PEPIN, Wis. -- The Flyway Film Festival is scheduled for October. But it may not look like the previous dozen festivals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flyway is held in communities around Lake Pepin and showcases numerous films and documentaries from local, national and international creators. While the event is six months away, staff are already working on the festival.

Diana Masters-Penegor, the executive director of the Flyway Film Festival spoke with the Republican Eagle about possible changes to the annual festival due to COVID-19. Photo submitted by Masters-Penegor.
Diana Masters-Penegor, the executive director of the Flyway Film Festival spoke with the Republican Eagle about possible changes to the annual festival due to COVID-19. Photo submitted by Masters-Penegor.

Diana Masters-Penegor, the executive director of Flyway, told the Republican Eagle:

“Normally, at this time of year, we would be finalizing contracts with local screening venues, be in full swing on major fundraising efforts and selling advertising for our printed festival catalog, in addition to our normal film submission review process and curation.”

Now, that planning process has been halted due to the virus, but while practicing social distancing Flyway organizers are thinking about how the 2020 festival could look.

“We’re brainstorming ways to present films and engage our cinema-loving community while social distancing,” a news release said. “By hosting online screenings? Discussions with film directors via Zoom or Skype? Of even moving the festival to spring of 2021?”

The pandemic won’t last forever but its impacts may continue to reverberate into the future. Masters-Penegor acknowledged that creating a digital festival could affect how future festivals are run.

“Successful online offerings this year could definitely parlay into other additional programming streams and potential follow-up to our in-person festival. We often get asked to reprise our award-winning films after the festival, which can be challenging from a space and cost perspective. This may be a way we could include this as a festival add-on for those who are unable to attend the festival or a particular film once the festival has concluded and a way to generate and maintain interest in the coming year's festival as well," she said. "Many larger festivals already include online elements into their programming and I'm seeing more and more smaller film festivals and movie theaters -- which are particularly hard-hit right now -- moving to digital/online offerings to try and remain viable in these uncertain times.”

While many businesses are closed, artists and art organizations still need support. Masters-Penegor told the Republican Eagle.

“I'd really encourage folks to follow their local arts organizations on social media, as well as their favorite artists. Lots of filmmakers, artists, movie theaters and other arts organizations are doing everything they can to make content and even merchandise available online to help maintain their viability, often at very reasonable prices. Social distancing gives us a perfect opportunity to help support the arts and artists we love, literally from the comfort of our own homes. Watch and support monetarily if you can -- every little bit helps!”

No one knows exactly what the next Flyway Film Festival will look like or when it will be held. The Flyway planning team is accepting any ideas about how the festival should be re-imagined.

For thoughts, suggestions and questions contact Masters-Penegor at diana@flywayfilmfestival.org. More information can be found at www.flywayfilmfestival.org.