Our Official Guide to the 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival

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  • on OCTOBER 17, 2018
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Hollywood invades Wine Country for five action-packed days during the 7th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF), November 7-11, 2018.

This year’s festival features more than 100 screenings of new independent films and plays host to 300 filmmakers, actors, and other industry execs. Meanwhile, Napa Valley does what it does best, serving up world-class food and wine from 150 participating wineries and 50 participating restaurants and chefs, to round out the ultimate Wine Country experience.


The Films

The 2018 NVFF lineup features familiar stars like Laurence Fishburne, Cheri Oteri, Geena Davis, Camila Mendes, Taran Killam, and Tye Sheridan, plus musical performances by Billy Bob Thornton and his band.

The independent films are organized into categories, like Narrative Features, Documentary Features, and Special Presentations, and you’ll even have the chance to preview the films most likely to be in the running for a Golden Globe or Academy Awards nomination. In the past, the NVFF has screened award winners like Silver Linings Playbook, Wild, and Lion.

Screenings are held at ten venues throughout Napa Valley, like the historic Cameo Cinema, Jam Cellars Ballroom at the Margrit Mondavi Theatre, the Uptown Theatre, and new to the festival locations this year, Las Alcobas Napa Valley and the Drive In at Napa County Fairgrounds.

You’ll also get the chance to chat with the filmmakers after each showing during Q&A sessions.

Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

You can read through the NVFF’s full list of films here.

Wine, Food and Entertainment

Forgive us for stating the obvious, but you can’t have a festival in Wine Country without copious amounts of wine, and it’s promised to be flowing throughout the NVFF. Wine will be available for purchase at some screenings, but one of the best opportunities to get a total taste of Napa is to take a wine tasting break at either the Downtown Napa Intermission at the “Down Valley Hub” or the St. Helena Wine Pavilion at the “Upvalley Hub” at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. There you can unwind and sip wines from 100 participating wineries from 3 PM – 5 PM daily.

Napa Valley Film Festival Culinary Demo
Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

Passholders also have full access to the Studio by Feast it Forward, host to daily cooking demonstrations and exclusive wines, leaving you with plenty of kitchen inspo for when you return home.

The After Parties

Want to get a selfie with a celebrity? These after parties and special events are your best shot at mingling with Hollywood’s A-listers and often feature surprise performances from top musicians.

Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

Saturday’s Festival Gala is the NVFF’s biggest, most glamorous party, where you’ll actually get your moment in the flashing lights on the red carpet. You must have a Pass Plus or be part of the VIP Patron Circle (see more below) to get on the list.

Twenty Vintner’s Circle Dinners will take place on Friday night at various Napa Valley locations throughout the festival, where winemakers, filmmakers, and celebrities sit down to an intimate and unforgettable dining experience. Only those lucky enough to be in the VIP Patron (inner) Circle can snag a seat.

Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

Other don’t-miss events include the Awards Ceremony, Celebrity Tributes, Variety’s 10 to Taste where a panel of celebrity chef judges taste dishes inspired by iconic movies, and the Festival Wrap Party at Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards.

The Perfect Pass Cheat Sheet

From single film rush tickets to a Patron Circle VIP festival pass, there are ticketing options for every budget, schedule, and level of interest. Use this cheat sheet to find the perfect fit for you. Note: all of these passes give you access to culinary demonstrations and the Napa Intermission and St. Helena Wine Pavilions.

Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

If you want to see all the films, plus party with all of the filmmakers and celebs: The Pass Plus ($695), covers all screenings throughout the festival and gets you into the week’s big events and parties, like the Opening Night Red Carpet Screening, Awards Ceremony and Festival Gala, and Wrap Party.

If you can’t get away from work during the week: The Weekend Pass ($225) covers screenings from Friday through Sunday and access to culinary demos.

Work? What Work? If you want to see as many films as possible: The traditional full Festival Pass ($295) gives you access to screenings throughout all five days of the festival, afternoon wine tastings, and discounts when you buy them in packs of four.

If you’re not much of a planner and/or can’t predict your crazy schedule: The Flex Pass ($125) is good for five screenings throughout the festival (any days, any times).

If you want the VIP treatment: The VIP Patron Circle ($2,500+), much of which is tax deductible, gets you everything included in the Pass Plus, and then some – like a seat at a Vintner’s Circle Dinner and access to the festival’s most exclusive parties. You’ll also enjoy perks like special reserved seating during screenings, and you’ll never have to wait in line.

If you don’t want to spend a lot and/or just want to check out a film or two: Rush Tickets are available at most venues, ranging from just $10-20. Pro Tip: The best way to secure a seat is to head to the bigger venues.


If You Go

Courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

Where to Stay

Book a room at the Napa River Inn, where you’ll have views of the Napa River and be within walking distance to many of the NVFF downtown Napa venues, like the Uptown Theatre and the Archer Hotel Napa. Have a little too much fun the night before? Order breakfast to your room from downstairs bakery Sweetie Pies.

If you’re looking for something more intimate, the Inn on Randolph fits the bill. Although housed in a charming and restored 19th-century Victorian, its rooms and cottages are undeniably modern. You’ll find it tough to leave this Wine Country retreat, but if you do, it’s right downtown and also within walking distance of many NVFF venues and all the food and wine you could desire.

St. Helena’s romantic Wine Country Inn is a good resting spot in between screenings and events Upvalley, with the pavilion at Farmstead, and film venues Native Sons Hall, Charles Krug, and the Cameo Cinema all nearby. With breakfast served al fresco overlooking five acres of sprawling vineyards and gardens, this luxurious bed and breakfast is the definition of country chic. Be sure to use promo code WCM when booking.

Pro Tip: Book through NapaValley.com to take advantage of exclusive deals and perks.

What to Do

If you happen to have any free time around all of the screenings, wine tastings, and parties – don’t forget to get some shut eye too – use it to discover some of Napa Valley’s newer establishments. In downtown Napa, check The Village at Vista Collina, a full-bodied resort that offers eight boutique wineries and microbreweries all in one location, or grab a meal in St. Helena at The Charter Oak, the new restaurant from Chef Christopher Kostow (of Meadowood fame), or the Acacia House, from Chef Chris Cosentino, who was a winner of Top Chef Masters. Both are great options following activities Upvalley.

Want to work off all that fun you’re going to have? Rent a bike from Napa Valley Bike Tours and take an early morning ride down the Napa Valley Vine Trail, which stretches 19 miles, all the way to Yountville.

Cover image courtesy of Napa Valley Film Festival

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Jess Lander

Jess Lander is a freelance wine, food and travel writer based in Napa Valley and exploring all things California wine country. Follow her on Instagram at @willwrite4wine to get Napa and Sonoma #travelinspo.


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