Flyway Film Festival – Day One – Thoughts Along The Mississippi

rickvaicius-by photologic


Those who attended the festival this year – PLEASE share your experience. What is/was your favorite memory, film, conversation, moment, etc. Let us all share with each other. I really want to hear from attendees. When I post I can only post what I experience, but if we each take a moment we can create a fuller living memory of the event. Leave comments in the comment box!

Plus, those from past years who couldn’t make it this year can share what they liked from the time/s they did attend. In this fashion we can all enjoy and support flyway even after the festival. SO please start sharing everyone!!!


Oct 22. Early morning: I’m watching the sun come up over the Mississippi in Maiden Rock, WI. A beautiful morning it is. I am sitting in my car for the past hour working on my blogs. The restaurant, I thought opened at 6 am, opens at 8. Silly me.  That is fine it is a gorgeous sunrise in a gorgeous location. I can use the two hours next to the river for work.

Flyway Film Festival, one of the most delightful festivals I attend, and one coming up in the world of important film festivals, takes place this year in Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin as always. Last year Maiden Rock was added. This year includes the incredibly quaint riverside city of Alma and Red Wing, Minnesota. Flyway has spread its wings.

Three world premiere movies take place here this festival. These are Pictures of Lily, by British director Mark Banks; Remittance, by Patrick Daly and Joel Fendelman, and Second Honeymoonby Dutch filmmaker Kristjan Knigge.

It is great to see Kristjan again. He and his cast and crew joined Jake Stetler, his lovely wife Colette and me at our table, last evening. David Potter joined us as well. Later, Jeremy Wilker did too. Non stop people visited and chatted too. Kristjan will be shooting a new feature in the Flyway area after the festival.

Great to see Vince Columbo and his wife, Frederick Thornton and Sean Hackett. Terry Reed showed up.  Kevin Pontuti and University of Stout friends, Alison Lisk (dare I mention, who gave me a nice kiss on the cheek while getting our photo taken), Diana Vaicius, Sarah Moua, Lu Lipold and many others.

Villa Bellezza Winery, again, hosted last night’s kickoff gala.  A  staple of Flyway, the Gala features one of the most impressive feasts of food and flowing drink anywhere. More impressive than some of the larger name famous festivals elsewhere.

Each year Flyway food specialists seem to out do themselves. I always out eat myself.  It is a fun time as people catch up from around the states and the world. I saw many wonderful friends last night and made some new ones.

The evening began with the feasting, then a stimulating keynote talk by Full Frame Documentary Festival’s Deirdre Haj, followed by awards and live music. Festival founder Rich Vaicius presented awards and made the opening greeting.

horizon flyway 8

Whether indoors or sitting outdoors in the courtyard after the ceremonies the place rocked with filmmakers happy to once again be together.

Late night sees us all down at the river front for continued festivities. Next to the Flyway Film Office is the breakout room or party palace The Minema. Open until 2am there is plenty for partying filmmakers to do and partake of. Many may have had to drag their butts out of there at 2pm. People party well here.

The morning workshop is in Maiden Rock at 10:30 am. ‘The Art Of The Pitch’ led by Erica Anderson of Seed and Spark. This workshop will cover building the tools you need for a successful pitch meeting: identifying your end game, crafting the story, and conveying confidence.

The class covers the basics of pitching for anything: film, tech, non-profit, to brands, Filmmakers can come prepared to pitch your current or next project!


THE ART OF THE PITCH – UPDATE – 10:30 am.  Workshop with Erica Anderson. Main points, whether pitching for attaching director or cast, TV or film project, or financing:

  1. Stand for something. Care about it. People respond to your passion.
  2. What is your end game? Where is it going? Where will it end up?
  3. Who is your audience? Pitch differs according to who you are pitching. Tailor it to whom you are pitching.

Erica covered many excellent points. What are you offering the people you are pitching? Research the people you pitch. What have they done? Know who they are and their interests so that your offer is meaningful. Practice your pitch and hone it.

Four Needs. Why are you qualified? Why should you be doing this project?  Why is this project important? Why should it happen right now? Bottom line – Why should they get involved.

She covered the basics of a ‘money’ or ‘project’ pitch. She discussed elements of body language and how to conduct yourself  as a professional during the pitch.

Workshop attendees then had the opportunity to construct and practice pitches with Erica so that by the conclusion of the workshop they each had at least 1, 1-2 minute pitch, they could use in the real world. All in all an excellent workshop. Well worth the time.


Lunch Oct 22 noonish: We gathered back at 6 Street String. Food there is tasty.

For many years I have maintained that one of the most productive things storytellers can do is make a television or web series. It keeps you working much longer as opposed to a one off. It can bring money into your community and be good for economic development.

There are many additional reasons and advantages to telling your stories in a series format. So, I am eager to attend the following program.

The Afternoon  Workshop 1:30 pm is 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 today at 1:30. I am excited to notice that more filmmakers are thinking along these lines and I am looking forward to attending.


MAKE A SERIES DAMN IT! – UPDATE – 1:30 pm workshop with Julie Keck and Jessica King. Julie & Jessica have produced approximately 20 niche web series. Covered during the workshop:

  1. How to develop a series concept for the web.
  2. How and why to target an audience.
  3. Options for funding and distribution.

The workshop started off with a discussion of successful comedic web series. First Rule is to put your audience first. Know your target audience. Understand your audience so you know how to market to them.

