By Renss Greene

Drivers pulled up to the silver screen Thursday for the first night of the long-anticipated Loudoun Arts Film Festival at 50 West Vineyards.

Thursday’s drive-in art house shows, “The Subject” and “Skin,” kicked a seven-night series of Oscar winners and “soon-to-be nominees” on a giant inflatable movie screen.

The socially distant festival also features live music every night before the movies with local and national talent including Maggie Miles, Henry Conlon, Jason Masi, The Thistle Brothers, The Willie White Band, The Frayed Knots, Chris Timbers, Viqui Brown Sherman Dill & Jamie, Airmont Road Acoustic.

And it takes place at 50 West Vineyards, with food from Market Salamander, Red’s BBQ, Ford’s Fish Shack, and Bilstad’s Beignets and the winery’s lush, expansive views and award-winning wines.

Next Thursday, Sept. 17 is Virginia Night at the fest. “A Savage Nature” is a thriller about Beth Walker, a lonely waitress desperate to escape her small Virginia town and repair her troubled marriage to Pete, her Afghanistan vet husband. 

The festival also hosts the launch of the COVID-19 U.S. Honor Quilt, created by 50 West owner Diane Canney to memorialize lives lost to the pandemic, with people from around the country invited to submit squares. Read more about the quilt here.

The drive-in move festival is paired with a three-week virtual festival that kicked off Aug. 27th with local, regional and international content, video Q&A sessions with filmmakers and talent, and a live filmmaker virtual happy hour.

It’s all the brainchild of Kaeley Boyle, an artist and the owner of downtown Leesburg’s Fine Gallery, and Loudoun-based filmmaker and novelist Owen Palmiotti. They first announced plans for the festival in January; the pandemic forced them to adapt, resulting in the cozy drive-in and cozier virtual festival.

It’s a production of Loudoun Arts, which since 1986 has worked to advocate, assist and promote the arts in Loudoun County with programming, information, education, research, and communications to benefit the arts community as a whole.

See the full schedule and get tickets online at LoudounArtsFilmFestival.com.