Second Annual Northwoods Film Festival: Celebrating Independent Filmmakers

By  K. Woodzick, Editor

The Northwoods is a place that invites cinematic artistry. Films created here range from those shot by Bill Rebane at The Shooting Ranch in Gleason to Maria Bissell’s recently released How to Deter a Robber, which was filmed in Minocqua. Northern Wisconsin not only makes unique films; we celebrate them. The second annual Northwoods Film Festival takes place on August 6th and 7th at Lakeland Cinema 6.

I had the chance to talk to Bess Donoghue, Executive Director and Founder of the festival, about her inspiration and passion for film.

Woodzick: How and when did the Northwoods Film Festival get started?

Bess: I started the Northwoods Film Festival two years ago, and although we could not host the festival last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thrilled to be back for a second year. We started it by getting various members and organizations of the local community onboard, and from there working with Suick Theaters and the Lakeland Cinema 6 to host the event. We worked with various distributors and filmmakers to play the films and the rest was coordinating all the details and logistics.

Woodzick: What can audiences expect to see at the festival this year?

Bess: We have a great lineup of films including two fantastic documentaries, Gunda and The Oxy Kingpins, both of which explore important issues to today’s society. We also have three great features, The Climb, Farewell Amor, and Olympic Dreams, the last of which was filmed in the Olympic Village in South Korea in 2018, and ties together nicely with the upcoming closing weekend of the Tokyo Olympics.

Image from The Climb.

Woodzick: How has film changed as an artistic medium in the last year and a half?

Bess: The way in which we experience film has certainly changed. For many of us over the last year and a half, it has been using our home TV’s or on personal tablets, computers, or even phones. I’m so thrilled the art of film has pushed through during the pandemic but also excited to welcome audiences back into theater to enjoy independent film together.

Woodzick: Your favorite film is Singin’ In The Rain. Why is it your favorite?

Bess: I’m a huge fan of musicals, and Gene Kelly’s dancing is nothing short of amazing. I think it also intimately captures a moment in film history that drastically changed the course of cinema forever. Singin’ In The Rain is the film that keeps me motivated and energized and always remains a classic and a treasure. A few other indie favorites for me include Brooklyn (2015), The Cove (2009), and The Big Sick (2017).

Woodzick: What are ways that audiences can support independent cinema?

Bess: One of the best ways to support independent cinema is to see it! Checking out any of the five films we have at the festival this weekend are great ways to support the industry. Enjoying independent films and watching the films of first-time filmmakers at home is also incredibly supportive as well. Another way to support the industry is to tell other audiences about the indie films you’re watching; word of mouth is crucial for independent films gaining an audience base.

Image from Gunda.

Woodzick: Anything else you want audiences to know?

Bess: Tickets are on sale at the Lakeland Cinema 6, and additional information is available at Audiences are welcome to come see one film or all five films. Film festival audiences are the absolute best and we can’t wait to have you there!

View Bess’s interview with WJFW Channel 12 here.


K. Woodzick is a life-long theatre artist and has over a decade of experience as a non-profit marketing professional and writer. They live in Woodruff with their silver lab, River.