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Napa Valley Film Festival

The Napa Valley Film Festival takes place November 11 - 15 (Wednesday - Sunday) in the four walk-able villagesof Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Each year the festival features 125 new independent films, 300+ filmmakers and film industry guests, 150 wineries, 30 chefs, and an array of culinary demonstrations, wine tasting pavilions, and special events.

The Napa Valley Film Festival is produced by Cinema Napa Valley, a registered 501c3 non-profit organization headquartered in Napa, California. The festival's co-creators (and Cinema Napa Valley Founders) are Brenda and Marc Lhormer, producers and distributors of the feature film BOTTLE SHOCK, about the historic upset victory by Napa Valley wines over the French at the infamous 1976 wine-tasting competition in Paris. BOTTLE SHOCK premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival before going on to international theatrical distribution. The husband-and-wife team also ran the successful Sonoma Valley Film Festival from 2001 through 2008. In addition to producing the annual Napa Valley Film Festival, Cinema Napa Valley presents special film programs throughout the year and provides support to student filmmaking programs in Napa Valley schools. To learn more, visit


Interview with 'DUKE' (2019) Actor Robert Solomon

Interview with 'DUKE' (2019) Actor Robert Solomon

Robert Solomon is an award-winning actor and pianist from Atlanta, GA. He started acting in high school theater before attending the Georgia Institute of Technology to study applied mathematics. In 2017, he was a member of the Shakespeare Academy @Stratford ensemble were he trained and performed under the tutelage of Brian McManamon. Later that year, he temporarily halted his studies to fly to Los Angeles where he acted the eponymous role in the short film, Duke. For this leading role, he has been nominated for numerous Best Actor awards, most recently winning Best Actor at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival this past month. In his spare time Robert plays classical piano, runs a successful music YouTube channel (Bobert Solomon), and studies at Georgia Tech. He is based in Atlanta and studies under Clayton Landey at The Alliance Theater. Robert is represented by Susan Tolar Walters of STW Talent Agency.

In a recent interview with Robert, here is what he had to say:


When did you know your destiny was to be an actor? 

ROBERT: I have always enjoyed acting, even if it was simply playing around at home with my siblings, but I didn't start training until I was around 17. Even then, it was more of a hobby. When it came time for college, I opted for the Georgia Institute of Technology to study mathematics. I believe that studying something so radically different from acting gave me perspective; it was also around this time that I was being taught to respect acting as a craft and something that can be professionally pursued. It was there, at Georgia Tech, that I started to pursue it more seriously by training and auditioning.


What kinds of kinds roles move you most and do you seek? 

ROBERT: The characters that move me most are those on the cusp of society. I sincerely do NOT mean this in a self-pitying way, but I feel as though I can relate to them. I was traditionally homeschooled from K-12th grade (a true blessing that my caring Mother gave her children), and therefore spent a large amount of time at home until college. Although not quite sure why, I have a lot of sympathy for characters from a Eugene O'Neill or Peter Shaffer play and from movies like 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'. As far as what roles I seek, in blatant honesty, I look for roles that offer a good opportunity for me as a young artist. Beyond that, if the story a character is helping to tell is relevant, relays an important message, or opens up a conversation, then I will seek it. On the other hand, I also grew up watching action and adventure movies like 'Star Wars', 'Indiana Jones' and my personal favorite 'The Road to El Dorado'. Seriously, who wouldn't want to pretend like they're flying a space ship, swinging from a whip, or swindling a city of gold! These movies undeniably played a role in developing my initial interest in acting.


Can you tell us about your break out role in Duke and how you landed that role?

