Category Archives: San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival names Skye McLennan Festival Director

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Wendy Eidson to stay on as Artistic Director

San Luis Obispo, CA (May 28, 2020) – The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival announced today that after a year as Associate Director, Skye McLennan has been named Festival Director. Wendy Eidson continues with the organization as Artistic Director, the job she was originally hired for in 2005.

Wendy Eidson
Wendy Eidson, SLO FilmFest Artistic Director

“I am so thrilled to announce Skye’s promotion and look forward to continue to work with her. She brings a wealth of festival experience, new ideas and a youthful perspective to our organization as we continue to add to the reputation we have earned across the country as an important regional festival,” said Eidson. “We all recognize how important it is to bring in people with enthusiasm and innovation to keep an organization fresh and relevant and she brings all of that and so much more to the table.”

McLennan grew up in Templeton, CA and went on receive her degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University. She also studied TV Documentary in Denmark at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. A dual citizen of Australia and the United States, after college she moved to Sydney, Australia and worked extensively in film production design on short films, features, advertisements, music videos and documentaries.

She first became involved in film festivals in high school. Her first volunteer position was with the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Over the next ten years she went on to work with major film festivals including the Sydney, Sundance, Tribeca and San Francisco International Film Festivals.  Since moving back to SLO County, she has been involved in the wine industry in both marketing and winemaking. In 2017, she launched her own rosé label, Rebel Skye. In her job as Associate Director this past year, Skye introduced new ticketing software, procedures and website improvements, as well as working with Wendy on programming and overall planning.

Skye McLennan - SLO Film Fest
Skye McLennan, SLO FilmFest Director

McLennan said, “It is an honor and a privilege to continue working alongside Wendy, our board and staff in my hometown of San Luis Obispo. While a difficult time for our industry, I continue to be amazed by the incredible creativity, ingenuity and dedication to sharing film with audiences. With the help of my incredible team, we look forward to coming back bigger and stronger to continue our mission of bringing diverse stories and entertainment to San Luis Obispo County.”

With a long held reputation as a beloved destination film festival, SLO Film Fest earned further kudos as one of the very first film festivals to go online following the effects of the pandemic across the country. MovieMaker Magazine cited the fest, known for its beautiful location, parties mixing filmmakers with film fans, and unique melding of surf culture and wine country, for leading the way for other film festivals to pivot to the virtual space. From the magazine, “San Luis Obispo is known for tranquil Central California weather, wine and beer, and a festival that boosts a personalized Filmmaker Concierge for moviemakers and other special guests. SLO also offers the truly unique Surf Nite in which surfers and ocean-lovers unite for an event that’s like a cross between a ’60s surf movie screening and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.”

Since then, SLO Film Fest has continued to share films online, with a Best in the Fest virtual presentation featuring popular films screened at the film festival from the past ten years, with a new film introduced each week. So far, Tom Walters’ 2014 winner (and locally produced) BOTSO, Mark Hayes’ 2018 winner SKID ROW MARATHON and Gabriela Cowperthwaith and Tor Myhren’s 2011 winner CITY LAX: AN URBAN LACROSSE STORY have been added to the lineup. These films are available to watch on a variety of platforms, some free, some for a small fee.

Plans are currently underway for the 2021 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Organizers will announce new dates and plans in the coming months.


Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, “Movies Matter!”



San Luis Obispo International Film Festival 2020 Announces King Vidor Award Honoree!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

SLO Film Fest 2020

The 2020 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival

presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo

announces Lawrence Kasdan will be this year’s

King Vidor Award honoree

(March 17-22)


San Luis Obispo, CA (February 24, 2020) – The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 12-17) has announced that critically acclaimed director/writer/producer Lawrence Kasdan will be this year’s King Vidor Award honoree.

Kasdan will be attending the film festival with his wife, frequent collaborator Meg Kasdan, with their documentary short film, LAST WEEK AT ED’S, about the closing of the beloved Ed’s Coffee Shop in West Hollywood.

