Once upon a time (1978) in a land far, far from Hollywood (Utah) a film festival popped up that eventually became what is considered today as the granddaddy of film festivals in the United States—the Sundance Film Festival. I imagine 30 years ago if you asked most people if they wanted to go to a film festival in Salt Lake City a common answer would have been, “Why?’.
Of course, having Robert Redford involved didn’t hurt visibility, nor did the decision in 1981 to move the festival to Park City, Utah. And since that is a ski resort town they also moved the festival from the summertime to the winter as a way to make the festival more glamorous to the Hollywood crowd. Those changes all worked. And the festival that was originally started to increase filmmaking in Utah and highlight regional independent filmmaking has become a two-week suburb of Los Angeles full of celebrities and paparazzi.
So where do you go these days to see small, independent, regional filmmakers? Well, honestly, if you’re not making a film try next door because somebody there is probably between writing a script and editing the film. Small film festivals are everywhere as cities now see it as a marketing advantage—a way to seem with it.
But I want to tell you about a little film festival that is located in one of my favorite areas in the country—The Fly Way Film Festival began in 2008 and is held in late October in Pepin & Stockholm, Wisconsin. (It’s going on right now.) The two small villages on Lake Pepin (part of the Mississippi) while not large in number are a located in a beautiful area that has no shortage of artists. And begin located an hour and a half south-east of Minneapolis makes it not so remote.
This year 35 feature films and shorts will be show through this weekend. I met the director Rick Vaicius last month while sailing on Lake Pepin. One of the things I like most about the festival is they don’t charge an entry fee for filmmakers. I think that probably sets them a part from most (all?) film festivals right out of the gate. I don’t know if they’ll become the next Sundance (or even want to be), but I think it’s a festival that should be on your radar because what every filmmaker needs is a few cheerleaders in their corner.
And speaking of cheerleaders, Kelley Baker, The Angry Filmmaker, will also be speaking at the Fly Way Film Festival this year.
As a taste of this year selections… Ballhawks is a documentary by Mike Diedrich that is narrated by Bill Murray. The film will be show tomorrow (10/23/10) at the Fly Way Film Festival and Diedrich will be on hand at the showing. (For those of you in Texas, the film is also showing this week at the Austin Film Festival.) The film is about a little known aspect of Chicago Cubs baseball that happens just outside Wrigley Field. Diedrich says it’s, “A story about hope, exuberance, shattered dreams and picking up the pieces to move on.”
Oh, and one for the trivia books. Pepin, Wisconsin happens to be the town that Laura Ingalls Wilder was born just outside of. (Before she wrote Little House on the Prairie, her first book was Little House in the Big Woods about the Pepin area.)
One more example of big things happening in small places. (Not to mention Bob Dylan playing here in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Sunday.)