Flyway Film Festival takes place October 23-26, 2014 in Pepin, Stockholm, and Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.
Two Oscar-buzz films make their regional debut; North American premiere of Stephen Rea vampire drama
PEPIN, WI, September 24, 2013— The opening and closing films at this year’s Flyway Film Festival come from two different worlds: an endearing drama about a Laotian kid whose family thinks he’s bad luck (The Rocket), and a hair-raising takedown of big money in Wisconsin politics (Citizen Koch). In between, the sixth annual Flyway Film Festival will treat audiences to an array of more than 50 dramas, comedies, and documentaries, including several premieres, two 2013 Academy Award submissions – and a star-studded vampire film. The festival runs from October 17th to October 20th in Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin.
“We scour the world for the best up-and-coming independent writers and directors,” says festival programmer Jim Brunzell III. “Two of our selections were just announced as Academy Award submissions for best foreign-language film, so we know we’ve made some popular picks.” One of those films, The Rocket, will be the Flyway’s opening-night film on October 18th; the other, a Belgian romantic drama called Broken Circle Breakdown, will screen on October 19th at 7pm.
Brunzell won’t commit to a particular favorite – “they’re all outstanding” – but he mentions being particularly excited about a few films:
A Field in England (directed by Ben Wheatley) is a “really terrific genre-bending film,” according to Brunzell. “I’m over the moon about being able to program it. It’s a challenging piece, something of a horror film, something of an experimental film, set during the British Civil War of the 1640s. Not for everyone, but it’s definitely one of the standouts this year.”
White Reindeer (directed by Zach Clark), a quirky tragicomedy about a woman obsessed with Christmas, is “the funniest thing I’ve seen all year,” reports Brunzell.
The Institute (directed by Spencer McCall) is a documentary about a fantastical alternative reality game that was played in San Francisco for several years. “People playing the game got totally wrapped up in following mysterious clues around the city,” Brunzell says. “It’s a fascinating take on society and the way we’re willing to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. It’s a wild, ambitious film.”
Zero Charisma (directed by Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews), a comedy about a down-at-heels video gamer, struck Brunzell as meaningful, although he’s not a gamer himself. “It’s about the time in a person’s life where they think they’ve got everything under control – and then someone comes in and upends it,” according to Brunzell. “I totally got where this guy was coming from.”
Rick Vaicius, Flyway Film Festival’s executive director, agrees with Brunzell that Flyway 2013 is the most impressive lineup to date. “We’ve established a reputation among up-and-coming directors for being a great filmmaker-centric festival,” says Vaicius. “Regionally, Matt Stenerson and Jeremy Wilker chose Flyway for the world premiere of Matt’s award-winning comedic script, Death to Prom. Internationally, we’ve got the North American premiere of a hot new vampire film, Styria, starring Stephen Rea and Elinor Tomlinson.”
Vaicius adds that there’s a strong regional environmental theme this year. “Two films feature this region: Fifty Lakes, One Island is by a Chicago filmmaker (George Desort) who spent 80 nights on Isle Royale,” says Vaicius. “It’s screening with Mysteries of the Driftless (Rob Nelson), a beautiful short film about the strange geology of our area in Wisconsin.
PEPIN, WI, September 10, 2013— When Midwestern screenwriters ask industry insiders how to break into the business, the usual advice is, “Move to L.A.” Not so fast, say the experts featured at the 2013 Flyway Film Festival panels and workshops, October 17-20.
“Regional filmmakers and screenwriters sometimes feel isolated from the networks and contacts their L.A. counterparts have,” says ScriptMag.com editor Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, one of the film industry experts offering workshops at the Flyway this year. “But there are ways to work the system, no matter where you live.” She will speak on a panel entitled “Breaking In Outside of Hollywood,” along with award-winning Minnesota screenwriter Michael Starrbury and California writer/director Mike Ott, whose latest film, Pearblossom Hwy, will screen at the Flyway.