Wendy Eidson
Wendy Eidson

“The King Vidor Award offers us an opportunity each year to celebrate and honor someone that has impacted our love of cinema, and Lawrence Kasdan epitomizes that as much as anyone” said SLO Film Fest Director Wendy Eidson. “From RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, to THE BIG CHILL, to so much that we love about the STAR WARS films and more, he has either been one of the key people behind their creation or outright been responsible for some of our favorite movie moments.”

Presented by BHE Renewables and JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery, the King Vidor Award presentation will take place immediately after the George Sidney Independent Film Awards ceremony on Saturday, March 21 at 7:00PM at the Fremont Theater (1025 Monterey Street). Following the presentation, Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewicz will host a discussion of Kasdan’s career including a number of his classic and beloved films.

Known for updating old Hollywood genres—film noir, science-fiction, westerns—in a classical dramatic style with quick-witted dialogue, but dealing with contemporary social themes, Kasdan has helped create some of the defining cinematic mythologies of the 20th century (with a hand in resurrecting the Star Wars franchise in the 21st), while as a director he has made personal, slightly quixotic movies that examine characters and generations.

Kasdan Vidor

Kasdan’s introduction to film fans as a screenwriter came via two of the all-time popular classics of the 80s and beyond: STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).

Kasdan Vidor 2

What would follow were a string of films that, while varied in setting and style, cemented Kasdan, the writer/director, as one of the top talents behind the camera helping set the tone for a decade onscreen: BODY HEAT (1983), THE BIG CHILL (1983) – for which he received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, SILVERADO (1985), and THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988), for which he received nominations for both Best Picture and Best Screenplay Adaptation. The latter two films, Kasdan also produced.

Kasdan Vidor 3

Prolific, Kasdan continued to both write and direct films throughout the next decade, with highlights including; the critically acclaimed GRAND CANYON (1991), which he co-wrote with his wife, Meg Kasdan (and received another Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay), as well as directed and produced; the box-office smash, Mick Jackson’s THE BODYGUARD (1992), which Kasdan wrote and produced; the epic western WYATT EARP (1994), which he co-wrote with Dan Gordon, directed, and produced; the Meg Ryan/Kevin Kline romantic comedy FRENCH KISS (1995), which he helmed; and the lightly comedic drama MUMFORD (1999), which he wrote, directed and produced.

Kasdan Vidor 4

2003’s DREAMCATCHER (co-written with William Goldman) and 2012’s DARLING COMPANION (co-written with Meg Kasdan), Kasdan’s other two outings as writer, director, and producer, could not have been more different from one another. The former being an adaptation of one of Steven King’s more gonzo horror works, and the latter being an introspective drama centered around the love for and loss of a dog.

Kasdan, the screenwriter, has recently been one of the architects of the growing Star Wars universe, having written STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015), and SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018).

Kasdan Vidor 5

Event tickets and Festival Passes are now on sale and the full film festival schedule and program can be found at



Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, “Movies Matter!”


(Source: Press release provided by Wildworks PR, John Wildman)



The 2020 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo announces galas & special event screenings (March 17-22)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

selection and Benjamin Kasulke’s BANANA SPLIT
is the Closing Night choice

Special screening events include “Hollywood & Vines” presentations
and two top titles from Sundance:
Adam Carter Rehmeier’s DINNER IN AMERICA and

San Luis Obispo, CA (February 18, 2020) – The 26th Annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo (March 17-22) today announced this year’s gala selections and special event screenings. Chusy Jardine’s IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG: THE STORY OF THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITER is the Opening Night selection, and Benjamin Kasulke’s BANANA SPLIT is the Closing Night selection. Special events include the “Hollywood & Vines” screening events celebrating the intersection of food, wine, and film. The Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase titles were also announced.

Wendy Eidson
Wendy Eidson, San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director

“We have set ourselves up for a very musical start, which will lead into a number of special film events that set us apart from a lot of other film festivals: joining our love of food, wine and great cinema into one combined evening” said San Luis Obispo Film Festival Director Wendy Eidson. “When you then add on two very popular films to come out of Sundance this year, 64 George Sidney Independent Film selections, and our growing Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase, we will be rolling out one our most impressive lineups of films and events yet.”

