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"The Hungry Artist" heads west

In September of 2022, I traveled to California to represent my short film "The Hungry Artist" at the Ag and Art Film Festival in Vacaville. Joining me for the trip was my good friend, colleague, and film co-star Richard Seidel. We have attended film festivals in the past, but each one is different. The Ag and Art Film Fest showcases films solely about agriculture or art. Lisa Murray, the director, founded the festival in order to give a voice to filmmakers, artists, and small farms.

Richard and I arrived on Wednesday, September 13, at the festival headquarters to pick up our festival passes. As we approached from across the street, we heard someone shouting, "HUNGRY ARTIST!" Lisa recognized us immediately and greeted us warmly. That evening we attended the opening party at a nearby hotel and had the opportunity to walk the red carpet and meet some of the other filmmakers and attendees of the event.

The following three days were filled with movies and day trips to the surrounding area. My film premiered on Friday afternoon during a block of films about agriculture. We saw a film about female farm-owners discussing the importance of soil composition to the health of the plants. "Buzzkill" addressed a controversial mural with bee imagery sponsored by a company whose products kill bees. When my film "The Hungry Artist" aired, the simplistic and sometimes silliness of it caught the audience by surprise and provided some much-needed comic relief. Afterwards, I had the pleasure of joining the other filmmakers on stage for a question and answer period. Often, it's these times that I learn more about myself than they learn about me!

Some of the other highlights of our trip included sightseeing around Vacaville. The town is surrounded by hills and farms, and one morning we stumbled upon Soul Food Farm, which had a tent set up to serve coffee. It was such a beautiful day, the sun warmed us and the local cat greeted us while I sipped espresso and Richard raved about the blueberry hand-pie while sketching the landscape.

Vacaville is only 40 miles from Napa Valley and because neither Richard nor I had ever visited, we took the opportunity to spend a day experiencing Napa. Known for its wineries, a trip to the area wouldn't be complete without a wine tasting! So I pulled the car over at a lovely winery only to find out that reservations are required for tastings. Since all of my wine etiquette comes from the movie "Sideways," and the characters didn't need reservations in the film, we were up a creek without a paddle! But, persistence is powerful, and so on the third stop, we were welcomed. Black Stallion Winery served us and fulfilled my bucket list goal of drinking wine in Napa Valley! (But I didn't drink any ******* Merlot!) (That's a joke from "Sideways").

That evening in Napa Valley, we continued north to Yountville, where the famous Thomas Keller restaurant "Bouchon" is located. Fifteen years ago, during my days of waitressing, I applied for a job at the "French Laundry," Keller's other, world-famous restaurant. So now things came full circle in the most wonderful way. I made reservations months in advance so that we could have this Michelin-rated dining experience. And what a fabulous experience it was! Richard and I both ordered the trout and agreed that it was the best trout we had ever tasted.

A trip to California wouldn't be complete without a visit to San Francisco, so we extended our journey to take in the San Francisco Museum of Art, Fang Chinese restaurant, and a trip along the coast to see Carmel and Big Sur.

To my elated surprise, SFMOMA was showing a colored glass installation by Olafur Eliasson. His work transforms the atmosphere and if you have never experienced it in person, I highly recommend it!

That evening, we had dinner at Fang restaurant, where I tried sizzling rice soup for the first time. Delish! It was easily the best soup I have ever had.

Now for my favorite part of the trip...seeing the waves crashing along the cliffs of the Pacific coast, walking through fog, and photographing every detail of it. Some part of my heart lives here, and my paintbrushes are calling to me to recreate that feeling of beautiful tranquility again and again.

So, all in all, this Hungry Artist's soul has been nurtured and fed by the sights and tastes of Northern California, all thanks to an invitation to attend the Ag and Art Film Festival. Nothing could be more satisfying for an artist like me, than to follow the trail blazed by my creations and embrace all that comes along the way. ♥


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