Notables participate in
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,
and Joel Cox, Lifetime Achievement
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“[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
“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
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