By Jaci Webb
POLSON – The Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, FLIC, is celebrating its seventh year with an amazing array of special guests coming Jan. 25-27.
One of the most familiar names for Polson-area folks is Tim Ryan Rouillier, an award-winning country singer/songwriter who grew up in St. Ignatius and played bars in the Mission Valley as a teenager.
Rouillier, who uses Tim Ryan as his professional name, will help kick off the festival on Friday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. with a special screening of his symphonic memoir musical, “My Grandpa’s Fiddle: The Soundtrack of My Life.” The showing at Showboat Cinema on Main Street will be followed by a Q & A with Ryan, an event bound to be as colorful as the songwriter himself.
Another special guest for the 2019 FLIC is comedian and Emmy-Award winning comedy writer, Adam Yenser, who will share insights from his work on “The Ellen DeGeneras Show” at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26. Gerald R. Molen, who grew up in Great Falls, and produced many hit movies, will present the film “Schindler’s List,” which he produced, at noon on Jan. 27, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
FLIC attracts film entries from across the world, and last year two-dozen filmmakers attended the event. The festival features Montana-made films, Indigenous films, and films about the environment, as well as documentary and narrative shorts and features.
Ryan has spent more than three decades in Nashville, writing and recording music with many of the greats, including Randy Travis and George Strait. But Ryan never stopped loving the people and the land of Montana and a few years back, he decided to write a love letter to Montana. His heartfelt lyrics and witty storytelling are the soundtrack to the documentary film that Ryan spent years putting together. Ryan shot hundreds of hours of video across Montana over a period of four years and then learned how to edit the footage for the film. Ryan enlisted FLIC director David King to produce the video of Ryan’s live stage presentation. “My Grandpa’s Fiddle” has aired on PBS stations across the country and so far, upwards of 100 million people have viewed it.
Like the title says, Ryan’s grandfather, Vic Cordier, was a fiddle player, who taught Ryan to love music as much as he did. They played many shows together over the years, starting when Ryan was just seven years old.
In a recent telephone interview from his home in Nashville, Ryan talked about his connection to the old-timers in the Mission Valley, especially his grandfather. Ryan’s speaking voice is as melodious as his pitch-perfect tenor. It’s full of cheerfulness and humor.
“I loved being around the older people, the guitar players, the storytellers,” Ryan said.
By the time Ryan was in seventh grade, he was a guitar player and the lead singer of a band. He would play bars in the Mission Valley, including Diamond Horseshoe on Flathead Lake in Polson where the crowd was so rowdy, a fight broke out many nights.
“The bartender would say, ‘If a fight breaks out, don’t stop playing.’ These guys would be flinging tables across the room and the dancers didn’t even know what was going on back there because we were still playing music.”
Ryan and his wife Peggy moved to Nashville in 1987 to make their mark. Ryan wanted to become a professional songwriter with a record deal and Peggy wanted to “reach high in finance,” Ryan said.
“I got signed to CBS Records within three months and had a hit record out nine months later,” Ryan said.
That charting hit was “Dance in Circles,” a lively, but tender tune about dancing with your sweetheart. The video for the song was shot on his home turf in St. Ignatius and his grandfather is the fiddler in it. Ryan’s name started to swirl around star circles in Nashville and he got offers to join bands, including Restless Heart and Little Big Town.
“But I wanted to be out by myself. The great thing is I get to tell my story,” Ryan said.
These days, Ryan is working on putting together a live tour of “My Grandpa’s Fiddle,” featuring symphonic orchestras across the country. And where will he kick it off? Montana, of course. Look for it in 2020.