WI Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett to keynote Flyway Kickoff Gala











The Flyway Film Festival knows how to party. The annual Flyway Kickoff Gala has become one of the area’s favorite festivities, featuring gourmet hors d’oeuvres, wine, entertaining speakers, the awards ceremony for best films and honorees, and live music. This year’s event will begin at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, October 19th at the Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin, Wisconsin. Tickets are $40 and are available on the Flyway website.

The keynote speaker for the ninth annual festival will be Stephanie Klett, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, who is also a film buff, humorist, and television host. Klett will speak about film festivals as economic engines for tourism in the state of Wisconsin.

Klett was born and raised in Beloit and is a graduate of Beloit College. Having served as a volunteer for years at the Beloit International Film Festival, she is aware of the important role film festivals play in their communities.

“The Flyway Film Festival puts on a tremendous event for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work, and for movie buffs to share their passion,” Klett said. “It’s a celebration of the artistic soul of this Mississippi River region. I’m delighted to be a part of the festivities this year.”

Along with Klett, hometown pride will be on stage in the person of Louie Fisher, an emerging filmmaker who grew up in Pepin. He screened his first film at the Flyway Film Festival in 2008 when he was 15, and he recently graduated with a degree in film from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Fisher will speak about the importance of the Flyway to his education and career as a filmmaker.

“I had made some videos before the first Flyway in 2008, but it wasn’t until seeing that body of work that I realized that filmmaking was a realizable goal,” said Fisher.

“My first experiences at Flyway really opened my eyes to ways that the medium can be pushed creatively, and it exposed me to a world of filmmaking that I might not have otherwise had the chance to explore.”

Fisher’s latest short film, “White Doe,” will be a part of the “Student Shorts” program on October 22nd and 23rd.

The musical guest at the 2016 Kickoff Gala will be Eau Claire singer-songwriter Jerrika Mighelle. Mighelle began her performing career in the band QuinnElizabeth, a remarkably talented group of sisters who “create a wall of vocal harmonies backed up by unfussy percussion and solid guitar work” (Volume One).

jerrika-mighelleAs a solo performer, Jerrika has created a sound that reflects self-discovery, love and loss. Her strong voice, imaginative guitar compositions, and style of honest humor have endeared her to audiences around the region. Her first CD will be released in November.

Films begin on Thursday, October 20th and run through the 23rd. More than forty documentaries, narratives and short films will screen at four locations along the Mississippi River: the Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin, WI; Big River Theatre in Alma, WI; WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, WI; and the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, MN. The full schedule of films is on the Flyway website, www.flywayfilmfestival.org.

Women directors rock the Flyway Film Festival


Opening and closing night films helmed by up-and-coming female filmmakers; tickets and passes on sale here

The opening and closing night films for the October 19-23 Flyway Film Festival are directed by emerging filmmakers of the female persuasion.

Girl Asleep, Australian Rosemary Myers’ “weird and wonderful” directorial debut, will open the Flyway at the Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin, Wisconsin on Thursday, October 20th, at 7:30 PM.

The closing film will be American Fable, a haunting Midwestern tale “gorgeously shot and helmed with a sense of daring and verve” (Variety) by Anne Hamilton, who shot the film in Wisconsin and Illinois. It will screen at the WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, WI at 5:00 PM on October 23.

“We’ve seen an amazing crop of independent American and foreign films directed by women in the past year,” noted Flyway programmer Jim Brunzell III. “The Oscars may have snubbed female directors, but women are rocking the indie film world.”

Brunzell selects films for several festivals in addition to the Flyway, including Sound Unseen and the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival. He attends festivals all over the country, serving on juries and evaluating films.

“I’m looking forward to this year’s Flyway films unspooling,” said Brunzell, “and it’s especially exciting to be highlighting women filmmakers.” Brunzell, who lives in Austin, Texas, has seen numerous woman-directed short films coming out of Austin this year, several of which will be included in the Flyway’s short film programs.