Jardine’s IT ALL BEGINS WITH A SONG: THE STORY OF THE NASHVILLE SONGWRITER will open the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival on Tuesday, March 17 at the Fremont Theatre (1035 Monterey Street). The film documents songwriters’ struggles, from paying their dues to working through the creative process. Drawing from more than 100 hours of footage, the film includes more than 80 interviews with well-known and lesser-known music industry figures and songwriters, such as Garth Brooks, Ben Folds, John Hiatt, Brett James, Alison Mosshart, Kacey Musgraves, and Keb’ Mo.’ Attending are Jardine, Executive Producer Kathryn Montgomery, John Godsey, as well as singer-songwriter with local roots, Jude Johnstone and Jade Jackson, who will also perform following the screening. The Opening Night celebration will include an Opening Night Pre-Screening Party at Luna Red (1023 Chorro Street), featuring a performance by popular SLO County band Mother Corn Shuckers.

The Closing Night selection will be Kasulke’s teen comedy, BANANA SPLIT. Screening on Sunday, March 22 at the Fremont Theatre, the film marks the return of one of the SLO Film Fest’s favorite filmmakers, Hannah Marks, who stars alongside Dylan Sprouse, Liana Liberato and Luke Spencer Roberts in a film where two high school senior girls have to figure out how to maintain their friendship while one of the dates the other’s ex-boyfriend. Marks, who also wrote and produced the film returns after premiering her feature film directorial debut AFTER EVERYTHING at the film festival last year.

Two hot titles were picked up out of the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival for SLO Film Fest fans to catch: Adam Carter Rehmeier’s audacious crowd-pleasing comedy stars Kyle Gallner as an on-the-lam punk rocker who connects with a young woman (Emily Skeggs) obsessed with his band. They go on an unexpected and epic journey together through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest. The film features a cast of favorites including Pat Healy, Hannah Marks, Jennifer Prediger, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Lea Thompson. Sam Feder’s documentary, DISCLOSURE: TRANS LIVES ONSCREEN looks at how Hollywood has deeply influenced how Americans feel about transgender people, and how transgender people have been taught to feel about themselves. Both screenings are expected to have the filmmakers and special guests attending.

Special events this year are highlighted by something that the SLO Film fest is famous for (next to its previously announced Surf Nite): the intersection and celebration of Food, Wine, and Film on the Central Coast. Described as “Hollywood & Vines” events, the carefully curated and produced events include East Meets West, a double feature of Peter Schroeder III’s FULL BOAR, about Gary Eberle, the godfather of the Paso Robles wine industry, and Tim Clott and Libbie Agran’s 91 HARVESTS, which tells the story of the Dusi Vineyards and their wines. Naturally, wine and appetizers will be served in the lobby of the historic Fremont Theatre in between the screenings on Wednesday, March 18.


The Octagon Barn Movie Night features John Chester’s hit documentary THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM about the filmmaker and his wife’s experience leaving the city for farm life, along with a special sneak preview of PBS’s WALKIN’ CALIFORNIA – PISMO PRESERVE, which takes us on a journey through the newly opened Pismo Preserve. The evening will include a delicious BBQ dinner with wine, to go along with the films in the historic and recently renovated barn in San Luis Obispo.

Other films in the “Hollywood & Vines” presentations include Beth Elise Hawk’s BREAKING BREAD, about the A-sham Arabic Food festival in Haifa, Israel; Abby Ainsworth’s STAGE: THE CULINARY INTERNSHIP about the apprenticeship experience at one of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world – Mugaritz; NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY, about Mexican cuisine cookbook author and environmental activist; and the Tastes and Flavors of Japan afternoon event featuring Hironori Sakurai’s THE STORY BEYOND A CUP OF SAKE and Sky Bergman’s MOCHITSUKI.

Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 7.55.21 PM

The Coastal Awakening this year will sponsor a special sidebar of films celebrating the life and art of renowned composer and pianist Philip Glass with presentations of Scott Hick’s documentary, GLASS: A PORTRAIT OF PHILIP IN TWELVE PARTS (2007), and two films that feature Academy Award-winning original scores by Glass: Godfrey Reggio’s KOYAANISQATSI (1982), and Martin Scorsese’s KUNDUN (1997).

