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Knight Rider's KITT Stops in Wine Country

The car from the popular '80s action show greets guests at Monte de Oro as a pre-event Film Fest party kicks off.

KITT, the talking car from the 1980s show "Knight Rider," stopped in Wine Country.

The car, which is owned by a Temecula resident, was parked in front of Monte de Oro Tuesday for a pre-event "Media Night" party for the 17th-annual .

KITT greeted filmmakers, festival staff, media and community members as they headed into the winery, where they were then welcomed with live music snippets, short film clips, awesome hors d’oeuvres, and of course, free-flowing wine.

Inside, Jo Moulton, founder of the festival, announced some of the lineup for the festival, which will be held Sept. 14-18 at UltraStar Cinemas in The Tower Plaza.

Among the independent filmmakers headed to Hollywood – or already there – was Matin Atrushi, star and producer of “Uncle Matin’s Sword Trick,” a 2-minute spoof also starring “Chuck” TV series regular Mark Christopher Lawrence. Now residing in San Diego, Atrushi, who
grew up in Temecula, considered it a great honor to have his film in his hometown festival.

Film Programming Director Steve Montal said this year’s slate of films represents a diverse selection of local, regional and international documentaries, features and shorts, and he pointed out a couple of noteworthy selections.

“ ‘The Levenger Tapes’ is an example of a locally produced genre-specific film with excellent production values,” said Montal, a La Jolla resident and faculty member at San Diego State University. “And ‘Losing Control,’ our opening night film directed by TVIFF alumnus Valerie Weiss, will be a real treat to screen in Temecula.”

LA writer-director Angelo Campanile was pleasantly surprised when his short, “Four of a Qind” was named an Official Selection shortly before the event.

“I wasn’t expecting it because TVIFF is a pretty big festival, and this is just my second short film,” said Campanile, an Italian native who was very impressed by Temecula, what he called a “beautiful” city.

“Hopefully, I’ll meet other producers and crew during the festival to help me with my next project,” he added. “I love being part of a community of filmmakers and networking.”

Moulton also announced this year’s Pechanga Maverick Spirit Award honoree is San Diegan Oren Peli, whose 2007 debut feature, “Paranormal Activity,” is already legendary as a highly successful micro-budget independent film. Its budget was $15,000; its box-office gross was $108 million.

Also, “A Conversation with Oren Peli” will be one of the festival’s workshops and panels. 

Like the variety of films, more than any previous year, the music component will feature many genres, said Festival and Awards
Gala Producer Monty Seward. 

“Never has there been a more well-rounded and talented lineup of artists in the history of the MusicFest. So many genres are covered this year – classical to reggae to rock, jazz to pop, with our youngest performer at 15 and the eldest pushing 61,” said the Murrietta resident, who’s a music artist and filmmaker himself. “The Music Fest will have something for everyone.”

Aspiring producer Randy Biles, of Perris, said the event’s “party atmosphere” and receptive filmmakers made him feel welcome in an otherwise intimidating industry. “If you come to an event like this and speak with people, you’ll gain a lot of wisdom. All the little secrets of filmmaking come out.”

Media Night photographer Mario M. Lopez, who has worked with Biles on short film projects, said he was encouraged by meeting filmmakers, especially cinematographers. The Wildomar resident is
looking forward to making his own short film and submitting it to the festival next year.

Media Relations Manager Annette Brown set up Media Night, with the help of other staff and volunteers, including TVIFF Executive in Charge of Accreditations Cindy Johnson. “I love being a part of the festival,” said Johnson, a Temecula resident. “Like many in our city, I look forward to it every year.”

KITT, too, enjoyed the night, according to his owner, Temecula resident Gary Hunter. They are looking forward to being a part of opening night ceremonies. “It was pretty hilarious, some of the reactions KITT got at Media Night, especially from kids too young
to know about ‘Knight Rider,’” he said.

His replica from the original TV show has been featured with “Knight Rider” co-star David Hasselhoff and will be in an upcoming UK yogurt commercial. 

As the night drew dark, KITT’s familiar bouncing red light beamed a sort of good-night smile to the dispersing attendees.

For a full list of films, music artists, honorees and workshops, click here.

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