Woodstock Film Festival Honors Ron Nyswaner and Philippe Petit

The Woodstock Film Festival proudly honored two local luminaries -- Ron Nyswaner and Philippe Petit -- at its SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK CELEBRATION on June 4 in a beautiful estate overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir.

The SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK celebrates the roots of the Hudson Valley - its natural beauty, iconoclasts, art, culture, innovation, and the river that flows through and connects it.

"Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who contributed to this very special event," stated Woodstock Film Festival co-founder and executive director Meira Blaustein. "What made this year's Spirit of Woodstock celebration particularly magical was the nature of the honorees -- a world renowned tightrope walker and a first class screenwriter -- and the spectacular backdrop of the Ashokan Reservoir and the Catskill Mountains."

The event was introduced by board president Lauri Andretta. Meira Blaustein then introduced actor Tim Guinee (Hell on Wheels), who delighted the crowd with a hilarious presentation to friend and mentor Philippe Petit.

"Philippe is a great poet of the wire. He is an artist in the air and what he does is lift us up to be able to see our own possibilities as human beings," said Guinee. "He's courageous enough to be the man who takes the first step out onto the wire of our communal possibility, and I am deeply honored to present a criminally insane, gloriously insane man... Ladies and gentlemen, Philippe Petit!" (listen to audio online).

Petit accepted the honor with panache, humor, humility, and a movie quiz for those assembled.

Actor / director and screenwriter Michael Cristofer adeptly pointed out how Ron Nyswaner has broken barriers with his screenplays, including A Soldier's Girl. "Long before any of us knew the word 'transgender' or fumbled over pronouns or which bathrooms people should use, Ron Nyswaner wrote a brilliant script about a young man in love with a woman who was also a man," said Cristofer. "That film told a beautiful human story and, through the miracle of cable TV, brought the issue into millions of American homes." Cristofer also pointed out that Nyswaner's screenplay The Painted Veil was produced in Shanghai before the Chinese opened their doors to international filmmakers and that Philadelphia blew the doors off the aids epidemic and into our collective consciousness.

Nyswaner's heartfelt and eloquent acceptance speech was an homage to the region and its rich mix of people, singling out some of his own mentors, including the workman who invited him to spend Christmas Eve with his family one lonely holiday season, and former Spirit honoree, Congressman Maurice Hinchey. Nyswaner also took the opportunity to call on the assembled guests to join him in supporting the Woodstock Film Festival, especially its LGBT Focus.

The evening was attended by many special guests including former David Bowie bass player Gail Ann Dorsey, composer Johan de Meij, sculptor John Kahn, and many others.


Ron Nyswaner is a screenwriter, author, director, producer, and activist who makes his home in Ulster County and Los Angeles. His screenplays include PHILADELPHIA, THE PAINTED VEIL, and SOLDIER'S GIRL. He is also the Writer/Co-Executive Producer of RAY DONOVAN (Seasons 1 & 2) and HOMELAND (Season 5 & 6). In addition to other honors, his documentary SHE'S THE BEST THING IN IT won the audience award at the 2015 Woodstock Film Festival. This year he issued a revised edition of BLUE DAYS, BLACK NIGHTS: A Memoir of Desire, chronicling a doomed love affair and his battle with addiction.

Philippe Petit has performed on the high wire more than 80 times around the world, but he makes his home in Ulster County and New York City. In 1974, Petit mesmerized the world with an illegal high wire walk between the World Trade Center Towers, a quarter of mile above the sidewalks of New York City. His 'coup' has been the subject of many books and movies, including the autobiographical TO REACH THE CLOUDS, the Academy Award-winning documentary MAN ON WIRE, and the Robert Zemeckis feature film THE WALK. He is also a magician, street juggler, lecturer, barn builder, and the author of ten books, the most recent being CREATIVITY: The Perfect Crime.

Previous SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK honorees include Michael Lang, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Mark Braunstein, and Levon Helm. The Spirit of Woodstock Award, is hand-crafted by local artisan Steve Heller of Fabulous Furniture.

Related Articles View More Central New York Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You