Home Arts Wisconsin films to take focus at Appleton’s Wildwood Film Festival

Wisconsin films to take focus at Appleton’s Wildwood Film Festival


There’s a wide variety of events showcasing the creativity and talents of independent filmmakers.

Appleton’s upcoming film festival is unique in adding another element to their considerations: a sense of place.

“One of the things that we’re really proud of is that we’ve been dedicated to Wisconsin film talent,” said Craig Knitt, festival president. “There’s no other film festival that has done that.”

The 19th Annual Wildwood Film Festival will take place on Saturday at Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center Theater. All of the films featured have a tie to Wisconsin. Most of the films were made here. Most feature filmmakers or actors who grew up here or call Wisconsin home.

“The Cardinal” directed by the Fox Valley’s own David Cruickshank will be shown during the festival’s first session.

The festival will include more than 40 short films over the course of four sessions from animated pieces to music videos, comedies, dramas and documentaries. 

Variety is one of the best aspects of the film festival experience.

“People are not necessarily going to like everything they see, but they’ll definitely like something that they see,” Knitt said.

Each of the sessions will include dramas and comedies. 

The first session, beginning at 1 p.m., will have a documentary focus with six pieces ranging from women’s lumberjacking to a more controversial film examining immigrant labor on Wisconsin farms.

The 3 p.m. second session will include three animated shorts. One of those pieces, “The Weaver Girl and The Cowherd,” was created by Madison elementary school students from the animation through the music.

The third session, beginning at 6 p.m., will include some heartfelt dramas. The selections include “Anger,” directed by Len Borrusso and starring Appleton’s Dan Davies as a teacher grappling with his own issues.

Variety will continue through the 8 p.m. final session that’ll also carry the festival’s horror and thriller selections. Among them is “Shadows,” the latest film from Manitowoc’s Melonie Gartner.

Admission to the festival is $15 per session or $40 for a day pass. Tickets can be purchased here.

Heading into the festival’s 19th year, Knitt said the biggest trend he’s noted in Wisconsin films is a continual, upward trajectory in quality.

It isn’t surprising, he said, as equipment is far more accessible — starting with the cell phone camera. It’s opened the door to many creative storytellers who might not have had the opportunity to pursue filmmaking a decade or two ago.

It’s a goal of the festival to build Wisconsin’s film community both in numbers and diversity.

This year’s festival has more entries from female filmmakers than ever before, Knitt said.

The festival will conclude with a party and the opportunity to engage in some networking.

“When you run into people who are also creating, that can really fill your gas tank,” he said.

He hopes the films inspire action — even among those who never really put serious thought into picking up a camera before.

If someone watches a film during the festival and thinks, “I could do better,” Knitt hopes that fan won’t stop there.

 “I strongly believe that we all have stories in us and we’re the only ones that can tell those stories,” he said.