The director of the Duluth Superior Film Festival was itching to get ahold of a relatively new release for the 2012 event, a homemade adventure tale and crime caper.
Richard Hansen suspected he didn't have a shot at it -- yet.
The documentary "Wild Bill's Run" by Mike Scholtz would get its world premiere at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and Hansen suspected (correctly) it would get its local debut at Free Range Film Festival, with which Scholtz is involved.
"I begged him for it," Hansen said. "I knew he wanted to save the premiere for his own film festival. I said, 'Well, you know, shoot.' I said, 'We'd love to play it next year.' "
Now, after the movie has won awards and acknowledgements and played film festivals around the country, it returns to play at the Duluth Superior Film Festival at 7 p.m. May 30 at Teatro Zuccone. Tickets for the screening are $8, or $30 for an all-access pass to most of the festival events.
"This was an exciting example of two festivals fighting for a film," Scholtz joked.
Hansen might not have gotten it first, but he can claim a milestone. The shelf life of a film on a festival circuit is about a year, and "Wild Bill's Run" has passed the mark. It still could play somewhere else, but not with the same intense tour schedule Scholtz has kept.
"It's sort of the festival swan song, the 20th festival," Scholtz said. "I know a lot of people have missed it; it's a good opportunity for those stragglers."
And for the extra straggling stragglers: A DVD release is planned for the fall.
"Wild Bill's Run" is the story of Wild Bill Cooper, an adventure seeker who gathered a crew and attempted a trans-world snowmobile trip from Minnesota to Moscow in the early 1970s. Failing that, he went on to a life of crime, then disappeared. According to lore he's wandering around in Arizona. Also according to lore, he's buried in Mexico. He's been seen in Las Vegas and some have hoped to find him in Northern Canada.
Scholtz made the movie using old video footage and photographs from the expeditions in addition to modern-day interviews with members of the trans-world crew.
"I knew we had a really unique story that we were telling," said Dean Vogtman, who worked as the director of photography on the project. "I knew it would interest people out there. I didn't realize it would play as many festivals as it did around the country. Mike took it to a new level; hats off to him for that."
After its local premiere, it went on to play at adventure and documentary film festivals around the country. It won an award at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival, it played at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. It landed on the Banff Film Festival World Tour, a unique placement for a documentary involving a motorsport.
"The majority of our films relate to the natural world," Jim Baker, Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour manager, said. "It's typically human powered (sports): cycling, skiing. A long film about snowmobiling is not typical for our audiences."
Admittedly, Baker said, the motor aspect threw off some audience members. He estimated that about 20,000 people in the United States and Canada so far have seen "Wild Bill's Run" and that it is in the top 10 of favorites, according to audience voting.
The world tour runs through December.
The screening at the Duluth Superior Film Festival will be its 20th.
This is exactly the kind of movie that Hansen is attracted to.
"I love it, I love it, I love it," he said. "It's got crazy old footage, his interviews were good. The only thing that's missing is Bill."
Scholtz said he spent about 40 days on the road with the movie in the past year and is in the hole with vacation time at his day job. He also burned through quite a bit of cash. He's not complaining.
"I loved it," he said. "It was like constantly going to summer camp for filmmakers. Hot Springs was the best example of that. We stayed at the hotel where the films were showing. You could just roll out of bed and stumble down and watch movies all day.
"We met all these filmmakers and made plans to see them again or make a movie with them. At the end of the week you almost cry because you have to leave them. You'd meet other likeminded filmmakers, then a couple days later you'd leave them and be sad again."
Competitive jigsaw puzzling
Some members of the audience seemed to think Scholtz was kidding during a Q&A session at the Fargo Film Festival. He responded to the Q: "What's your next project?" With the A: "Competitive jigsaw puzzling."
It drew a big laugh.
"Someone came up afterward and said, 'That was funny, but seriously...' " Scholtz said.
True story: Scholtz has been documenting the underground world of competitive jigsaw puzzling, a world he said is bigger than he thought.
"The largest jigsaw contest in the country happens at the Winter Carnival (in St. Paul)," he said. He's got confirmation on this from the leading jigsaw expert in the world.
"Hallmark used to sponsor a giant competition in the '80s," he said. "It was covered by Sports Illustrated. I would argue that it's a sport."
Scholtz said he is close to a final cut on "Wicker Kittens."
Meanwhile, he also has been working on a film about Minnesotans' obsession with their own Viking culture. Not the football team, though it gets a mention, real Vikings. He has filmed Viking re-enactors, a Viking-themed B&B and a Viking sword museum.
"If you sort of scratch the surface in Minnesota, you can find hundreds of these crazy stories about Vikings' excursions throughout Minnesota," he said.
Between editing and touring, Scholtz has seen "Wild Bill's Run" countless times. He said Vogtman asked him if he planned to watch it when it screened during the Duluth Superior Film Festival, then followed with:
"When did you start hating your film?"
He doesn't hate it.
"I like everything that's in there," Scholtz said. "I missed a couple of scenes I cut at the last minute. Especially when you get, at the Q&A, 'I could have watched this for another hour. Will you make a sequel?' "
Scholtz said he has learned during this process that there is a better way to snag the attention of film festivals.
"I think I should be doing more documentaries about the war in Afghanistan or orphans or orphans who are fighting a war in Afghanistan," he said. "Issue films are an easier route to success in the documentary film world. The kinds of things that I do are crime capers and jigsaw puzzle contests. I love working on them, but people aren't sure how to program them."
To pre-order the DVD
Go to j.mp/wildbillsrun to pre-order a copy of "Wild Bill's Run."
(c)2013 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.)
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