Reflections on Flyway

It is the day after the work in progress screening of Triumph67 at the Flyway Film Festival.

I drove down to Stockholm, Wisconsin with butterflies in my stomach, and had to stop at a Freedom station for something to soothe myself with.  I felt like a rare and endangered bird, stepping into a Freedom station on the boarder of Minnesota and Wisconsin wearing a fancy suit jacket, on the eve that the Vikings and the Packers played.  I bought a Lime Crush on a passing fancy.  I sipped it, and it wasn’t as sweet as I had anticipated, but it washed down the Advil.  I drove down 35 along the River, and the trees were exploding in red clusters all along the bluffs ahead of me.  White birch skeleton fingers jutted this way and that through the color, as I drove toward the town of less than 100 people where my film would be screened (as a work in progress).

I made it there with a few hours to spare, and immediately found the venue where our film was showing.  I dropped in for a cup of joe, and brought it with me down the street to the Amish furniture shop, where I found a comfortable rocking bench made with the finest craftsmanship my arse had sat in for a long while.

After fifteen minutes I felt as though I should give someone else a chance, though there were seldom sidewalk guests at this time of the day.  I walked down to the river, and a ways along the train track.  I felt awkward walking in my fancy shoes along the uneven rocks, amidst rusty railroad nails and a trickling gutter under a metal bridge that said: CAUTION, AUTHORIZED PERSONS ON BRIDGE ONLY.  I turned back, and walked to a cafe table near the theater.  The afternoon was relatively mild for this late in October, and if I hadn’t been so nervous, I might have even found it relaxing.

At last my film partner, Jeremy answered my texts, and I met up with him when he pulled into town from neighboring Pepin, Wisconsin.  I had a hot chocolate, and he had a chicken burger, probably his fourth of the weekend.  We went over to see the afternoon screenings of a short and a narrative film, and I was impressed by both.  When I made my way outside at about 4pm some of the Triumph67 crowd had started to filter into town.  Of course, many were friends and family, and it was a pleasure to chat them up.  A number of surprise friends came too, and I felt very grateful that they made the treck on a Sunday evening.  It was quite amazing after a while.  People just kept coming, and a sizable crowd had formed outside the theater entrance.  What a feeling.  I felt like a should pay attention to it, because it was almost surreal, and I could hardly believe that so much effort was about to pay off… sharing the film for the first time with so many people.  Anxiety about the state of the film started to fade, although it was not really done yet, it was close enough to watch, and it was being billed as a work in progress after all.  But when friends and family gathered around, it occurred to me that this might be the most supportive audience I would ever experience.  So relax… enjoy yourself.

Cast and crew poured into town, and it was a great feeling to see the people who had forged such a strong bond in the making of Triumph67.  The film before us let out, and our crowd started making their way up the stairs into the building where our film would show.  It was a slow moving line, and I was glad that someone snapped some photos from across the streets for posterity.  I made it up after most of the other folks had found there way in, and sat down with my wife, Lisa.  Rick Vaicius, the man responsible for the Flyway Film Festival gave an introduction that made me proud and humbled at the same time.  We had brought in record numbers to the theater, and he gave us some much needed praise for our first effort, Triumph67.  I was quaking in my shoes when the lights went down, and “a driftless pictures production” appeared on the screen.

My icy hand found my wife’s warm hand, a complete role reversal for our usual hand holding routine.  She was shocked, but did her best to warm it.  Should I have asked for a DO NOT RESUSCITATE?  I would find out.

The film played, and I noticed lots of things to fix, but that is probably what every parent notices about their children.  Mine was up there in front of me, almost as though it didn’t need me anymore.  How can art move and live without the artist?  I wondered. I relaxed.  It had taken on a life of its own.  Independent film, if you will.

Out of the corner of my eye I searched through the dark to see if I could sense reaction from the audience.  It was a quiet crowd.  Barely a chuckle, even when I anticipated there might be some movement.  I held my breath.  A whirlwind of thoughts.  Times passed.  After a while, I realized the film was about to be over.  The lower half of my body was numb, and I remembered the scene in The Producers when Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel leave their show to have a drink in anticipation of what might happen when the curtain closes.

Fade to black.  Total silence.  Then the credits.   awaited applause, and when the last word vanished from the screen, the applause came, and I exhaled with more than  a little relief.

Rick Vaicius called Jeremy and I up to the stage to answer questions and talk about the film.  I followed Jeremy, who took a great photo of the audience from center stage.  I called up the other producers, and then the cast and crew came up onto the stage.  It was a night I’ll never forget, made only more special by the understated and intimate surroundings that were so much part of the Flyway Film Festival.

Dan T.

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