The 2011 Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin will be taking place this weekend, October 20-23. I’ll be heading down not only as a film patron, but for the first time, I’ve been asked to be on a film jury: the Narrative Feature jury. I’ve twice been on regular government jury duty, but I’m guessing this will be more fun than sitting in a cramped room with a bunch of strangers deciding someone’s fate. Being on a film festival jury will still mean sitting in a (dark) room with a bunch of strangers but at least we’ll be enjoying ourselves watching some brave foreign and American Independent films, with many haven’t screened in Minnesota or Wisconsin. I’ll be on the jury with filmmaker Gary King (FFF 2010 selection What’s Up Lovely) and Pepin, Wisconsin resident and founder of the popular Harbor View café, Stuffy Stevens.
Executive director Rick Vaicius started Flyway in 2008, and the event has been slowly gaining attention not only from other U.S. film festivals but from international film festivals: Flyway received more than 800 submissions this year, more than doubling the number of entries from the 2010 edition.
I spoke with Vaicius over the phone, and we discussed one of the biggest challenges he has in maintaining a film festival in two towns where the population barely reaches 900 people: “Fundraising. We started out looking for one or two big sponsors to help Flyway get and stay on the map but with the sponsorship dollars decreasing each year among local business, individuals, and festival supporters, we really need to have a strong program and get everyone involved. I think this year’s is really remarkable and we haven’t lost any of our sponsors from last year.” Vaicius does most of the programming himself; he says that he has another great slate but is really excited for people to check two of their foreign selections in particular. “The Winter Frog is a really great short starring one of the biggest French actors of all time, Gerard Depardieu; we’re really excited to have costar Eriko Takeda, who’ll be flying from Paris for the screening. The film is screening in our Shorts program Sunday morning. The other one I hope audiences really enjoy is the Italian film The Duck Hunter. It’s screening Sunday afternoon, and director Egidio Veronesi will be present at the screening.”
FFF will be screening over 40 feature films and shorts representing ten countries and will also host filmmaker/author Jon Reiss (an underrated psychological dramatic feature, 1998’s Cleopatra’s Second Husband starring Radha Mitchell; is worth seeking out and his book, Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era, has been praised since its release in 2009) for a special two-day filmmaker workshop, talking about distribution and marketing for your film. With many of the filmmakers in attendance, Reiss will be able to discuss his trials and tribulations about trying to get your film seen. Joining Reiss for the workshop will be producer Ted Hope (21 Grams, In the Bedroom, American Splendor) and he also executive produced FFF’s opening night film, Collaborator, written by, directed by, and starring Martin Donovan, best known for starring in early Hal Hartley films.
One film I was surprised to see in the program was Simon Arthur’s clever suspense drama, Silver Tongues, which I saw at Slamdance in Park City, Utah earlier this year, where I interviewed Arthur and lead actor Lee Tergesen; I’m very much looking forward to seeing it again. Another film I’m thrilled to see is writer/director/editor/star David Nordstrom’s locally made Sawdust City, which was filmed in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and was a standout at this summer’s L.A. Film Festival and I have nothing but positive reviews since it’s premiere.
If you’ve never taken the drive down to Pepin and Stockholm before, it’s only about 70 miles from the Twin Cities and is definitely worth the trip, especially for the beautiful fall color scenery along the Mississippi River. It might be the only fresh air the entire trip, as I’ll be in the dark theaters most of the weekend performing my jury duties.