If you have never heard of Sedona, Arizona, I would like to describe it in one word: Mystic. If you have heard of Sedona, I think you will agree. Either way, I am just going to share about my time in Sedona and who, what, when, where, and how I got there.
My idols, mentors, my family, my friends, Vinyl Foote Productions are in the beginning stages of festival season as their film "Fall to Rise" hits the circuit. I had the honor, adventure, and pleasure of working as a Pre-Production Assistant, Camera Trainee, Assistant Editor, and Poster Artist of this incredible film. I have been an intern for Vinyl Foote since 2012 and I want to be until one until at least 2091. Jayce Bartok, Director/Writer/Co-Founder, deserves nothing but acclaim for this brilliant work he has brought to screen; And, Tiffany Bartok, Producer/Co-Founder/Wonder Woman, can make anything happen and she did on this film. Together, these two manage to collaborate with New York's finest, tell a meaningful story, and look good doing it. I have never been more embraced by the outside world until I met Tiffany and Jayce; The will love you, challenge you, inspire you, teach you, and make you one of their own. I say all of this because, I would do anything for them, and finally, a day like that came.
As said previously, festival season has begun. Filmmakers worldwide whiten their knuckles in anticipation of being invited to screen their hard-work for audiences across the globe. Vinyl Foote is no stranger to the circuit, having been accepted to festivals such as: Tribeca Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Memphis Film Festival, and Sedona Film Festival (to name a few), but this would be their Narrative Feature Film debut. To kick off the season, "Fall to Rise" was given the special opportunity to have a sneak-peek screening at the Sedona Film Festival. In a sprint to the finish line, the final edit of the film was sent out a week ahead of time to make it to the screening. In that process, shockingly, and most terrifyingly, Jayce was hit by a truck on his way back from delivering the film, as Tiffany and Anastasia, my Vinyl Foote partner-in-crime, sat in the car. What's going on universe? Luckily, Jayce made it out with only hurting his hand, although it was extremely severe, he was alive. All of the excitement, all the hard work, the travel plans, etc, had to halt. Sobering is one word to describe the event, but resilient would be a much better way to describe how like his film, Jayce never ceased to have tricks up his sleeve and faith to keep moving forward. He and Tiffany entrusted Anastasia and I to attend the festival in their place and represent the film in all capacities. It was not enough to process Jayce's accident, let alone the daunting task they offered us. Without blinking we both said: Yes! We could only do that with a clear mind because Jayce was going to be ok and there was nothing more we could do than make him happy at that point. They knew, or I hope they knew that they did not even need to ask though, because we would have done this for them no matter what.
Since I was in California and Anastasia in New York, we were able to stagger our time so we could attend both sneak previews. The drive from San Diego to Sedona is 6-8 hours, so I was lucky enough to be joined by my trusty sidekick, Luke.
Quick side note: The drive through Arizona is TERRIFYING. If Luke stopped talking for more than 2 minutes, I felt as if I had fallen asleep behind the wheel for an hour. So, if you ever do it, please drive with someone, and be careful at night. Hallucinations are seemingly not negotiable.
Anyways, Sedona Film Festival is the real deal. To be brought here as a filmmaker is a HUGE honor, and to come as a guest is a good second. They generously put you up in a hotel, feed you copious amounts of fine dining, and finally, I am getting to it, surround you with a deep, mystic aura that will surely make you never want to leave. Plus, everyone you meet there is incredibly welcoming, kind, and wonderful to talk to.
I must say, I find myself to be generally outgoing and charismatic but being here really put me in a shell, I was so nervous by the responsibility I initially became awkward, childish and bumbly. Thankfully, I had Luke with me to remind me why we are here and how we need to be screaming at the mountain tops for this film. No more than 2 hours in and I set caution to the wind and we walked around liked we owned the place (Thanks to bright purple V.I.P. badges, mostly)
Our first task was to find the founder of the festival, Patrick Schweiss. He is known as a very involved, engaged, personable, and generous festival Director, which apparently is not common. Tiffany and Jayce befriended him when "The Cake Eaters," written by and starring Jayce, screened and won the "Discovery Award" in 2007. Each time we were directed to somewhere he would be, we missed him. After no luck, we stopped by the box office to check on how the film was selling. Sure enough, there were only 2 tickets left to our screening and the Saturday showing was sold out! The pressure grew with the excitement.
We had a small amount of down time and decided to check out town before our screening. There are not many roads in the area so you mainly get back on the highway to go anywhere. Beautifully enough, the highway is lined with Red Rock views, grand landscapes, and a multitude of self-healing shops. We oo'd and aww'd at the sights and stopped by the first healing store in honor of being in the metaphysical headquarters. We were met by a woman who dutifully shared all kinds of histories and powers of various stones, rocks, and crystals. We almost took aura photos but they were $50, and they looked as if they were photographed on a Mac laptop photo booth. Needless to say, in honor of Jayce and Sedona's mysticism we handpicked a piece of selenite that would supposedly heal his hand and bring him great health. Perfect. Now, it was time for the screening.
This would be the first time anyone, that was not a part of our close circle, to see any sort of cut of "Fall to Rise." I cannot imagine how Tiffany and Jayce were feeling, as they were unable to experience this in person. I reminded myself to be extra-present and in the moment so I could share the experience with them- that calmed my nerves, tremendously. 90 minutes had never felt quicker and more empowering. Throughout the entire movie, the audience laughed heartily, cheered, sniffled, gasped, and clapped to a thunderous roar. Wow. I am pretty sure they liked it; Better yet, loved it. I knew I could feel and accept what the audience was projecting, and I only spent almost two years of my life on this project (which does not belittle my deep connection and resonation with the film) but this has been almost a decade of work for Tiffany and Jayce, and I just wanted to hug them tightly and jump up and down.
Bless technology and the access and hilarity it gives to us every day, because during the Q&A I was able to FaceTime, Jayce, Tiffany, Daniela (Producer), and Jaxon (Jayce and Tiffany's incredible son). I could not believe by holding up the microphone to the iPhone that we would be able to have a successful Q&A session. The audience got a kick out of it and were able to see how much this film means to everyone involved. Audience members made comments such as:
"Incredible, powerful, and talented writing."
"Amazing acting, great characters, how did you get so lucky?"
"Thank you for making this movie."
"You told an incredible story. I loved every moment."
I was not surprised because that is the kind of reactions this film deserves, and then some. I could die tomorrow if someone said that about anything I have made. I was thrilled, thankful, and so overwhelmed to be a part of this journey, it almost felt out of body.
After the screening, I called the team and we all beamed with happiness. Even through all the pain killers and actual pain, Jayce was able to celebrate not only being out of the hospital but that his film meant something to the world and was grasping onto the heart strings of its audience.
We were only in town for 2 days, so in between after-party chats, luncheons, and screenings, Luke and I had a little bit more time to soak in the grandeur of Sedona. These photographs can speak for themselves (click):
We stayed to catch Anastasia before we headed back on the drive from hell. It was so funny to meet up in a place I did not know of 2 weeks prior. All of us could be nothing but happy though, happy to be in a beautiful place, happy to be supporting an amazing film, happy that Jayce is ALIVE, happy for each other. There was a lot of peace. Anastasia was the perfect person to pass the torch to as this girl is pretty much Beyonce to me (i.e. She runs the world). And I will not say much, but I know that Anastasia had quite an enchanting time herself among the romantic vortex valley.
Now, only 2 weeks later, "Fall to Rise" is on to its next screenings, and Jayce is even playing the guitar when he can. There is a lot of healing to be done but thrill after thrill to be had. With a woman like Tiffany by his side (and all of ours) we are in good hands. These guys are strong and in a blink of an eye you will be sitting in a theater seeing their names on the screen.
Check out everything you need to know about Tiffany and Jayce, "Fall to Rise" and more, click on the icon below.