Other films by women in the lineup include:

  • June Falling Down, by Rebecca Weaver: A woman returns to her hometown in Door County for the wedding of her best friend, which finally forces her to come to terms with her losses and move forward with her life.
  • Memories of a Penitent Heart, by Cecilia Aldarondo: Twenty-five years after Miguel died of AIDS, his niece tracks down his gay lover and cracks open a Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama.
  • Minnesota 13: From Grain to Glass, by Kelly Nathe and Norah Shapiro: The story of an elite moonshine produced in the heart of Minnesota by Catholic farmers during Prohibition, and the modern-day attempts of a micro-distillery to resuscitate the brand as a premium whiskey.
  • The Nine, by Katy Grannan: An intimate and unflinching portrait of a ravaged community living on Modesto’s South Ninth Street—“The Nine”—a barren street in California’s Great Central Valley, the setting for The Grapes of Wrath and Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”
  • Political Animals, by Tracy Wares and Jonah Markowitz: The story of the gay rights movement through the eyes of four groundbreaking lesbian politicians who took the fight for the causes most personal to them into the halls of government.

Photo: From the set of director Anne Hamilton’s fairytale thriller “American Fable,” filmed in Wisconsin and Illinois. American Fable will be the closing night film at the 2016 Flyway Film Festival, which runs from October 19 – 23 in Pepin, Stockholm, and Alma Wisconsin and Red Wing, Minnesota.

Flyway 2015 is over. The Flyway Ax Awards live on, literally forever.

Flyway 2015 is over. The Flyway Ax Awards live on, literally forever.

The 8th annual Flyway Film Festival was a blast. It was epic. It was everything a film festival should be. We saw films that blew our minds. We ate. We drank. We learned vital info from top-of-the-line industry pros. We drank some more. We exchanged brilliant insights. We danced in the streets. There was pie.

Al Milgrom was extremely pleased with his Flyway Ax.

These are the awards that Rick handed out on the night of the gala, which was before the film screenings even started, because that’s how we roll. The awards are granite sculptures shaped like ax heads, made by a famous sculptor who lives nearby. Yes, there’s a story there.

Best Narrative Feature
Remittance, by Patrick Daly and Joel Fendelman

Best Documentary Feature
In Transit, by Albert Maysles, Lynn True, Nelson Walker III, David Usui, and Benjamin Wu

WI/MN Showcase
Lost Conquest, by Mike Scholtz

Seed&Spark Short Film Awards

James Martin, Ax sculptor David Culver, Jen West, and Seed&Spark's Erica Anderson

James Martin, Ax sculptor David Culver, Jen West, and Seed&Spark’s Erica Anderson

Little Cabbage, by Jen West
11 Life Lessons from an Awesome Old Dyke, by Allison Khoury

Founder’s Short Film Award
Hunter’s Fall, by Peter McCarthy

David & Linda Brassfield “Flyway Spirit” Award
Al Milgrom

Trailblazer Award
Kristjan Knigge

Sculptor’s Choice Awards

Kristjan Knigge and Peter McCarthy

Kristjan Knigge and Peter McCarthy

The Driftless Area, by Zachary Sluser
Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play, by Jerome Thelia

Congratulations to the award winners, and to all the wonderful filmmakers who screened their work at the Flyway!


Thanks to photographer Bruce Christianson for donating his time and talent to document the Flyway.

Films, workshops, music, parties: The 8th Annual Flyway Film Festival is next week!

From "It's Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong" (Friday 10/23 @7pm). Director Emily Ting will be partying at the Flyway this year

From “It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” (Friday 10/23 @7pm). Director Emily Ting will be partying at the Flyway this year

October 14, 2015– The Flyway Film Festival is only a week away, and the villages along the Mississippi River are abuzz with preparation. Pepin’s lovely Villa Bellezza Winery, site of the Kickoff Gala on Wednesday night, will magically transform into two screening rooms in time for the opening night film on Thursday. The cozy Maiden Rock Inn will metamorphose into the site of cutting-edge panels and mentor sessions on Thursday and Friday. The smell of triple-berry pie is already wafting over the WideSpotscreening room in Stockholm. And the films…the films…all 53 of them…are ready to blow your mind.

