Friday, March 6, 2015

SVFF 2015: Paxton, Miller, Rash and Faxon on Film

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 8:24 PM

click to enlarge George Prentice and Bill Paxton at SVFF Coffee Talk.
  • George Prentice and Bill Paxton at SVFF Coffee Talk.
The Sun Valley Film Festival, only in its fourth year, has already found the perfect mix of celebrating film history, giving fans look at the best in cutting-edge, contemporary cinema and, perhaps most significant, allowing festival attendees to get a glimpse of what’s on the horizon. Friday’s SVFF schedule touched all bases.

This reporter was lucky enough to moderate a Coffee Talk conversation with actor Bill Paxton at the standing-room-only NexStage Theatre. Paxton entertained the crowd with hilarious highlights of a career that includes roles in Aliens, Apollo 13, Big Love, Edge of Tomorrow, Hatfields and McCoys, The Terminator, Titanic, Twister and dozens of other audience favorites. Paxton even shared a little-known fact: As a young boy growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, he waved at President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated.

click to enlarge bill_paxton_2.jpg
“President Kennedy was so young and vibrant and full of color which was so special, because so many of us were living in a black-and-white world at that time,” said Paxton. “I remember that morning as if it was yesterday, and I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.”

Paxton was particularly excited to talk about his latest project: He portrays Sam Houston in Texas Rising, a new TV miniseries which airs in May on the History Channel.

“It’s directed by the amazing Roland Joffe, who gave us The Killing Fields and The Mission,” said Paxton. “It’s a beautiful piece of work.”

A short time later, Melanie Miller, independent film producer and marketer extraordinaire, huddled with young filmmakers at SVFF’s Apres Ski Salon, to talk about how film distribution has changed. Miller focused particularly on Video On Demand platforms which have dramatically changed the way independent movies are distributed.

“It’s the wild, wild west out there,” Miller told the budding directors and screenwriters who hung on her every word. “In today’s digital space, there is no right or wrong answer when distributing an independent film”

click to enlarge L-R: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash with their Oscars for 2011's The Descendants.
  • L-R: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash with their Oscars for 2011's The Descendants.
Friday afternoon, screenwriters Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who won an Academy Award for 2011's The Descendants, hosted SVFF's screenwriters lab and unveiled the drop-dead hilarious script for their new comedy movie based on the true saga of Steve Bartman, the infamous Chicago Cubs fan who caught a foul ball and ruined the Cubs' chances of going to the 2003 World Series. Rash and Faxon, who also penned 2013's The Way Way Back, initially optioned their new script as a series for HBO.

“HBO changed its mind and didn't option the series,” Faxon said. “But we loved this script so much that we adapted it into a full comedy feature.”

With that, Rash and Faxon were joined by a full cast of comic actors, and attendees of the screenwriters lab were treated to a full table-read of the first 40 minutes of a script destined to become a cult classic. As the audience roared with laughter, Rash and Faxon looked at each other and smiled. They knew they had a big hit on their hands.

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