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!

Full Festival Lineup Announced!

From Jerome Thelia's "Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play"

From Jerome Thélia’s “Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play”

The Flyway Film Festival has announced the official program selections for the October 21-25 festival, showcasing top-notch emerging filmmakers from across the globe. Since its inception eight years ago, the Flyway has won accolades from industry professionals, filmmakers, and audiences for the excellence of its film program and for the festival’s intimate, welcoming atmosphere. The festival kicks off with a party on October 21st, and the opening night film on October 22nd will be The Driftless Area, starring John Hawkes, Zooey Deschanel, and Anton Yelchin.


“We’re pleased to open the festival with The Driftless Area, since our festival is actually located in the geographical region of Wisconsin called ‘the driftless,'” says festival director Rick Vaicius. “And we have a particularly exciting mix of world premieres, international films, and regional filmmakers this year.”

Vaicius programs the festival with a special appreciation for talented first-time filmmakers, he says. “We like to highlight emerging talents like Britni West, with her beautiful Montana-based film Tired Moonlight, Trey Edward Schults’ amazing autobiography Krisha, Vanessa Hope with her insightful documentary about US-China diplomacy, All Eyes and Ears, and Jerome Thelia’s fascinating Bounce: How the Ball Taught the World to Play.’

“And on the other end of the scale, we’re showing films by two of the world’s oldest filmmakers: Al Milgrom’s Dinkytown Uprising, and Albert Mayles’ last film, In Transit,” adds Vaicius. Legendary documentary director Maysles died earlier this year at 88; the 93-year-old Milgrom is planning to attend the Flyway.

World premieres at the festival are Pictures of Lily, by British director Mark Banks; Remittance, by Patrick Daly and Joel Fendelman, and Second Honeymoon, by Dutch filmmaker Kristjan Knigge. This is Knigge’s second visit to the Flyway: he fell in love with the area last year, and is planning shoot his next film in Pepin shortly after the festival ends.

Visitors to the Flyway Film Festival can meander up and down the Mississippi River to the movie and event venues in the river towns of Maiden Rock, Pepin, Stockholm and Alma, Wisconsin, and across the river in Red Wing, Minnesota. A year-round tourist destination, the area is particularly scenic during the the Flyway, as the fall colors peak and the Mississippi River ‘flyway’ — a route taken by migrating birds — attracts birdwatchers from around the world.

In addition to showing films, the Flyway will offer a series of workshops and mentor sessions with industry experts such as Seed&Spark’s Erica Anderson, King is a Fink’s Julie Keck and Jessica King, location manager Charlotte Ariss, and filmmakers Emily Ting (It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong) and Norah Shapiro (Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile). Other industry heavyweights, such as Ted Hope and Brian Newman, will be around to chat with attendees.
New at the Flyway this year is a series of music performances preceding the films. City Pages‘ 2015 “Best Acoustic Performer” LOTT (Leah Ottman) will perform before select films, as well as singer/songwriter JE Sunde.

The festival kicks off with a party at the Villa Bellezza, a spectacular winery and event center in Pepin, at 6:00 on Wednesday, October 21st. Twin Cities band Fort Wilson Riot will perform, and Deirdre Haj, director of the Full Frame Documentary Festival, will give the keynote address following the kind of banquet for which the Flyway has become famous: a potluck.

“The Flyway is different from larger film fests in the region in that people really have time to talk to each other, to learn about each other, and to create community,” says Vaicius. “People leave the festival with the feeling that they’ve had a truly creative, communal experience. And that’s a rare feeling.”


For the full festival schedule, click here: 2015 Film Schedule

The festival rundown:

Saturday, October 10, 4:00 PM: A program of short films will screen at the St. James Hotel in Red Wing as part of the Red Wing Fall Festival of the Arts

Wednesday, October 21, 6:00 PM: Kickoff Gala with keynote by Deirdre Haj, music by Fort Wilson Riot, and festival awards ceremony.

Thursday, October 22: Workshops during the day; opening night film (The Driftless Area) at 7:00 PM.

Friday, October 23: Workshops during the day; films begin at 7:00 PM.

Saturday, October 24 and Sunday, October 25: Films begin at 11:00 AM; closing film (Frame by Frame) at 5:00 PM on Sunday.

Flyway Welcomes Fellow “Coolest Film Festival” Rep Deirdre Haj as 2015 Keynote Speaker

Full Frame Documentary Festival's Deirdre Haj

Flyway 2015 Keynote Speaker Deirdre Haj

Scroll down the list of MovieMaker Magazine’s “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World,” and next to Western Wisconsin’s own Flyway Film Festival you’ll find Full Frame, the renowned North Carolina documentary film festival helmed by Deirdre Haj. Ms. Haj will give the keynote address at the Flyway Film Festival’s opening night gala at the Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin, Wisconsin on October 21st. Her topic: the importance of theatrical screenings to communities large and small.

“It’s great for Flyway and Full Frame to be on the ‘coolest’ list,” says Haj. “But festivals are about more than being cool. Movie houses are magical places that also drive the economics of their communities.” She should know: Full Frame, which started with a handful of films in 1998, now draws over 12,000 people and brings in around $96,000 in tax revenue for the city of Durham.

Flyway Film Festival director Rick Vaicius met Ms. Haj at an International Film Festival Summit conference several years ago. “I was inspired by the forward momentum she’s brought to her festival,” says Vaicius. “We’re thrilled that we can tap into that positive energy at the Flyway this year.”

Haj will continue leading the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as she moves to the Twin Cities with her husband Joseph Haj, incoming artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Ms. Haj has never been to the Western Wisconsin area, but she’s read about its reputation for artistic and culinary excellence.

“I look forward to gathering with new friends to discuss the importance of events like the Flyway,” she says. “I’m also hoping to indulge in the local pie I’ve heard so much about.”

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 or 612.275.5107.

Hope you can join us!

Flyway Volunteers of the Year!

What’s fun about volunteering for the Flyway Film Festival?

Moua and Thomas

Sarah Moua and Macy Thomas

“The gathering of great people,” says Tim Nomeland, one of three winners of the 2014 Flyway “Volunteers of the Year” award. “I always leave Flyway enlightened, happy, and five pounds heavier from all the amazing food — despite my attempts to dance it off.”

Nomeland is a familiar face at the Flyway Film Festival: he’s volunteered every year since 2009. Sarah Moua and Macy Thomas, both students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, also received the 2014 Volunteer of the Year award. Winners were selected by patron and staff nomination for their outstanding attitudes, commitment, and customer service during the 2014 festival.

Volunteer activities range from ticket sales to film projection to crowd-wrangling. According to Diana Vaicius, Operations Manager for the annual event, it’s the volunteers who really make or break the atmosphere of a festival.

Tim Nomeland

Tim Nomeland

“Film-goers are an engaged, enthusiastic, and demanding bunch,” says Vaicius, “and the presence of friendly, well-informed volunteers is crucial. We’ve been lucky to have such a wonderful group of volunteers each year.”

Sarah Moua, who has volunteered for the past two years, says she does it because she likes meeting film people and learning what they’re working on. “And it’s a blast being at the after-parties and seeing everyone get loose,” she adds.

Information about volunteering for the 2015 Flyway Film Festival will be available soon on this website, or contact Diana Vaicius at