Here are some highlights of the Flyway this year: 

– The Kickoff Gala (Wednesday, October 21, 6pm) will feature a fabulous array of food, an insightful keynote talk by Full Frame Documentary Festival’s Deirdre Haj, the annual film awards ceremony, and music by the sweet Twin Cities band Fort Wilson Riot.

– New this year: Music will continue throughout the festival, with the amazing violinist LOTT and songster JE Sunde performing before select films. And check out the DJ action at the Festival Lounge (406 1st Street) during the afterparties!

– Did you know that the Flyway region of Western Wisconsin is called the “driftless area,” where the river bluffs were left untouched by glaciers? When festival director Rick Vaicius saw The Driftless Area at Tribeca Film Festival this year, he said, “That’s kind of perfect.” John Hawkes and Zooey Deschanel star in this neo-noir romance, which is the opening night film on Thursday (7pm).

– Series television is all the rage, as you well know, and many filmmakers are re-thinking their work as series material. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to attend the panel called “Make a Series, Damn It!” Julie Keck and Jessica King, of Chicago’s King is a Fink Productions, have had great success in making series and will share their advice on Thursday at 1:30.

– Finding the right location is key to any film project, small or large – and it’s not easy. One of the Twin Cities’ top location managers, Charlotte Ariss, will tell her secrets Friday morning on a special panel called “Location. Location? Location!”, along with filmmakers and scouts who have been around the world a few times, shooting their films from Darjeeling to Pepin.

Flyway is excited to host Stephen Hill, star of Kiara Jones' "Christmas Wedding Baby"!

Flyway is excited to host Stephen Hill, star of Kiara Jones’ “Christmas Wedding Baby” (Saturday 10/24, noon)

– When you hear about a new film opening at your local theater, it’s exciting to be able to say, “Oh, I saw that when it premiered at the Flyway.” World premieres at this year’s Flyway are Pictures of Lily, by British director Mark Banks; Remittance, by Patrick Daly and Joel Fendelman, and Second Honeymoonby Dutch filmmaker Kristjan Knigge.

– As always, you can look forward to meeting the movers and shakers in the world of independent film as you hang around the festival: Erica Anderson of Seed&Spark, Ted and Vanessa Hope, Brian Newman of Sub-Genre, and up-and-coming filmmakers from near and far.

So many films, events, parties, pies, and conversations await you next week! Come for a day, a night, or for the entire five-day run.

Here’s the link for the film schedule. BUY FILM TICKETS

Here’s the link for the workshops and mentor sessions. BUY WORKSHOP TICKETS (MENTOR SESSIONS ARE FREE!)

And if you haven’t got your tickets for the Kickoff Gala, which includes the keynote speech and awards ceremony: BUY GALA TICKETS

See you at the Flyway!

Volunteers Needed for the 8th Annual Flyway Film Festival!

Volunteers Needed for the 8th Annual Flyway Film Festival!


Join Jeremy, Anna, and UW-Stout students (above) as Flyway volunteers! Clearly, it's a fun gig.

Join Jeremy, Anna, and UW-Stout students (above) as Flyway volunteers! Clearly, it’s a fun gig.

The 8th Annual Flyway Film Festival is seeking volunteers of all ages and abilities to fill a variety of fun and fast-paced roles in Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock and Alma, Wisconsin, as well as Red Wing, Minnesota. Volunteers become part of the “Flyway Crew,” helping to ensure the success of one of the area’s leading arts and culture events. This year’s festival runs from October 21st through the 25th.

New and returning volunteers alike are invited to sign up via the Volunteer page on the Flyway website or through Shiftboard.

One of Moviemaker Magazine‘s “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World,” Flyway has been bringing local, regional and international independent films and highly-respected industry professionals to the shores of the Mississippi River since 2008.

Volunteer activities for 2015 will range from ticket and merchandise sales, set up/tear down, and crowd-wrangling to specialized roles in projection and sound. Shifts are flexible (but typically four hours each); sign up is available for just one or as many as you like based on your skills and interests, availability, and location preference.

