The Palm Springs International Film Festival is a fabulous affair. Its annual gala brings not just Hollywood glamour, but actual movie stars, to the desert every year. Lavish parties celebrate actors and filmmakers whose work is in contention for Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
But organizers say one of their most cherished events of the festival’s two-week run is an annual gathering of filmmakers at Sunnylands. For seven years, directors whose movies are being screened in Palm Springs have been chosen to come to the Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage for a day of camaraderie and discussions about their craft.
Michael Lerman, the festival’s artistic director, said the roundtable talks at Sunnylands give filmmakers a “rare opportunity to talk to one another” in a more tranquil setting. “Usually, they’re scattered at their own screenings and Q&A’s,” he said.
“For me, it was a very good experience,” said Andrea Gómez, a screenwriter for The Turkish Way, a documentary about three Spanish restaurateurs, all brothers, who take a five-week culinary tour of Turkey. “It’s the first time at a festival that I’ve done something like this. … Normally, you don’t speak with other filmmakers about financing, the way to write your films, the way to make money to make your film. It’s very interesting to listen to the others.”
Over the last three years, Sunnylands has hosted two directors’ roundtables during the festival, one for narrative filmmakers and another for those who make documentaries. About a dozen directors are selected to participate in each of the roundtables. While at Sunnylands, they screen one another’s movie trailers and discuss different aspects of their industry, from making a pitch to work on a film to the challenges of producing a personal, or first-person, documentary.
Hebe Tabachnik, a film festival programmer who has attended several of the roundtables over the years, said the beauty of Sunnylands and its secluded environment inspire the filmmakers’ talks. “They have the space here and the opportunity to tap into that goodness,” she said.
Added Gómez: “It’s magical. There is a special energy here.”