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Fest is the best: Lu Lippold talks her career and the Flyway Film Festival

Lu Lippold leads the Flyway Film Festival, which will run Oct. 19-21, 2018, in Stockholm, Pepin and Alma, Wis. Photo by Adrian Danciu

This year's Flyway Film Festival interim director is Lu Lippold. Lippold has a thorough understanding of the documentary world from her time directing, producing and fundraising for films, working for FilmNorth Minnesota, freelancing with documentary organizations, volunteering at film festivals and teaching at the College of St. Benedict, St. John's University and University of St. Thomas.

The film festival, now in its 11th year, will take place Oct. 19-21, 2018, along the shores of Lake Pepin in Stockholm, Pepin and Alma, Wis.

She sat down with RiverTown Multimedia to talk about herself, her experiences in working with documentaries and the festival. The conversation lasted an hour, so not every question is included below.

Q: How did you end up in Pepin?

A: My husband and I actually moved to Pepin mostly because of the Flyway Film Festival. I hadn't really heard of this area and he grew up in Minnesota and he hadn't really heard about this area either. I was working at what was then called IFP Minnesota, which is a film maker support nonprofit. It is now called FilmNorth Minnesota. And Rick, who was then the director, this was in 2009, called IFP and said, 'Hey, could somebody come and do a panel to represent local filmmaking?' and I was like, 'I'll go!' So that's how I became familiar with this area and with the Flyway Film Festival, which I had not heard of before, but it was only in its second year.

So, I believe I had a film in the festival the following year, a documentary, I don't really remember the sequence, but I screened work and then I began volunteering doing the communication stuff because really the whole thing was run by (three people). They did everything so people volunteered to help out because it seemed cool. So that's how I got here. Then, my husband and I were driving here all the time. He had gotten laid off and was freelancing and I was going back and forth freelancing and working so we were like, 'why don't we just move here?' So we did.

Q: You've had a lot of different careers and jobs: computer programmer, documentary filmmaker, writer, producer, grants administrator, ESL teacher and professor. How did you transition from computer programming to more arts-focused careers?

A: Well, I only did computer programming to not starve to death. I hated it. Then I finally went back to grad school and did mass communication, my grad degree was in visual communication because I wanted to make stuff.

Q: You haven't directed your own film for awhile but you've been doing a lot of co-directing and producing. Why haven't you directed any films lately?

A: I can't afford it. It's too expensive of a hobby.

Q: How do you feel about working with festivals instead of going out with a camera and shooting something?

A: It's a different skill set. Both of them are enjoyable and interesting. I enjoy being a part of the flow of the independent film industry and its different aspects.

Q: A lot of the time documentary directors don't set out to become documentary creators, they sort of fall into it. What was your process of becoming the director of documentaries and involved in other roles?

A: It was when I was in journalism school. I wasn't really interested in daily news types of things. I was more interested in how do you make a video, really. I just liked making videos. ... It was a way to create that I didn't really know about before.

Q: What are you doing now in terms of work? I am sure that you are incredibly busy with the film fest coming up?

A: I mean, beside teaching (at the University of St. Thomas), I work at the Minnesota Film and TV commission, I freelance and I do other freelance jobs.

Q: What process did you go through for choosing films for this year's festival?

A: A couple (members) of our team just like film festivals so they went to Tribeca and South by Southwest and made some selections from there and others from regional people whose films they have seen.

I have to say that the programmers at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival were really supportive when I was like, 'um, I guess we're going to do the film festival. How do you do it?'

Q: Are there any films in the festival that you are most excited for people to see?

A: You know, it's interesting because in this area I kind of have particular people in mind, and I think, 'Oh, I think Judy's going to like this one,' or, 'Pat's going to like this one.' So, my opinion of the films is kind of filtered through how I think the audience will perceive them. There is not a clunker in this one.

Q: If you could do it all again, would you work in the documentary world?

A: Mm-hmm. It was really fun and interesting. I got to travel quite a bit, meet people that you wouldn't meet necessarily. I really like the editing process; creating a story out of a lot of data.

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