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SBIFF Movie Spotlight: A Year in Champagne

By Oscar Flores, NewsChannel 3 Video Journalist, oscarflores@keyt.com
Published On: Jan 31 2014 02:13:23 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 08 2014 02:42:01 PM CST
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

From the same filmmakers that brought you the highly successful, A Year in Burgundy, at last year's Santa Barbara International Film Festival, comes A Year in Champagne. It is the second in a series of three 90-miute wine films slated for general release.

Whether it's a party, a celebration, or a special occasion, a good glass of champagne seems to always accompany the festivities. But has anyone ever stopped to think just how this delicious wine is made and how laborious the process of making it really is? A Year In Champagne answers that curiosity by taking the viewer on a behind-the-scenes look, to explore the world of champagne and how it is made.

From growing the grapes, to fermenting the sparkling wine a second time after it has been bottled, the film follows the wine-making process of six houses in the province of Champagne, France. Not only is this region's environment desperately hard for wine-making, but the wine-makers must battle the worst weather season Champagne has seen in recent years. Will they overcome this tremendous hurdle from mother nature, or will their harvest be destroyed entirely?

A Year in Champagne is such a poetic masterpiece that even the editing and pacing of the film mirrors the process of how the wine is made. The art of making champagne is remarkable to see on screen, and whether you're a wine lover or not, watching this film will leave an everlasting impression, and an appreciation for champagne that will forever change how the world's most famous sparkling wine is viewed.

Writer, narrator, senior producer, and director of the film, David Kennard, recently discussed A Year in Champagne with NewsChannel 3.

Where did you find the inspiration to make this film?

This is the second film of a Trilogy of wine films: the first one, A Year in Burgundy, was premiered a year ago, at SBIFF. The original inspiration was the idea to make films about people, real characters, the artist/artisans who dream up the perfect wines: where do they get their inspiration? And how does it work out in reality in the course of a year?

How did you decide which six houses were going to be featured in the film? Was it difficult to narrow it down to just six?

We feature six houses that the star of the film, Martine Saunier, knows personally as a wine expert and importer: they all produce excellent champagne, some are bigger and more famous than others. But the key thing is: she knew the people already. That’s why it’s such a personal film.

What did you learn about your subject in making this film that you didn't know before?

How to make champagne! Really! It’s far more complicated than ordinary wine-making.

Can you talk about the challenges you and your crew faced while making A Year in Champagne? Feel free to share a story or two.

The chief problem was the weather. Champagne had one of its worst years – certainly until the beginning of August – in the records. Rain, rain, rain. Not good for wine-making, not good for film-making. We were sometimes stuck for what to film during our June (“summer”) visit: they’re not doing much inside the wineries at that time of year. We even contemplated doing a film with Bouchon, a terrier (like in the film L’Artiste), who’s one of the stars of our film: a winery dog of great character .

What were some of the most fun and joyous moments that you encountered when making the film? Do you have any stories you would like to share?

Well, the people of Champagne certainly know how to party! They love going down into their HUGE cellars – often half a mile long! – and digging out some special bottles – meaning very old, or very good vintages. Then they’ll open half-a-dozen, and there’s your party! The day when we filmed the Balloon-Ride, the ceremonial opening of the 40 and 50 year-old magnums and then the food and dancing at the Gonet-Médeville family mansion: there was a party day indeed. It all went on for nearly 12 hours…

The photography is beautiful and it looks like you really took your time to get it right. How long did the film take to make? And was it longer then you expected?

Like all of these films, we have filmed in all four quarters of the year. It was always planned that way. We also film nearly every scene with two cameras, sometimes three. We absolutely take our time: a minimum of two months’ detailed filming for each film.

What was your favorite Champagne wine from the ones featured in your film? And why?

Honestly, they’re all fantastic wines: they’re all the very best category of champagnes you can taste anywhere. I have a sentimental attachment to “Bolly”, favorite drink of the British King Edward VII – formally known as Bollinger Champagne. But It’s truly no “better” than the top of the line bottles from the tiny producers like Saint-Chamant.

Any upcoming projects in the works?

Yes indeed, the third film of the Trilogy, A Year in Port. We hope to be here at SBIFF next year with that one. It’s all filmed. Editing starts next month. Visit ayearinchampagne.com for news.

How do you feel having had A Year in Champagne be accepted into the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival?

Very proud. We were very proud last year to have the Burgundy film accepted by SBIFF, and as a direct result we got a major distributor, and when we released the film in November 2013, we had huge and immediate results on iTunes and other Video on Demand portals, followed by massive DVD sales in December (see ayearinburgundy.com). Thank you SBIFF !

Is there a message you would like audiences to leave with after watching this film?

Think of the work, but more important, think of the real artistry that goes into a good bottle of wine, when you sip it. Real artists created that taste, hoping to bring a smile to your lips.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your film that I did not ask?

Yes. This is a wine film you should see (like the Burgundy film) even if you’re not a big wine fan. These are films about people.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and give us a deeper, behind the scenes look into A Year in Champagne.

A Year in Champagne will screen at the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Saturday, February 1 at 7:20 p.m. at the Metro 4 Theater. On Sunday, February 2 at 11 a.m. at the Lobero Theater. And on Tuesday, February 4 at 10:20 p.m. at Metro 4 Theater.

For ticket information and movie schedules, visit www.sbiff.org

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