Flyway 2016: It’s a lean, mean festival machine

A film festival is a strange beast. It can be a community event showing local films, like a farmers’ market for movies. It can be a for-profit corporation, selling mainstream films to big audiences for big bucks.

Or it can be the Flyway.

This is the ninth year that the scrappy, ambitious film festival has brought an eclectic assortment of movies to the Mississippi River towns of Pepin, Stockholm, Alma, and Red Wing. The festival, which runs from October 19-23, has attracted national attention for its creative spirit and its willingness to invite emerging filmmakers to share their work.

But like any volunteer-run nonprofit organization, the Flyway has had its challenges. Life happens: people move away, jobs change, partnerships end. Schedules get postponed. Some feared that the Flyway would live no more.

And then – like the mythical Lake Pepin monster depicted in the 2016 Flyway logo – the festival reared its head and roared back to life.

“We took stock of what the Flyway really means to the community, and we realized that it was incredibly important,” said Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda, the new Flyway board chair. “It’s been very gratifying to talk to community members about strengthening the organization and hearing how much support we have.”

In addition to Collins-Svoboda, the new board consists of Jane Whiteside, vice chair; Anne Anderson, treasurer; and Lu Lippold, secretary. The advisory committee includes Judy Krohn, Susan Eldredge, David Potter, Jody Wurl, Kristin Debner, John Anderes, Dorothy Thompson, Irene Wolf, Allison Lisk, Bruce Johnson, and Linda Herman. Jim Brunzell, who has been a major force behind Flyway programming for several years, is again lending his expertise to the Flyway.

So what will be different this year?

“More happy hours, no formal workshops, more films, a new venue at the Villa Bellezza Winery, and screenings at the historic Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing,” said festival founder Rick Vaicius. “We’re streamlining some things, adding others. And our film lineup this year is pretty amazing.”

The film lineup, along with ticket and pass availability will be announced next week. The selections include stunningly beautiful narratives, disturbing documentaries, hilarious and moving short films, and, in a nod to the upcoming election, some untold political stories.

“There’s a special emphasis on lore and legend, including films about Minnesota and Wisconsin,” added Vaicius. “We’re featuring some our best regional filmmakers as well.”

See below for visual clues about a few of the films you’ll see at the Flyway. And stay tuned for the big reveal when the Flyway announces its lineup!

2016 Flyway logo by Jon Hunt

Swee Pea Girl Asleep American Fable

Pepie the Lake Monster Rears its Head in New Flyway Logo

Pepie Flyway Logo Banner
For centuries, travelers on Lake Pepin have caught glimpses of a frightening sea serpent roiling the waters. Now, at long last, the creature has been captured: as a graphic design by Twin Cities artist Jon Hunt. The eye-catching image is the new logo for the ninth annual Flyway Film Festival on the shores of Lake Pepin, which will take place from October 19 – 23, 2016.

Hunt first learned about the legend of “Pepie,” the Lake Pepin monster, from Flyway Film Festival Operations Director Diana Vaicius, with whom he shares a fondness for creepy, unexplained phenomena.

“I’m totally fascinated with cryptozoology,” says Hunt, referring to the study of mysterious creatures such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and Pepie. “There are only a couple of ‘confirmed’ lake monsters in America, and Pepie is one of them.”

When Hunt shared a first draft of his logo design with Diana Vaicius, she suggested that he take it up a notch.

“It’s a monster, after all,” says Vaicius. “The first image looked a bit too friendly.” Hunt agreed, and the final image resembles a moderately scary monster from 1950’s-era horror films.

Early sightings of a Lake Pepin sea creature date back to the late 1600s, when Father Louis Hennepin was exploring the Mississippi River. Indians were said to use only strong wooden boats on Lake Pepin because the creature could pierce through birchbark canoes. Local newspapers have published fairly regular accounts of “a lake monster seen swimming in Lake Pepin” since the 1860s.

The Flyway Film Festival has featured a new graphic design each year since its inception in 2008. Hunt was delighted that he could combine his interest in Lake Pepin lore with the promotion of the Flyway.

“I’m a huge fan of the film festival and of what it’s brought to the Lake Pepin area,” says Hunt. “Now if we can get some proof that Pepie really exists, I’ll be a happy man.”

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
and
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.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIST OF ALL FILMS

“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.”