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By Ashley Fox

Lake County Leader

While she produces the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, also known as FLIC, Jessica King also introduced a movie near to her heart.

The Polson resident gave the opening remarks to “Schindler’s List,” which was screened on the last day of FLIC, coincidentally on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.

“It became, ‘Jessica, you have a personal connection to this film,’” she said a week after the annual film festival.

Raised in Southern California, Jessica grew up Jewish, spending her childhood and teenage years going to a summer sleepaway camp for Jewish youths. It was there that she said she connected with the Jewish culture, which has always been important to her.

Moving to Montana several years ago, she realized that it was up to her to find ways to celebrate the religion.

Going to the summer camp was “kind of easy in a way,” she recalled, because she was surrounded by other Jewish kids.

“Living in a non-Jewish community, if you want to express that side of your culture, you have to own that and take responsibility,” something she noted can be translated to any religion.

“If you want it, you have to have it. You have to create opportunities for it, even if it’s just for your family,” she said.

THE IDEA for Jessica to introduce the film came from her husband, David King. Initially, David was going to introduce the 1993 film and it’s producer, Gerald Molen.

“The more we talked about it, the more it was like, ‘there is information that needs to be relayed,’” Jessica said.

Following the movie, David introduced Molen, who talked for about 40 minutes.

Jessica said that about 70 people watched the movie, while about 10 or so trickled in for the question-and-answer session.

“It was a beautiful day,” she said, commenting that the warmer weather and sun made the day even better.

“The people that were there really wanted to be there,” she said.

Conversations about the Holocaust were held, which Jessica said was a goal of Flic organizers.

“That’s what we want. We want people to walk away from this, talking, applying to what they see in culture today,” she said.

ATTENDANCE HAS gradually climbed through the seven years of the event, David, FLIC producer, said after the festival.

While it is hard to get an exact headcount, last year FLIC saw approximately 900 guests, and this year organizers estimate there was a 33 percent increase to about 1,200 film enthusiasts.

“Word is getting out that this is a credible film festival in Montana in the winter,” King said.

This year, 38 film makers from across the United States attended the festival, representing 16 films.

“That was very exciting for us” King said, as attendees were able to hear the stories behind the films. “It’s wonderful to see the film and then see the filmmaker talk about their project.”

MOLEN HAILS from Great Falls and was on hand to speak about his experiences making epic film “Schindler’s List.”

“It’s great for our audience … to hear and ask questions of someone like (Molen) and the experiences he had” making the film, David said. “It’s fascinating.”

David said that organizers are hopeful that “another passion project” involving a “high-caliber flimmaker” will take shape for next year’s festival.

Another “high-caliber” personality at FLIC this year was Adam Yenser, a comedian and Emmy-Award winning writer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

“Adam brought the house down,” David said.

Yenser performed live stand-up for about 20 minutes, then shared clips from the Ellen show.

“I never heard the audience so excited and laughing so hard” in the festival’s history, King said.

A FAN-FAVORITE film that created a lot of buzz, David said, was “My Grandpa’s Fiddle.”

The film won the audience award, with close contenders including “Ginger” and “About a Donkey.”

Discussions are already underway for the 2020 FLIC.

“Adam Yenser said he’d love to come back next year, and if he can’t” he is going to send others to FLIC, David noted.

“We enjoyed this one so much,” David said. “We’re already brainstorming ideas.”

Valley Journal: Reelin’ ’em in

Feb 06, 2019

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By Karen Peterson

Valley Journal

POLSON – The seventh annual Flathead Lake International Cinemafest opened on Friday with 56 films, and one couple went with a mission to watch as many features as possible during the three-day event. They even stuck around for the award ceremony on Sunday.

Kristin and Dale Nelson’s movie-watching marathon started with a highlighting marker and a couple copies of the schedule. First, they each highlight the movies they wanted to see, and together, they compare their choices and make compromises to create a final “master plan” schedule of the films they plan to watch.

“We would see them all, but it’s not possible,” Kristin said. She explained that Showboat Cinemas features two films at the same time during the festival to fit in as many as possible.

On Sunday, Kristin sat in a movie theater seat and counted up all the highlighted films she and her husband had attended. She determined that they had seen 37 films during the weekend, but they weren’t done. “We will see some of the ones we missed during the encore week.” A selection of the films is being shown until Thursday, Jan. 31.

To kick off the event, the couple purchased an all-access pass for $40 each, and then they sat down in the morning hours to watch films from around the globe until the last evening production. “Go big or go home, right?” she said.

But – the couple experienced a few struggles during their marathon journey. “I hit the wall,” Kristin said. “I nodded off once. It wasn’t the film. I won’t insult the filmmaker by saying which one it was.”

FLIC coordinated with local businesses to provide venues for food and drinks along with a chance to talk with filmmakers, which gave the couple an opportunity to stretch their legs. “Walking there gave us a nice break,” she said.

The Nelsons had a long list of films they thought were great. “We saw the one about the Bison Range, and it was really good,” she said. “It was really fun to see people we know on the big screen.”