Flyway is known for its welcoming hospitality to guests and volunteers alike. Volunteers enjoy many perks beyond a t-shirt, including free meals and beverages (including beer and wine for those over 21), complimentary cabin-style housing for the duration of the festival, tiered perks based on number of hours volunteered, no-cost access to the Opening Night Gala, and panels and movie screenings (based on availability), as well as eligibility for gift certificates and other prizes at the conclusion of the festival.

Exciting new changes to the volunteer sign-up process this year result from Flyway moving to an online volunteer sign-up and management application, Shiftboard. This means that connections to other volunteers and easy access of volunteer schedules will be better than ever before.

For more information about volunteering, please contact Diana Vaicius, Operations Manager/Volunteer Coordinator, at volunteercoordinator@flywayfilmfestival.org or 612.275.5107.

Hope you can join us!

Flyway announces new 2015 Seed&Spark short film competition

Flyway announces new 2015 Seed&Spark short film competition

Seed&Spark, a cutting-edge crowdfunding and digital distribution platform for independent film, will select and award the top two short films at the 2015 Flyway Film Festival in Wisconsin. The two winners will be picked from the top five short films accepted for inclusion in the festival, chosen in collaboration with a panel of Flyway jurors.

In addition to the prestigious “Flyway Ax,” a stone sculpture presented to all award-winners at the annual film festival, the winning filmmakers will receive:

  • $500 toward their next Seed&Spark crowdfunding campaigns (on campaigns of $7500 or more).
  • Individual crowdfunding and audience-building consultation with Seed&Spark experts.
  • Eligibility to distribute with Seed&Spark’s major media partners.
  • Transportation and lodging for the winning filmmakers to attend the 2015 Flyway Film Festival.
Seed&Spark's Erica Anderson with keynote speaker Nick Gonda at the 2014 Flyway opening night gala

Seed&Spark’s Erica Anderson with keynote speaker Nick Gonda at the 2014 Flyway opening night gala

In addition, Seed&Spark will create a Flyway channel on the Seed&Spark website to stream the top five short films, offering the films to thousands of viewers.

To submit a film for consideration, click here.

Rick Vaicius, executive director of the Flyway Film Festival, is enthusiastic about collaborating with Seed&Spark. “They’re a major new force in the independent film world,” says Vaicius. “We’re excited that they’re giving an extra hand to the up-and-coming filmmakers we bring to the Flyway.”

Seed&Spark has played a role at the Flyway Film Festival for the past two years: the company’s founder, Emily Best, was the keynote speaker in 2013, and Seed&Spark crowdfunding director Erica Anderson held a sold-out workshop at the Flyway in 2014.

“Flyway is an American gem of a festival,” says Seed&Spark’s Emily Best, “with exceptional, interesting programming and the chance to really meet, be together, watch films, and learn from each other. We’re thrilled to be able to present the Flyway Ax as a part of a slate of excellent shorts we cannot wait to find, promote, and distribute.”

All short films, both documentary and narrative, are eligible for the Seed&Spark award. Film submissions will be accepted until June 15, 2015 at https://filmfreeway.com/festival/TheFlywayFilmFestival.

About the Flyway Film Festival

The eighth annual Flyway Film Festival runs October 21-25, 2015 in Pepin, Stockholm, and Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, with additional dates to be announced in Red Wing, Minnesota. Over 50 national and international independent films will be shown in four venues, with many filmmakers and industry professionals in attendance to interact with audiences via Q&A and networking events.

The festival venues are approximately a 60-minute drive from Rochester, Minnesota or Eau Claire, Wisconsin and 85 minutes from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

For more information, please visit www.flywayfilmfestival.org or contact Rick Vaicius at (855) 800-8008 / rick@flywayfilmfestival.org / Facebook: Flyway Film Festival / Twitter: @flywayfilmfest.

About Seed&Spark

Seed&Spark is building a truly independent filmmaking community where filmmakers and audiences come together for crowdfunding, production, and streaming distribution. Every time an audience member supports the making of a moving picture project (funding, following, sharing) they earn “Sparks” which can be redeemed to watch movies on the streaming platform. Supporting films lets you watch more films: It’s the new ecosystem for filmmakers & audiences!

More Information: http://www.seedandspark.com/

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Follow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/seedandspark