on.”

Loverro also credited a lot of the success of the film to the work of field producers Jim Fabio and Jim Karabian. He said he’s proud of “This Is Not A Rodeo” because it captures the elements of the great American success story.

“I hope this inspires people to go out and take a chance, to go out and build something,” he said.

The producers said they are still seeking a distributor for the film but plan to take it to film to more festivals around the country.

Many of the other filmmakers whose work was shown at the festival are also traveling the festival circuit. Films shown at various locations ranged from student-produced work, efforts by young filmmakers and work done by people with years of experience in the business, all of whom shared a passion for the craft.

On Saturday at the Park Ballroom, Amy Adrion was on-hand for a screening of her narrative short “Home of the Split Pea Soup.” She got the idea for the film after stopping at her filming location, Buelton, while on a trip to Monterey.

“My boyfriend and I passed all the signs for ‘Home of the Split Pea Soup’ and I was just kind of intrigued and wondered what the place was like,” she said. “I took a trip there, saw how quaint it was and knew I wanted to film something there.”

Adrion, a graduate of UCLA film school, wrote, directed and edited the film. “Home of the Split Pea Soup” was her second short feature and centered on a woman who is going through a tough patch in her marriage and breaks down near Buelton on her way to San Francisco. Her experiences there and the people she meets have a profound impact on her. Adrion said she based the film loosely on experiences some of her friends had shared with her.

“It’s stories I heard from women in their 30s whose lives had gone on a path they hadn’t expected,” she said. “I think I got the heart and soul of what I wanted it to be in there.”

Adrion has taken her film to a number of festivals, including in Austin and at the Portland Women’s Festival, and said she was happy to have officials select her film to screen in Paso Robles.

“It’s always very flattering for a filmmaker when a festival wants to show it and share it with their audience,” she said.

Susan Morgan Cooper, producer and director of the documentary “An Unlikely Weapon,” said she’s also no stranger to the festival circuit but was intrigued by the PRDFF because it was the first year for the festival.

Her film, a documentary on legendary photographer Eddie Adams, was also screened Saturday at the Park Ballroom. The screening was capped by a question and answer period, where Cooper shared a bit about her film with audiences.

“I’ve always had a fascination with photographers who go to war zones and put their lives on the line to bring back the story,” she said.

Cooper was first introduced to the project by Cindy Lou Adkins, who served as co-producer on the project and is Adams’ sister-in-law. Cooper said she was pleased with the final film and said it’s gotten great response.

“[Eddie Adams] was a decent, honorable man who tried to make a difference with his photographs,” she said. “And I think we all want to make a difference.”

The highlight of the day on Saturday was the Malpaso panel held at Paso Robles Inn Ballroom. The panel featured producer Bruce Ricker, who served as moderator, editor Joel Cox, assistant editor Gary Roach, sound editor Alan Murray and Judy Hoyt.

The group discussed the filmmaking process and their own history with Malpaso, Clint Eastwoods production company. The panel concluded with comments from Eastwood himself and a tribute to Cox, the festival’s first Ignacy Paderewski Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Following a montage of some of his work, Eastwood presented the award to Cox.

“Joel has done a fantastic job, no matter what kind of film it is,” Eastwood said of Cox. “I just want to thank Joel for this wonderful relationship we’ve had.”

Cox also expressed his appreciation at being honored by festival producers.

“When they called me and said they wanted to do this, I was taken back by it,” he said. “I am truly honored to be the first recipient of this award.”

The festival also included several concerts, including a Friday night show with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jack Tempchin, a Saturday night concert with Ramblin’ Jack and Kyle Eastwood and a Sunday afternoon show featuring John Andrew Parks and the Bacon Brothers.

The festival concludes with a special panel on winemaking and film at Carmody-McKnight Winery tonight. A tasting begins at 5 p.m. with the panel at 6 p.m. For more information, visit