ROBERT: I was in school at Georgia Tech in Atlanta when I was doing my daily browse through the myriad casting calls on Actor's Access (a self-submission site for actors). At the time, I had no agent, no experience in film/TV, and no acting reel. I saw that DUKE was casting out of LA, and despite being in Atlanta, I decided to audition. The movie was based on a true story, and the role was that of a 17-year-old boy with nonverbal autism. Because the reference for the role was Arnie Grape from 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' (a film I've seen many times), I was confident that I could perform well in this unique role. After submitting one taped audition, I never heard back from the casting director. So, after some encouragement from my mom, I personally called and emailed the director, Thiago Dadalt, explaining my passion for this story and role and my humble confidence in my ability to perform well. Lo and behold, Thiago appreciated this gesture and offered me the role!


What was the response from audiences after your premiere in Napa?

ROBERT: Most audiences sympathize with Duke's story regardless of their prior knowledge of autism. However, the audience at Napa Valley was particularly amazing. During the post-screening Q&A, a lady from the audience talked about her nonverbal autistic grandson and the similar family dynamic she was experiencing. She was then able to connect with the real Duke's mom, and now her grandson has access to the same help and support that Duke received. In the background of this life-changing meeting was our film. As an actor, when so much of what I strive for seems irrelevant compared to the bigger issues in the world, these moments are a source of pride and responsibility.


How has working on Duke impacted your career?

ROBERT: Working on 'DUKE' has laid all the ground work. It gave me not only simple resources like an IMDb page, but also the ethos for an agent to sign me. I have met countless people through this film, many of whom have been instrumental in my understanding of acting and this industry.


This year you attended Cannes with your director Thiago Dadalt. How was that experience?

ROBERT: Incredible. Cannes is a film-lovers heaven. Not only did I see incredible films that I would otherwise not have seen, but I had the opportunity to meet and listen to some of my heroes - Willem Dafoe, Timothee Chalamet, and Leonardo DiCaprio. 'DUKE' was screening at the American Pavilion's Emerging Filmmakers Showcase and was extremely well received. 


Is Cannes important for actors to attend in your opinion?

ROBERT: If you have the resources to go to Cannes, then do it. The whole festival is such an eye-opening experience into how this industry works. Also, and this might sound crazy, but there is personally nothing more encouraging than seeing my heroes (Dafoe, Chalamet, DiCaprio) simply walk and talk. As an actor, I think it's easy to believe that these actors are of a god-like status that is unattainable. But having the opportunity at Cannes to listen to them talk or meet them in person makes pursuing this career much more attainable. They, too, pick their nose and trip over side walk curbs. If they also do those things and are supporting an acting career, then so can I :)


You have spent your summer working on Shakespeare in theater. What has that been like?

ROBERT: Studying and performing Shakespeare has been a big source of learning for me. In 2017, I was an ensemble member of the Shakespeare Academy @Stratford, CT which is a training and performance program for college-aged actors in which you perform two Shakespeare shows in repertoire. This was my first experience doing in-depth, sustained acting training. It was physically and mentally exhausting and yet I loved it! This past summer, I returned to the academy as a member of the 3-person Alumni Company. Together, we acted, directed, and produced a 3-person, innovative production of MACBETH which we toured around NYC, CT, VT, and MA. Although we received support and resources from the Shakespeare Academy, this was an extremely difficult challenge for the three of us. We had to adapt the show to each performance space as well as self-direct ourselves, each of which I had little experience in. Nevertheless, the show was great and I am extremely proud of my work with the Shakespeare Academy.


Being based in Atlanta, does that help your career or make it more difficult?

ROBERT: I try not to let my physical location hinder my opportunities; so I will audition for roles in LA or NYC and if need be, fly out. Case and point is my audition for DUKE. There are also many opportunities right now for actors in Atlanta with many major productions happening here. At this point in my career, I do not believe it is harming me.


What will you be working on next? 

ROBERT: I am currently still in school at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I just signed with STW Talent Agency here in Atlanta and am training under Clayton Landey at the Alliance Theater. While auditioning, I always spend a significant amount of time studying major literary characters; right now, that's Edmund from Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Interview with 'DUKE' (2019) Actor Robert Solomon Director Thiago Dadalt (left) and actor Robert Solomon (right)

Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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