Bowerman will also offer a unique screenwriting workshop for writers at all levels: “Screenwriters, Bring Out Your Scenes!” Writers who sign up can bring a scene from an in-progress screenplay for local actors to read aloud, followed by a feedback session. “There’s no substitute for hearing your work read out loud when you’re working on dialogue,” says Bowerman.
With crowdfunding expert Emily Best (Seed&Spark) as this year’s keynote speaker, the “how-to’s” of crowdfunding – funding a film by raising money from a large number of people via the internet — will be a topic throughout Flyway 2013. Best will speak on a “Crowdfunding 101” panel with industry leader John Trigonis (IndieGoGo) and crowdfunding veterans Jessica King and Julie Keck (King is a Fink Productions). Two workshops will follow:
- How To Crowdfund. Seriously. Emily Best will expand on new crowdfunding models and teach specific techniques that allow filmmakers to create sustainable film careers.
- Crowdfunding Charm School, or, Fan Dancing For Filmmakers: How To Charm The Pants Off Your Backers. The freewheeling, often hilarious writer/producer team known as King is a Fink will share the tips and tricks they’ve learned during their numerous crowdfunding campaigns.
The panels are free. Workshops are $10 in advance and $20 at the door. Some workshops have an attendance limit, so early signup is recommended. For more information and tickets, please click here.
PEPIN, WI, August 5— Seed&Spark founder and CEO Emily Best, whose innovative crowdfunding model is making waves across the independent film world, will headline this year’s Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin. Best will speak to festival-goers at the opening gala on Thursday, October 17th, at the Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin.
The Flyway Film Festival, now in its sixth year, is a strong supporter of films made through “crowdfunding, “ a method of using audience-friendly websites to solicit contributions toward the making of a film. Seed&Spark, says Best, takes that model to the next level.
“Unlike other crowdfunding providers, we support the full life cycle of the film, from funding through distribution,” Best explains. “Filmmakers have to apply to fundraise with us. Once they’re accepted, their films have guaranteed distribution through our site.”
Another difference in the Seed&Spark model is the idea of a “wish list” for filmmakers. “It’s like a wedding registry, where everything in the film budget is broken down into bite-sized pieces,” says Best. Supporters can buy or lend the items the filmmaker needs, such as camera rental, props, even a place to stay during the film shoot.
In addition to her keynote speech at the Flyway, Best will give a two-hour workshop on funding and distribution for filmmakers.
IndieWire, a prominent news site for independent film, recently named Emily Best one of 40 “IndieWire Influencers” for her work with Seed&Spark. IndieWire’s “Influencers” are people and companies who are having a noteworthy impact on the rapidly-changing independent film industry.
Each year, the Flyway Film Festival brings in influential film industry professionals to deliver the keynote speech and hold workshops. Past presenters include Brian Newman, Sheri Candler, Kelly Baker, Jonathan Reiss, Ted Hope, and Scilla Andreen.
“I’m honored to be asked to follow in the footsteps of my mentors and most admired peers,” says Best. “Flyway is a festival that really understands the importance of the connection between the artist and the audience. They’re part of a broader movement to build a sustainable future for the kind of film that shapes people’s lives.
“And I hear they have great pie!” she added.
Pepin, WI, July 24 — The Flyway Film Festival has begun name-dropping a few of the films accepted into the 2013 lineup. Now in its sixth year, Flyway has gained a reputation as a world-class event, showcasing the best in new local, regional, and international film and providing the movie-loving public with access to filmmakers and film industry professionals from around the world. The festival will run from October 17–20 this year.
Two breakout hits from the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) will be making their regional debut at the Flyway:
William and the Windmill, an inspiring documentary about the impoverished young Malawian who catapulted to fame with his homegrown windmill system, effectively rescuing his village from famine. The film won the Grand Jury Documentary Award at SXSW 2013, and director Ben Nabors and cinematographer Michael Tyburski were recently named as two of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”
White Reindeer (dir. Zach Clark), a darkly funny, touching sendup of Christmas traditions. Village Voice says: “…what begins as an exaggerated mockery of our most grotesque commercial custom…shifts toward a surprisingly earnest paean to the restorative power of the holidays.” Filmmaker Magazine raved about the film’s “over-the-top props and costumes, perfectly timed editing, clever use of fades, fine acting, snappy dialogue, and hilarious music.”