They suggested you consider whose stories are being told in mainstream film and television. People gather online to discuss topics and these are ripe for story development. What haven’t you seen? What can you blend or mix that would be new and unique? Is there a place online for these?

Second Rule is think small. You aren’t a studio production. Keep it small. Use Only a few characters and a few locations. Keep it simple. Consider, too, the different platforms the consumers watch on; phones, computers, notebooks, tablets.  Rule Three how easy is it to share? Spread it through social media. You want it to be cool enough that people share it.

Discussion followed on funding options: Independently funded; Sponsored and product placement. Hand in hand with knowing your audience is knowing companies who are interested in or cater to your audience. Then Crowdfunding was discussed.

Jessica and Julie spoke to distribution methods. Direct Distribution means you release your product through established channels. Do It Yourself (DIY) release to your own audience in a variety of ways.

It proved to be an informative workshop for filmmakers on creating, financing and distributing web series. Great questions and answers followed.


There is much camaraderie at Flyway and I’m looking forward to all the good times ahead.

Soon, my breakfast spot will open and friends will appear.  I will report back during the festival highlights and tidbits. I may broadcast a live show here as well.

This area of Western Wisconsin is called the “Driftless Area,” where the river bluffs were left untouched by glaciers.  The opening night film tonight, Thursday, (7pm) stars John Hawkes and Zooey Deschanel star in a neo-noir romance titled ‘The Driftless Area’.

For now the sun is up but behind the hillsides. The steam rises from the Mississippi. The birds are chirping  and people are beginning to go to work. My dark spot behind the restaurant next to the water is coming to life. It is absolutely wonderful. AS is the Flyway Film Festival.

8 am: The restaurant 6 Street Sting is open. I step in for coffee and breakfast as friends begin arriving. I will add to this post and share in social media for you to vicariously enjoy Flyway. Hopefully, you will join us all someday soon!

BTW I have a new love in my life. The city of Alma, Wisconsin on the eastern side of the Mississippi. What a beautiful riverside’ village. The drive up the eastern side of the river from LaCrosse is outstanding. Going to be a staple drive for me in the future, I can tell.

In the not too distant future too, as it looks like I may be coming back to help out on Kristjan’s feature. That is an exciting new possibility.

If you have not yet attended, keep it mind for the ninth year next year. You will keep coming back each year after that. I promise you.

Check Back because I will update this page during the day.

UPDATE – post workshops.

The drive back from Maiden Rock along the bluffs and hillside decorating the Mississippi is glorious. I drove to Mineva and joined director and producer Sean Hackett and Fred Thornton, from L A and writer directors Andrew and John from NYC on the roof top overlooking the river. A wonderful time for an hour or more.

Then downstairs into the Mineva for complimentary ‘Happy Hour’ cocktails and hor ‘dourves  and great conversation with Alison Lisk and others. Alison and I adjourned around 5 pm to sit outside, eat and drink and talk look at the river. People come and go.

I leave in a couple minutes to go see the opening film. Will report back later and at the end of the evening.

EVENING UPDATE – Opening Movie & Shorts

The Flyway Film  Fest opening feature was the well made and well acted ‘The Driftless Area’. Sadly, according to the director Zachary Sluser, most of this fine feature was shot in British Columbia, instead of Wisconsin because Wisconsin has no incentive program.  B roll snippets are all of the actual area contained in the movie. He made the argument that Wisconsin needs film incentives, a point I and others heartily agree.

I asked him if there were any cons working with the unions SAG/Aftra and IATSE. He said none. Although, one did have to be smart about how they budgeted their days and they could not just go extra hours because they wanted or needed to. I asked the question because many filmmakers here and elsewhere are concerned about unions and in some cases afraid to sign contracts.

According to the answer I received, and the numerous shorts that carried the Sag/Aftra bug, I believe their fears to be unfounded. So yes, work with the unions on your pictures and lobby for incentives is my take away along with some great entertainment. I have always been proud to be SAG and AFTRA, now under one banner, and the union has been quite accommodating to make it possible for me to work with newer filmmakers.

The Shorts Program was well programmed. Fine filmmaking abounded. The films were “Daddy’s Little Girl’ directed by Chad McClarnon; ‘Little Cabbage’ directed by Jen West; ‘From The Sky’ directed by Ian Ebright; ‘Monkeys’ directed by Christopher Soren Kelly; ‘Hunter’s Fall, directed by Peter McCarthy; ‘Long Distance Calling’ directed by Andrew Gitomer. West, Kelly, McCarthy and Gitomer, in attendance, answered questions afterwards.

From there we adjourned to The Minema for food, drink, conversation, music and dancing. A great first day of Flyway. Well done founders, programmers, staff and volunteers. Kudos to you all for making our stay a marvelous one. You deserve a big round of applause!!!

I left at 1am to write theses concluding updates and begin my other blog for tomorrow. I will begin tomorrow with Day 2. Stay tuned, stay posted. If you have comments or questions feel free to leave them in the box below.

Plus, I will post separate daily pages.

Listen To festival director Rick Vaicius and me discuss this years program:

Rick Vaicius On Rex Sikes Movie Beat Live

Visit Flyway Film Festival Official Website:

Visit Rex SIkes’ Movie Beat Official Site

Enjoy! I will!!! AND I did, very much!

I INVITE Festival Attendees to post comments in the comment section about what their favorite parts of Flyway Film Fest are. Who they saw, films they saw, panels they attended, what they did, where they ate, how drunk they got… you know all the good stuff! Leave some comments here and enjoy!


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