A touching tribute to Eagle Tower’s past and future, a Taiwanese post-dystopian tale of a sword-yielding mother in search of her missing son, and a 1960s era film that looks at the disruption caused by a flirty new neighbor are just a few stories to be told on the silver screen at this weekend’s Door County Short Film Festival.
The festival, in its eighth year, celebrates the vision and creativity of budding and professional filmmakers from the United States and beyond. This year, it includes 22 short films spanning from 90 seconds to 22 minutes and encompassing various genres, from comedy to drama.
Festival director Chris Opper prescreened four hours worth of short film submissions before arriving at the final selections, which showcase varying approaches to filmmaking, from weekend hobbyists to production studio quality. That variety is what makes film festivals so intriguing, he explained.
“When you go to a short film festival or any kind of film festival, you’re finding films that you’re not going to find anywhere else,” Opper said. “For me and a lot of people that go to film festivals it’s like hunting for a gem. You’ll sit and watch 10 films and two of them will really stick out to you. You think, wow, that’s a filmmaker that’s really got a great vision. That’s what I’m always looking for and I’m hoping that’s what other people are looking for. At the base of this is really a fun event for people to do in February.”
The festival begins Friday night with two locally produced shorts and a feature length film, beginning with the 7 pm premiere of the Eagle Tower film. A project between the Friends of Peninsula State Park and Door Guide Publishing, the Eagle Tower video explores the history of the iconic structure that was built in 1932, closed in May of 2015 and dismantled in September of last year.
It features interviews with some of the biggest players of Peninsula State Park and Eagle Tower, including former park superintendent Kelli Bruns, wood expert Bob Ross of the U.S. Forest Service, and Bill Tishler, author of Door County’s Emerald Treasure.
As Rachel Stollenwerk, campaign director for the Eagle Tower Fund, explains, the film’s purpose was to celebrate the history and role of Eagle Tower while also looking at current fundraising efforts that will conclude with a new tower on Eagle Bluff.
“It was really meant to help answer a lot of questions that people had about the tower since it was closed in 2015 but then also provide the next steps where we’re raising money and looking for people to contribute to reopening Eagle Tower,” Stollenwerk said. “History, project, the campaign, all those things tied up in one so that hopefully people can get a really good understanding of the importance of the project and why we’re doing it and who is involved.
“I would encourage anybody who has any interest or any questions about the project to watch it,” she added. “It really helps to answer most of them and sums everything up in a nice way that not only the Friends of Peninsula State Park can have in our archives but the state can have and our local historical associations can have. It’s just a really nice way to represent something that happened in Door County and the entire process around it.”
One of the scenes featured in the Eagle Tower video is originally from local filmmaker Tim Erskine’s 2015 sci-fi comedy, The Emissary, the only feature film in this year’s festival. It will be shown Friday night following Erskine’s short, The Adventures of Neutron the Cat.
The competition portion of the Door County Short Film Festival begins Saturday at 2 pm and runs until 8 pm, with films being shown in one-hour blocks separated by half-hour intermissions. As in past years, audience members will vote on the “Best of the Fest,” with the winner being awarded a one-of-a-kind “Golden Coffee Mug,” handcrafted by Thor Thoreson of Gills Rock Stoneware.
This year’s festival also includes several new additions, including digital projection and a sound system, concessions by Al Johnson’s Stabbur and Wild Tomato, and a Juror’s Award.
The Juror’s Award will be given by a panel of four judges, who will see the films for the first time at the festival. The panel includes Opper, Barb Luhring, Tennessee filmmaker Mike Wiseman, and filmmaker Mark Ang.
Opper is particularly excited about the opportunity to work with Ang, an award-winning Taiwanese filmmaker and film festival director who has toured the United States in search of partnerships with other short film festivals.
“What he’s looking to do is partner his film festival with all of ours so that he can get Taiwanese films into American film festivals and vice versa,” Opper said. “I sent him some links to the filmmakers that were in our film festival last year because his film festival is in November. He showed a few of the films that we showed last year, with the permission of the filmmakers, in Taiwan in November and now he sent us a bunch of films for this upcoming film festival and we’re going to show three.”
Opper credits relationships with other filmmakers across the globe for the continued growth of the event, along with the valuable partnerships the festival has built with local organizations and businesses.
“That’s the other thing we’re trying to do with this festival is actually build partnerships with local businesses and hopefully we can help them by bringing people into town and creating an event that they can be a participant in,” Opper said. “If other businesses want to join in, we’re open to talking about it and seeing what we can do.”
The Door County Short Film Festival is held at the Sister Bay Village Hall, 10693 N. Bay Shore Dr. Tickets are $5 per person for a two-day pass. All proceeds go to the Door County Film Fest fund for 2018. For more information visit cometosisterbay.com.