Passes are now on sale and information on the film festival can be found at



Directors:  Tim Clott and Libbie Agran
Country: USA, Running Time: 45 min
The story of the Dusi Vineyard began in the early 1920s, when Sylvester and Caterina Dusi emigrated from Northern Italy and settled in Paso Robles. The Dusi Vineyard introduced some of the first Zinfandels to California’s Central Coast; vineyards were rare in Old California in the early 1900’s.  Sylvester and Caterina were highly enterprising, and working together with their three sons – Guido, Dante and Benito, eventually bought an additional property on the west side of Highway 101 in 1945 and planted Zinfandel. Three generations after Janell Dusi’s great-grandparents first planted the land to Zinfandel, she is continuing the legacy of one of the area’s most well-loved vineyards, and taking ten percent of the production off the Dante Dusi Vineyard to create J Dusi Wines.

Director: John Chester
Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min
This beautiful, multi-award winning documentary chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. By doggedly persevering and embracing the opportunity provided by nature’s conflicts, the couple unlocks a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons and our wildest imagination. Featuring breathtaking cinematography, captivating animals and an urgent message to heed Mother Nature’s call, this film provides us all a vital blueprint for better living and a healthier planet.

Director: Beth Elise Hawk
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min
A visually beautiful film that offers a recipe for tolerance – and hope. Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef television competition, is on a quest to effect social change. So she starts the A-sham Arabic Food Festival in Haifa, Israel, where pairs of Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate on mouthwatering local dishes – and become friends. Set in a region beset with conflict, Breaking Bread sends a clear message: Strip away politics and religion and you’ll find that people are people. And what better way to do that than over a great meal?

Director: Peter Schroeder III
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min
In this insightful documentary about Gary Eberle, you’ll get a sense of the man called the godfather of the Paso Robles wine industry – his astute winemaking skills, warmth, self-deprecating humor, genuine compassion and determination in overcoming a hostile corporate takeover. Now celebrating his namesake winery’s 40th year, the man once destined for medical research credits legendary football coach Joe Paterno and famed winemaker Robert Mondavi for teaching him key lessons along the way.

Director: Elizabeth Carroll
Countries: USA/Mexico, Running Time: 82 min
Cookbook author and environmental activist Diana Kennedy reflects on an unconventional life spent mastering Mexican cuisine. It’s a candid, comprehensive whirlwind tour through the life and work of this 96-year-old uncompromising chef who’s been called an “adorable narcissist.” “If her enthusiasm were not beautiful, it would border on mania,” says influential New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne in a quote that opens the film.

Director: Abby Ainsworth
County: Spain, Running Time: 78 min
A group of interns work together during a nine-month apprenticeship at one of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Mugaritz. They’re unpaid, away from home, speaking a different language and working brutally long hours. While the restaurant’s notorious avant-garde cuisine and creative working environment elevate those young hopefuls to think outside the confines of a kitchen, the extremely high standards prove to be mentally and physically challenging.

Director: Hironori Sakurai
Country: Japan, Running Time: 62 min
A wonderfully intimate and special look at the delicate care and production of a local sake brewery in Japan through the eyes of a married couple who create the sake and oversee the brewery. We also meet many individuals who work in and care for the gorgeous rice fields and distribute the finished sake, drawing interesting parallels to the wine industry in California.
Screening with

Director: Sky Bergman
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min
The ancient tradition of preparing Mochi to celebrate the Japanese New Year goes back centuries. Join one close-knit intergenerational community in San Luis Obispo County who revels in the ceremonial pounding of the cooked rice, the forming of the warm Mochi cakes, and of course eating the yummy results! Elders and kids alike reflect on what Mochi means to them, leaving not a cheek untouched by rice flour.

Director: Cameron Mitchell
Country: USA, Running Time: 27 min
WALKIN’ CALIFORNIA – PISMO PRESERVE is about getting out of the office and off the couch and exploring all the diversity this incredible state has to offer. Join host Steve Weldon as he and Land Conservancy staff take a hike on the newly opened Pismo Preserve, located just north of Pismo Beach. As we meet a variety of Central Coast residents along the way, this episode highlights the natural beauty of the area and the important work the Land Conservancy is doing in our community.