This is the third year the couple has attended the film festival. “Each year they step it up and make it even better,” Dale said. “And more people are coming to it.”

On Sunday, Joanne Morrow – another FLIC fan – left the theater with tears in her eyes. She had just watched “Shindler’s List” on screen two. “Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so it was a good day to watch that film again. It was wonderful,” she said. Jenny Scrivner said the film was powerful and full of emotion.

Meeting the creator of a film is one of the things that sets a festival apart from regular features, and the FLIC festival followed tradition by hosting 38 filmmakers at the event.

The producer of “Schindler’s List” walked to the front of the stage during a standing ovation after the film was shown. Gerald R. Molen spent an hour with the audience answering questions. He grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and went on to work with Steven Spielberg on several films. Molen has continued to promote “Schindler’s List” 25 years after it first appeared on screen. The film is about a Nazi, played by Liam Neeson, who has a moment of clarity and realizes that what was going on around him during the Holocaust was wrong. “It’s important people know what this story is about,” Molen said before explaining that a knowledge of history could help prevent atrocities from happening again.

On the lighter side, Tim Ryan Rouillier was at the festival to talk about his film “My Grandpa’s Fiddle.” The musical production showcased his “symphonic memoir,” including his ties to Montana and memories of his grandfather. Many locals also performed in this production.

Rouillier’s film received the Audience Award at the festival by getting the most votes from the public. It also received FLIC’s Best Montana Film award. Rouillier said getting the awards “capped off” the project on the high note. “This film was about all of our stories because we all live here,” he said of the Flathead Indian Reservation. “It was great to come home and have so many validate this project. The word of the people means more to me than anything else.”

In other categories, Best Picture for a FLIC Junior production went to “Staples and Paper Hearts” about an elementary teacher. Best Animation was awarded to “Negative Space,” which explores the relationship a son has to his father. Best Cinematography went to “Forever Young,” a film about being true to one’s self. The Best Doc-Short was “The Science of Collective Discovery.”

The Best Picture award was handed to “Selfie” about a high school student and a smartphone. The Best Female Actor was awarded to Susan Gordon in “Ginger.” The Best Male Actor was given to Marcel Lures in “Octav.”

A fun film about the sport of speedcubing with the Rubik’s Cube called “Why We Cube” was given Best Documentary Feature. In the Best Foreign Film category, “Octav,” which is based in Romania, won. The Best Director award went to James and Melissa Boratyn for their work on “Ginger.” And Best Picture Feature went to “Ginger.”

FLIC Producer Jessica King thanked everyone who helped with the film festival – from local businesses to the theater where the films are shown. “We couldn’t do what we do here if it wasn’t for all the people behind the scenes,” she said.

This year’s film festival received positive reviews from the public, according to FLIC director David W. King. He said it isn’t difficult to attract people to the festival. “We call ourselves the most beautiful film festival in the world and no one has proven us wrong,” he said.

Valley Journal: Adam Yenser performing at Flathead Lake Cinemafest

Jan 02, 2019

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By Jaci Webb

Valley Journal

POLSON – Get ready to laugh and be amazed and inspired at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest next month in Polson.

The festival continues to expand and attract international filmmakers and special guests, including Adam Yenser, a comedian and Emmy Award-winning writer for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Yenser will show clips from the “Ellen Show” and share his comedic wit and cultural insights at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26.

FLIC takes place Jan. 25-27 in downtown Polson, where films will be shown at the Showboat Cinema on Main Street. Local businesses, including The Cove, Blodgett Creamery Coffee Saloon, and Vine and Tap will host special events. The Cove will host the Opening Night Party on Friday, Jan. 25 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by the screening of Tim Ryan Rouiller’s documentary film, “My Grandpa’s Fiddle,” at 7 p.m. at the Showboat Cinema.

At 8 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, Blodgett’s Creamery Coffee will host an informal gathering of filmmakers and film fans. At 8:30 a.m. a special kids’ screening of “Little Foot” is on tap along with free breakfast sponsored by the Polson Rotary Club at the Showboat Cinemas. On Sunday, Jan. 27, the film “Schindler’s List” will be shown at 1 p.m. and the film’s producer Gerald Molen will host a Q&A following. Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Observance Day.

In a recent telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles, Yenser talked about his work on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and writing and appearing on the “Ellen Show” in his recurring role as Kevin the Cashier.

Yenser grew up in a working class family in Allentown, PA. His family was funny, but nobody dared to dream of becoming a professional performer. Until Yenser, that is.

“My family was very approving and supportive when I said I wanted to write comedy,” Yenser said. “I always think there is some natural talent or affinity for comedy, but the timing and the structure of it you can learn. Getting out there and doing comedy is better than any class you can take.”

Yenser is a graduate of Penn State University and he returned to his alma mater in 2017 to give the commencement address.

“When you are giving a commencement speech, you have to be meaningful and funny,” Yenser said. “I had to write a speech with a positive message and that got a lot of laughs. It was a great honor.”

Yenser’s first stabs at comedy sketches were written and filmed when he was in the sixth grade. Inspired by “Saturday Night Live,” