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Williams-Paisley’s directorial debut, Shade, won an award at the 2006 Sedona festival. She returns with Numero Dos, a seven-minute comedy about life on a tour bus (Williams-Paisley is married to country music star Brad Paisley). “I started directing because I thought it would be fun, with endless possibilities,” says Williams-Paisley. “As a mom, I’m more limited in what I can do in terms of being away from home. I get more bang for my buck to create my own projects. It’s more stimulating.”
Masterson’s feature-length film, The Cake Eaters, focuses on a trio of awkward romances. Now 41, it wasn’t lost on her that when she was reading scripts in her mid-30s, the age of the lead actress decreased each time the script was revised.
“I don’t think there are more opportunities to direct than act as a woman,” she says. “It’s still a man’s world, but there are far more opportunities to direct than there ever have been, especially independently. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy with a bunch of guys in Hollywood smoking cigars and keeping older women out of the industry – I think it’s an American phenomenon. We are obsessed with weight and face lifts – we are so wrong-headed about women, especially how we should age.”
Williams-Paisley and Masterson relish the chance to show their work at festivals. “It’s a great chance to interact,” Masterson says. “The audience is the whole reason you make a movie. After being alone in a dark room for a year, it’s great to meet the audience and talk about the story. There’s a wonderful sense of community.”
While the event doesn’t officially begin until Wednesday, a long talked-about expansion of the event to a week is finally being realized this year, thanks to three days of events targeted at locals. On Sunday, Feb. 24, the annual fundraiser for the Sedona Arts Festival, “A Night at the Academy Awards,” is being billed as the kickoff event of Film Festival week. (At press time, the Writers’ Guild of America strike that had shut down Hollywood was still under way; how an ongoing labor stoppage might affect the Academy Awards ceremony remained unclear. For up-to-date information on “A Night at the Academy Awards,” see www.sedonaartsfestival.org.) Locals also get a jump on the weekend with sneak preview screenings on Monday and Tuesday, and two evening parties at Reds.
And even before that, the Festival’s Second Tuesday Cinema Series will whet appetites for February’s extended event, continuing its run of high-profile Arizona indie premieres with two screenings (at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) on Jan. 8 at the Harkins Sedona 6 of The Air I Breathe, featuring an ensemble including Forest Whitaker (winner of the Best Actor Academy Award for The Last King of Scotland), Andy Garcia (the Ocean’s films), and Sarah Michelle Gellar (TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The film – made up of four vignettes, each built around a character that embodies the emotions of happiness, sorrow, pleasure, and love – will debut in New York and Los Angeles three weeks after it’s screened in Sedona.
One clear measure of the Festival’s success over the past few years is the quality of the films it has been able to acquire for the Second Tuesday series. In the past few months, it gave Sedona early looks at such indie sensations and Oscar bait as 3:10 to Yuma, directed by James Mangold and starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale; Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke; The Savages, starring Hoffman and Laura Linney; and Juno, starring Ellen Page (Hard Candy) and Michael Cera (Superbad), directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) and written by Hollywood’s latest “It” scribe Diablo Cody.
The Sedona International Film Festival & Workshop takes place Feb. 27-March 2, 2008, with Preview Night sneak-peeks on Feb. 25-26. For tickets and updates, see www.sedonafilmfestival.com.