Director: Ben Proudfoot
Country: USA, Running Time: 51 min
Pop stars who never were. Household names who remain unknown. Astronauts who never entered space. Rock stars whonever had their day. The lives of these fascinating and incredibly talented individuals are chronicled in this collection of four wonderful short films, produced by the New York Times Op-Docs series and directed by SLO Film Fest alum Ben Proudfoot (RWANDA AND JULIET, 2016), KIM I AM, THE LOST ASTRONAUT, THE OTHER FAB FOUR, and THE KING OF FISH & CHIPS are all memorable stories that will amaze, inspire, and most importantly, entertain.

Director: King Vidor
Country: USA, Running Time: 151 min
Wealthy young idler Jim Apperson (John Gilbert) enlists during the early days of World War I, to the worry of his mother (Claire McDowell) and the pride of his father (Hobart Bosworth). Sent to the front lines in the French countryside, Jim bonds with his working-class bunkmates and falls in love with young French farm girl Melisande despite having a girlfriend back home. But the romance of war is soon shattered for good. This 1925 silent film features a wonderful score by Carl Davis.

Director: Adam Carter Rehmeier
Country: USA, Running Time: 106 min
An on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band go on an unexpected and epic journey together through the decaying suburbs of the American Midwest.

Director: Sam Feder
Country: USA, Running Time: 100 min
An investigation of how Hollywood’s fabled stories have deeply influenced how Americans feel about transgender people, and how transgender people have been taught to feel about themselves.

Director: Emilio Fernández
Country: Mexico, Running Time: 96 min
This 1946 Mexican drama was shot on location in Puebla. The revolutionary José Juan Reyes (Pedro Armendáriz, a Cal Poly graduate!) takes the town of CholulaPuebla and demands contributions from its wealthiest citizens for the Mexican Revolution. However, his plans are disrupted when he falls in love with the Señorita Beatriz Peñafiel (María Félix), the tempestuous daughter of the town’s richest man. The film was fully restored by UCLA in 2018. Film will be introduced by Latino Film expert Maria Elena de las Carreras.

Director: Scott Hicks
Country: USA, Running Time: 119 min
An eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished Western classical composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators, who include Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar, and Martin Scorsese.

Director: Jennifer Tennican
Country: USA, Running Time: 68 min
Vertical Harvest (VH) is a highly innovative but risky experiment in growing crops and providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities. Built on 1/10 of an acre at an elevation of 6,237 feet, the high tech hydroponic greenhouse is located in Jackson, Wyoming, a mountain town with extreme seasonal fluctuations in weather, population and demand for goods and services. Business drama is interwoven with the personal journeys of individuals who are part of an underemployed and underestimated group, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Plants and people grow together in this intimate portrait of one community’s attempt to address timely and pressing issues around local food production, inclusion and opportunity.

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Country: USA, Running Time: 86 min
A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity, and the relationship between them.

KUNDUN (1997)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Country: USA, Running Time: 134 min
From childhood to adulthood, Tibet’s fourteenth Dalai Lama deals with Chinese oppression and other problems.


(see above)

Director: Isaac Hernandez
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min
Community makes the difference. The response to a horrendous oil blowout fifty years ago in Santa Barbara sparked the modern environment, creating a culture that continues to inspire local solutions to global problems. The legacy of the oil spill continues to inform this community, which keeps coming together, providing local solutions to global environmental problems; such as when over 3,000 volunteers jointed the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade to dig the mud from homes after the deadly 2018 debris flow.

Director: Kellen Keene
Country: USA, Running Time: 67 min
In an attempt to escape comfort, reconnect to the natural world and set a new bar for ocean adventure, SLO County residents and twin brothers Casey and Ryan Higginbotham made a decision that would reshape their loives. On March 18, 2016, they embarked on a 2200-mile paddle from Alaska to Mexico with 18-foot paddle boards.


Director: Wyatt Daily

Country: USA, Running Time: 58 min

Dusty archives have been re-discovered remastered to bring a new perspective to one of the most crucial periods in surfing’s evolution. This is a film compiled of never-before-seen footage from surfing’s Golden Age, with outtakes and extras from some of surfing’s most well-known filmmakers to tell a history that has never been told before. A story of craftsmanship, work ethic, renegades and tradition; a film that goes beyond the time spent in the ocean to define how one spends a lifetime.

