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Some of Hollywood's Best Are Supporting Players at Sun Valley Film Festival

“We’re showcasing a Work in Progress series, where audiences will get a chance to see movies just as they’re nearing completion. It’s really, really exciting.”


Sun Valley Film Festival Founder Ted Grennan didn't have to reach out to Jodie Foster. She reached out to him.

"I know, isn't that amazing?" Grennan said with a soft laugh. "She's such a lady. She just really wanted to participate and she loves Idaho."

It turns out that the two-time Oscar winner and four-time nominee is a family friend of Grennan, who will launch the second annual four-day festival of films, stars, parties and skiing Thursday, March 14, through Sunday, March 17.

"Jodie had a lot of friends at last year's festival, and when I saw her over the New Year holiday, she asked if we were doing the festival again this year," said Grennan. "I said, 'Of course,' and she asked, 'How can I help?' She's going to add an incredible dynamic to this year's event."

Foster will host a free coffee talk Sunday, March 17, when she'll share her thoughts on the film industry. Later that day, Foster will present the Vision Award to one of the festival's 88 films, TV shows and music videos--which include nine world premieres.

"We had over 700 submissions this year," said Grennan. "It's an arduous process to choose the final selections."

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This year's slate includes 33 feature-length films that showcase the talent of Oscar nominees and winners Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Robert Redford, Vanessa Redgrave and Amy Smart.

"And we've expanded the number of screens for this year's festival," said Grennan. "We'll be using five theaters: the Opera House, the NexStage Theatre, the Liberty Theater and the two Magic Lantern screens."

Grennan is co-producer of one of SVFF's features--An Unkindness of Ravens--which was filmed in and around McCall. The film stars Smart, Russell Friedenberg (co-director and co-producer), Natalie Imbruglia, Joshua Leonard and Will McCormack, one of Grennan's good friends.

"The story is about a peculiar nature photographer, and I instantly thought about Will," said Grennan. "The movie is just one of a number of films that we're showcasing in our Work in Progress series, where audiences will get a chance to see movies just as they're nearing completion."

McCormack knows a lot about works in progress. An accomplished actor (Syriana, The Sopranos), he experienced his big breakthrough as co-writer of 2012's art-house favorite Celeste and Jesse Forever, starring Andy Samberg and co-writer Rashida Jones.

"We made Celeste and Jesse for $840,000," said McCormack. "But to me, an independent film is a movie made independent of finance. It's made of a filmmaker's vision wholly intact. The word 'independent' definitely has a sliding scale. Even The Independent Spirit Awards gave out some of the top honors to Silver Linings Playbook, and that movie was made for about $20 million."

McCormack is on the Hollywood fast track in the wake of Celeste and Jesse's success. He has a big-budget action comedy in the works for Universal Pictures, and he just signed a two-year deal with Warner Brothers to create, write and produce television projects.

During the SVFF, McCormack will host a table read of another recently finished script as part of the first ever Sun Valley Screenwriter's Lab.

"I've been to a lot of screenwriting labs but I've never hosted one," said McCormack. "I write every day so I have a lot to say about screenwriting. It's a bit like being sober. You can't tell someone how to get sober, but you can tell them how you got sober."

The screenwriter's lab, which is open to the public for $25, received more than 150 submissions, and this year's winner will witness his or her work come alive during another table read with local and professional actors.

Grennan said he's anxious to see that script evolve into a film that will hopefully be showcased at a future Sun Valley Film Festival.