Fodder could be found on a flat surface of
Still, it was his eventual co-producer,
"She said 'Are you stupid? Why haven't you made a movie about this?' " Scholtz said.
Four years later, the feature-length film gets its regional premiere Friday at the
"Wicker Kittens," a documentary about competitive jigsaw puzzling, follows teams as they prepare for the 2011 St. Paul Winter Carnival, host of the largest jigsaw puzzle competition in the country. The contest draws more than 70 teams, which compete to most-quickly assemble a 500-piece puzzle.
One of those teams, in fact a favorite, includes Scholtz's longtime partner,
"I live with competitive jigsaw puzzling in my house all the time," Scholtz said. "There are puzzles set up all over my house. I didn't think of it as anything noteworthy.
"I was just too close to it."
Documenting this 'bizarre phenomenon'
Scholtz is one of the organizers of the annual
"We liked the movie quite a bit, so we inadvertently became friends," he said.
The friendship led to the information about Coit's hobby.
"It was Amy's idea that we document this bizarre phenomenon," Scholtz said.
"Wicker Kittens" follows the highly competitive foursomes that could potentially win the annual competition in
An early scene finds Coit and Dugan, who both live in
"I'm loathe to give up Wicker Kittens," Coit says to the store owner, referring to a puzzle with cats in a basket.
Throughout the film, competitors talk sorting strategy, whether to consider the wave technique and how to move a completed chunk of pieces without a spatula.
They deconstruct the rumor that there can exist different cuts, with varying degrees of difficulty, for the same puzzle.
Serious puzzlers, the competitors say, don't bring snacks to the competition.
And there are charming glimpses of gift-shop goodies for the avid puzzler: jigsaw puzzle broaches, ottomans, necklaces and license plates.
The climax of the 52-minute film is game day at the
"It's a subject that (Scholtz and Elliott) could have made fun of everyone for because it's a pretty nerdy pastime," Dugan said. "Instead, the audience can sort of identify with these characters and feel a part of the competition. They treated everyone with kindness."
"Wicker Kittens" premiered earlier this year at
"Many were about actual issues affecting people around the world," Scholtz said. "Then, there is us with a jigsaw puzzle movie."
Coit said she was regularly recognized by
"People would walk up to us and say 'You were in that jigsaw movie' and want to get their picture with us," she said.
Dugan has been friends with Scholtz for a long time, which made it easy to be in one of his documentaries.
"I'm kind of used to Mike having a video camera and asking silly questions all the time," she said. "So, it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary. I think he got some pretty natural interactions because of it."
Coit calls her jigsaw thing a fun hobby, though if she pulls out a puzzle in the morning, she will complete it quickly -- during the time it takes to watch a movie or certainly before she goes to bed.
Dugan said puzzles were a winter sport when she was growing up in
"We'd always get a puzzle for Christmas and spend the holiday doing puzzles," she said. "It was a pastime I could do with my sister. It was the one pastime where we
wouldn't fight. It was a collaborative thing."
But when it comes to competing, the team -- which includes
"I never did competitive sports in high school or college," Coit said. "This is as close as I've come to being good at something that is a competitive thing. I love doing it and will continue to do it forever."
The team holds practice sessions to get in competition shape.
"When we first started doing them, Val had us do the same puzzle, and we were timed individually," Dugan said. "That determined who would do the edge.
"Edge assembly doesn't matter as much as we thought it mattered," she said.
Since then, they've tried sorting and not sorting, sorting by shape and by color. They've tried working from one side to the other.
'I thought it had been done'
Scholtz's last film, "Wild Bill's Run," is a travel-adventure-crime caper that uses 1970s film footage to tell the story of
Afterward, the fact and fiction of Cooper's outlaw lifestyle of drug smuggling, robbery and rumored involvement in crimes that captured a national audience gave him folk-hero status.
"Wild Bill's Run" had an extended run in the film festival circuit, ultimately screening at about 20 minutes. It won an award at the
It is now available on DVD.
Scholtz said "Wicker Kittens" -- which has played a handful of festivals -- has been more successful, he said.
It's not completely true that Scholtz hadn't considered the topic of jigsaw puzzling in his films. In the mid-2000s, he created the mockumentary "The Jig is Up" for the 48-
The movie is set in the late 1970s and has, at its center, a former champion returning to the tabletop after a two-year hiatus. Her puzzling partner's mid-contest death still looms large.
Incidentally Dugan, who plays the returning champ, won a best actor award for her performance.
Before that, Scholtz made the short puzzling doc "Toots and Horns," which played just for local audiences.
"I have done a couple short goofy movies about jigsaw puzzling," Scholtz said. "I guess I thought it had been done."
Go see it
Puzzle swap: This year's festival includes a puzzle swap during Friday's intermission.
Some of this year's top picks.
"Cowpokes Livin' on the Edge" by
"Rabbit and Deer" by Peter Vacz, 17 minutes
"Wicker Kittens" by
Break: Music by Portrait of a Drowned Man
"The Morning I Almost Died" by
"Random Stop" by
"Surviving Cliffside" by
"AJ's Infinite Summer" by
"Mr. Plastimime" by
"La Buche de Noel" by
"Arlo and Julie" by
"The Alligator" by
"Albert Einstein" by
"Richard Rosvall" by
"The Hammer and the Axe" by
"The Master'sVoice" by
"Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, II" by
"Unicorn Blood" by
"The Overnighters" by
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