Director: Dominic Hure
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

Director: Jonah Moshammer
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min

Directors: Cal Poly Liberal Arts students
Country: USA, Running Time: 50 min

Director: Madeline Vail
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

Director: Dale Griffiths Stamos
Country: USA, Running Time: 13 min

Director: Johannes S. Beals
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min

Director: Jorrit Van Der Kooi
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min

Director: Michael Gould
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

Director: Mike Winger
Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min

Director: Katy Dore
Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min

Director: Shanti Herzog
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min

Director: Heather Hudson
Country: USA, Running Time: 30 min

Director: Gail Osherenko
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min

Director: Jeff McLoughlin
Country: USA, Running Time: 32 min

Director: Winslow Perry
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min

Director: Alex Raban
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min

Director: Sky Bergman
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min

Director/Writer: Justice Whitaker
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min

Director: Bob Williams
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min

Director: Louise Palanker
Country: USA, Running Time: 20 min

(see above)

Director: Jim Fabio
Country: USA, Running Time: 20 min

Director: Brandt Goodman
Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min

Director: Bryan McLain
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min


Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo’s laid-back vibe and serene natural beauty is the perfect setting for this highly regarded annual film celebration. Filmmakers rave about the warmth and attentiveness that is so much a part of the SLO Film fest experience, as does the swelling tide of industry pros and film critics who are fast discovering the film festival’s thoughtful audiences and unique programming sensibility. At the SLO Film Fest, “Movies Matter!”

*Featured photo: HollywoodGlee at the SLO Film Fest Festival Tent (Photo by Kevin O’Connor, in memoriam)

(Source: Press release provided by John Wildman, Wildman PR)

Surf Nite in SLO to Feature the Biggest Year for Big Wave Surfing at the Historic Fremont Theatre

Posted by Larry Gleeson

San Luis Obispo, CA (January 29, 2020) – The San Luis Obispo International Film
SLOFF_2020Festival (SLO Film Fest) presented by Hotel San Luis Obispo is delighted to announce its Surf Nite picks for 2020. Brent Storm’s award-winning WHITE RHINO will be the focus the festival’s most popular event, on Friday, March 20, with big wave surfer Dave Wassel traveling from Hawaii for the event. Surf photographer Brian Bielmann, director Brent Storm and producer Randy Olson will also be in attendance. Surf Nite will open with Santa Barbara filmmaker Heather Hudson’s new short documentary that about female surfing pioneer, Marge Calhoun. 93 – LETTERS TO MARGE will be introduced by her friend and surf legend, Linda Benson.

Surf Nite in SLO is presented by Surfing for Hope Foundation and the City of Pismo Beach. Surfing for Hope is a local non-profit organization created to help inspire people challenged by cancer through the positive energy of surfing. The event is also sponsored by Cliffs Hotel and Spa, Sea Venture, Sycamore Mineral Spring Resort, Coast 104.5, and Quality Suites San Luis Obispo.

Canadian Filmmaker Brent Storm’s latest release, WHITE RHINO, is a parallel story from the surfers and photographers who witnessed three historic swells that hit the shorelines of the South Pacific in 2011-2012. Photographer Brian Bielmann takes the audience on an edge of your seat adventure as we discover the stories behind some of his most iconic photos and what really transpired on those memorable days. WHITE RHINO features notable big wave riders Nathan Fletcher, Dave Wassel, Bruce Irons, Mark Healey, Kohl Christensen and Kalani Chapman. It also features cinematography from some of the best surf filmmakers, including SLO Film Fest Surf Nite alum, Tim Bonython (The Big Wave Project).

In 93: LETTERS TO MARGE, Heather Hudson pays tribute to surfing pioneer Marge Calhoun, sharing memories from handwritten letters to a friend before her death in 2017 at the age of 93 in Morro Bay, CA. Chronicling an independent life that most people know little about, Marge won contests, shared waves and held her own with many of the sport’s legends in the early days of surfing. She won the 1958 Makaha International Championships and continued to travel, surf and compete. She judged, organized competitors on the beach and worked closely with Hoppy Swartz and others to form the U.S. Surfing Association. Later, she moved to Morro Bay and loved watching the waves from her home in the hills above the ocean.

