stout-students-summer-intensiveThe Flyway Film Festival invites the public to find out during four movie-filled days, October 20-23
Most people have never been to a “film festival.” Most people aren’t even sure what a film festival is. But most people do like going to the movies.

“A film festival is a week, or a weekend, when a lot of different movies are shown one after another in neighboring theaters,” said Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda, chair of the popular Flyway Film Festival based in Pepin, Wisconsin. “You can go from one theater to another, and watch movies from 11 o’clock in the morning till 11 o’clock at night.”

Unlike ordinary movie theaters, however, film festivals offer something more: a chance to meet and discuss movies with the people who actually make them.

The Flyway Film Festival, now in its ninth year of showing films along the Mississippi River in the Wisconsin villages of Pepin, Stockholm, and Alma and the Minnesota city of Red Wing, brings in filmmakers from around the world to attend the festival. It’s a treat for audiences in the area, and it’s a treat for filmmakers who may have heard of, but never seen, the mighty Mississippi.

A party on Wednesday, October 19th at Pepin’s Villa Bellezza Winery kicks off the festival. For $40, attendees can enjoy wine, food made by local chefs, an awards ceremony, and live music. The first movie is on Thursday, October 20th, at 7:30 PM.

Films are shown at the Villa Bellezza, the WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, the Big River Theatre in Alma, and the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing. The last film of the weekend shows at 5:00 PM on Sunday, October 23rd at the WideSpot.

The film festival is an education for film students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, who volunteer to help out during the festival, garnering credits for their “experiential learning” requirement.

“It’s a perfect fit for our students,” said UW-Stout professor Kevin Pontuti. “They get to network with filmmakers and learn from them, and the filmmakers often become mentors for our students long after the festival is over.”

Filmmakers, volunteers, and movie-goers can chat, eat, and drink before and after the films at the festival “lounge” and at local bars and restaurants. Many screenings offer a question and answer session with the filmmaker following the movie, where questions can range from, “How did you create that amazing special effect?” to “Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?”

“Before the Flyway started showing movies around here, I had never been to a film festival,” said Collins-Svoboda. “But it’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot. Now I look forward to setting aside a few days each year to get immersed in movies at the Flyway.”

The film selections range from serious documentaries to quirky comedies, sci-fi, and drama. Visitors who buy a “Festival Pass” or a “Screening Pass” can go to as many films as they choose without additional cost. Tickets for single films are available as well.

Both Collins-Svoboda and Pontuti encourage the public to broaden their movie-going horizons by coming to the Flyway.

“The Flyway typically attracts filmmakers and audiences who are generous with their time, interested in all aspects of film, and like to party,” said Pontuti, whose short experimental film, “Onere,” will be shown at the festival. “And if you’ve never been to a film festival before, our student volunteers can steer you in the right direction.”

A listing of all films, along with links to buy tickets, is on the Flyway Film Festival website, Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Photo: Students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout learn the art of filmmaking at a summer intensive program.