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Sonny's Film Festival Vision

Psfilmfestlogo_2 Last week when I was writing about Steve Martin and searching for the spelling of the name Denis Pregnolato, I came across this article on Sonny’s struggle to put together The Palm Springs Film Festival and how it interceded with his forays into local and national politics. The 10-year anniversary of his death intersected with the January movie festival’s 19th year and the festival saluted his vision and this piece ran in The Desert Sun paper.

Interesting to note:

  • Sonny’s campaign started in 1986 after joining the chamber of commerce but before he even ran for mayor.
  • Early supporter and Sonny-tennis-partner was Dick Van Patten who became the festival King.
  • Sonny’s motive was more to entice tourists and celebrities to Palm Springs in order to help business owners (such as his restaurant-owning self) through the seasonal slump than it was for the betterment of the motion picture arts.
  • Sonny did his own fundraising and received a 4-year allocation of $150,000 a year from the city council. The festival is now sustained by sponsors of which the city is now one.
  • Sonny gathered support from hoteliers who banded together for the first time.
  • To run the festival, Sonny hired Hawaiian International Film Festival director Jeanette Paulson and Seattle Film Festival programming director Darryl Macdonald.
  • Sonny wanted Hollywood films to attract big stars but Macdonald talked him into showcasing foreign films instead. The Italian film Cinema Pardiso won an academy award and helped The Palm Springs Film Festival find its niche as the festival that showcases Oscar winners. So Macdonald got his freedom to develop the festival’s film program and Sonny and Mary focused on celebrity hob-knobbing with an annual Founder’s Party at their house.
  • Sophia Loren attended one of the founder’s parties and ate a bowl of Sonny’s pasta on his back patio.

More about The Palm Springs Film Festival: http://www.psfilmfest.org/index.aspx
   

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