Surf Nite Special Guests:

Fearless, fit and funny are some of the adjectives that have been used to describe Dave Wassel, the Hawaiian-born North Shore lifeguard who is also featured in WHITE RHINO. He’s well known for braving huge surf as a surfer and lifeguard, going well beyond his duty to save lives in treacherous waters. He has a passion for the history andculture of Hawaii and is now the ambassador of Sustainable Surf, a California-based non-profit that protects and restores ocean health by shifting people to a highly desirable, low carbon, “Deep Blue” lifestyle.

As an internationally renowned photographer, Brian Bielmann has traveled extensively with many of the world’s best surfers. With his images gracing more than 150 magazine covers, the pages of 30 books and appearing in iconic magazines like Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, National Geographic and Sports Illustrated, he is recognized worldwide to be a photographer at the very top of his field. He captures the entire surf lifestyle and continues to push the boundaries of photography both above and below the water. Brian’s passion for surfing and his love of photography have kept him on the cutting edge for over 35 years. He has won numerous awards and his client list includes major corporations. He is also an captivating public speaker.

Dividing his life between Canada and the United States, Brent Storm has a passion for surfing that began in his mid-20’s in San Francisco after a snowboarding injury in Mammoth. He discovered a way to blend his new passion with an old one – filmmaking, and after finally giving up on making wedding videos in Toronto, he decided to move to the North Shore and focus on surfing. WHITE RHINO began to take shape after he met Brian Bielmann and Randy Olson in 2016, and he discovered an amazing story in the three major swells Bielmann had captured on film in just one surf season.

Randy Olson began a career as a professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire, but during his first year as a professor he realized that he had grown more interested in telling stories about science and was drawn to the world of filmmaking. Despite his Harvard Ph.D., four years of post-doctoral research in Australia and Florida, and years of diving around the world from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica, he resigned from his tenured professorship and moved to Hollywood to explore film as a medium for communicating science. Now an independent filmmaker he is ‘fluent’ in the two languages of science and cinema. He has written and directed his own films about major issues in science, and has worked with clients to assist them with the use of visual media in communicating science to the general public.

Linda Benson started surfing at age eleven and at age fifteen was the first woman to surf the legendary big waves at Waimea Bay in Hawaii. Linda made her competitive debut in the 1959, winning the West Coast Surfing Championship and the Makaha International contest in Hawaii a few weeks later (a year after Marge Calhoun had won.) Linda’s other notable contest wins include the United States Invitational in 1964, the West Coast Championship in both 1960 and 1961, and the United States Championship in both 1964 and 1968. Moreover, Benson not only was a runner-up in the 1964 World Championship and was the top female vote-getter in a 1965 reader’s poll for Surfing Illustrated magazine, but also was the first female surfer to be featured on the cover of a 1963 issue of Surf Guide. She was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 1997. This will be her third visit to the SLO Film Fest’s Surf Nite.

Heather Hudson is also not a stranger to the SLO Film Fest. Her short films, THE WOMEN AND THE WAVES, and its sequel screened at the Festival in 2009 and 2016. An avid surfer, filmmaker and mother, Heather has been sharing her love for surfing on the big screen since 2007 when she started her production company Graciegirl LLC. For over 18 years, Heather has supported and volunteered for Heal the Ocean, a Santa-Barbara-based non-profit citizen’s action group committed to ending ocean pollution. She is currently on the board and coordinates fundraising.

SURF NITE IN SLO – Presented by Surfing for Hope and City of Pismo Beach
Friday, March 20 – 7:00pm
Fremont Theatre, 1025 Monterey St. SLO

Tickets: $20 General / $15 Students & SLO Film Society (Mogul passes accepted)

Online: (limited tickets available pre-show)
In Person: Festival HQ (opens Feb. 15 – check website for hours)
South East corner of Hotel SLO, entrance on Morro St. (between Palm & Monterey)
Day of Show: Fremont Theatre Box Office – tickets will be sold first-come, first-served
beginning at 6:30pm
Phone: 805-546-3456


(Source: SLO Film Fest News Release)