Six communities, five days, celebrating one favorite American pastime – the inaugural Campfire Film Festival.
“It hasn’t been done before. There hasn’t been a film festival, and I think it’s a beginning for us and it’s something that we want to build on,” Alma Conway, co-owner of Conway Theatres, said.
The Campfire Film Festival will be held Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 5-9, featuring an opening night gala; three film-related workshops; as of this week, 11 films; dinners at area restaurants; and a film festival comedy show.
“The idea from the beginning was to have something that the six communities could share in,” Brent McFarland, festival director, said. “Minocqua has Beef-A-Rama and there’s Loon Days in Mercer – everybody’s got their own special event, but there really isn’t anything that pulls all the communities together. It’s hard to do.”
As a nonprofit event, one of the Campfire Film Festival’s primary goals is to “spark a flame of creativity and growth for Wisconsin’s Northwoods region” and is fulfilling this ambition by supporting Film Wisconsin – a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the film industry in Wisconsin – and Camp for All Kids, an advocate for racial diversity that provides scholarships for children from underserved communities to an overnight summer camp.
“We want over time to be able to attract filmmakers to this area,” Phillips said. “With tying in and supporting Film Wisconsin, we hope to encourage filmmakers and our state tourism to view the Northwoods as a great location, because it is.”
Planning for the film festival began in February, and the film festival board has been working diligently ever since. The six communities involved are Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, Lac du Flambeau, Woodruff, Arbor Vitae and Minocqua.
“We’re looking forward to bringing everyone together from multi-communities and enjoy something that we all built together,” Kelly Phillips, festival event coordinator, said.
And it’s taken efforts from each community to make the Campfire Film Festival a reality.
“The Lake of the Torches is the festival’s primary sponsor, but everybody’s given in order to get this off the ground,” McFarland said.
Spotlight on cinema
Kicking off the event is the opening gala held at Lake of the Torches grand ballroom and convention center.
“We can expect a gala like we’ve never seen before. We want to recreate a 1940s Hollywood night club. We have a big band orchestra and a cabaret singer to boot,” Phillips said. “We want to do something that’s bigger and more festive than anything we’ve seen before.”
Following the gala, the featured documentaries and short films – many of them Wisconsin-produced – screenings will take place at Lakeland Cinema-Conway Theatres, Woodruff.
“We’ve got great movies all the way through,” McFarland said.
Bringing movie magic to the Northwoods’ outdoors, there will be one special film presentation, an event known as “Beach Blanket Cinema,” at Torpy Park.
“We do have a really family-friendly film that we want all ages to come out for at Torpy Park. It’s ‘Crooked Arrows’ and will be shown on a 40-foot inflatable screen right on the beach. We’re also doing a mini-expo ahead of time with concessions,” Phillips said.
Though filmmakers come from across the area, the Campfire Film Festival will feature one producer who is a 2010 Lakeland Union High School graduate – Jorey Federighi. His film to be shown on Saturday is called “Carbon.”
Also being presented on Saturday is “A Celebrity Profile Retrospective” by David Fantle, Wisconsin Tourism Deputy Secretary and co-author of the book, “Reel to Real: 25 years of celebrity profiles from vaudeville to movies to TV.”
“David is really neat. He’s our Deputy Secretary of Tourism, but he’s also a huge film buff and has interviewed dozens and dozens of old golden age, Hollywood-era movie stars,” Phillips said.
Fantle will describe interviews with some of the most famous actors of their time, including Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Hope and more. There will also be a screening of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“We also have one actor who’s in a TV series called ‘Hell on Wheels’ and he’s been in a lot of movies with Joaquin Phoenix. His name is Gerald Aujer, and he’s a Canadian and Native American, and he’s going to be here for a good portion of the event,” McFarland said.
The Campfire Film Festival is more than just an inaugural film festival for the Northwoods – it’s an inaugural event that spans across and brings together six communities.
“People love the Northwoods. We have a cultural history that includes the Native American community and we felt that it was important to make that a focus, and everybody loves campfires. So that was the idea: Let’s celebrate what people love about the Northwoods,” McFarland said.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.