Committed to a mix of cutting-edge documentaries, narratives, and shorts, Flyway executive director Rick Vaicius and programmer Jim Brunzell are delighted by the range and quality of films submitted this year. “We received over 600 films this year for consideration,” says Vaicius. “It’s amazing how the quality of submissions seems better and better each year, which in turn makes our program better.”
Vaicius has long been a proponent of “crowdfunded” films: filmmakers seeking support through independent funding websites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to realize their vision. One such film selected for Flyway 2013 is Favor, a wry thriller whose director (Paul Osborne) raised the money for this microbudget narrative entirely through crowdfunding.
“It’s the most direct route to funding independent films,” says Vaicius. “We like to call it ‘reclaiming DIY.’ Filmmakers aren’t beholden to anyone – they’re pitching their ideas directly to audiences, rather than to a small pool of investors or grantmakers. Some of the best indie films in recent years have been crowdfunded projects.”
Two more crowdfunded films selected for Flyway are Shored Up (dir. Ben Kalina), an examination of the erosion of the Atlantic coast before and after Hurricane Sandy; and Down and Dangerous (dir. Zak Forsman), a tense drama about cocaine smuggling based on the real-life experiences of the director’s father.
Over 40 years ago, some artists from elsewhere settled in the little town of Stockholm, Wisconsin. Because they were hippies, they decided to have a groovy art fair. Because they were talented, they became nationally recognized artists, and their groovy little art fair turned into a big deal.
Around 20 years ago, a cinephile named Rick bought a farmhouse in Pepin. He had heard about all the artists in the area, so he figured it would be a groovy place to live. Because he couldn’t find enough independent films to watch, he started a screening series in Pepin and Stockholm. Because the screening series was a success, he banded together with other artsy people and turned it into an actual film festival.
When he was a U of M student, Rick volunteered at what was then called the Rivertown Film Festival, in order to get in and see films for free. He learned about film and about what it takes to run a festival. Al Milgrom, who basically force-fed independent and international films to the Twin Cities public until they learned to like it, started Rivertown (which later became Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival).
So, the answer to the above question is: YES.
Don’t miss the 40th annual Stockholm Art Fair this Saturday, July 20!
Here along the Lake Pepin/Mississippi River flyway, we’re too busy bird-watching to worry about such things as the decimation of the oceanic coastlines. —I say! Was that a rose-breasted grosbeak? I daresay it was! —What’s this about rising sea levels threatening the lives of millions along the coasts? Tut, tut. Look there—an indigo bunting!
Shored Up, a new documentary directed by Ben Kalina and executive produced by 2009 Flyway keynote speaker Brian Newman, is about to shake us out of our ornithological complacency. The film looks at the impacts of a rising sea on coastal communities. Remember Hurricane Sandy? Kalina was already more than three years into shooting his film when that little event pretty much made his point: that our current “solutions” to rising sea levels are not working out very well.
The film uses animation, interviews with scientists, surfer footage, and policy debates to tell the story of coastal erosion. As Kalina told the New York Times, he had been struggling to find powerful imagery for his film when Sandy hit. The moral of that story: be careful what you wish for.
Put Shored Up on your list of must-see films at Flyway 2013. Watch the trailer and wring your hands in distress. Then see below for some pretty pictures of migrating birds on Lake Pepin.
Segue to birds. The Mississippi River is a “flyway” for migrating birds, meaning they follow the river up from Mexico in the spring, and down from Canada in the fall. Lake Pepin is the part where the river widens and slows, so we call it a lake. Birds consider it a commodious rest stop. Of course, the same climate forces that are destroying the coasts are also wreaking havoc on the birds…and everything else. Well, anyway.
Photos by David Meixner, who lives on the lake/river and takes these beautiful pictures right outside his house.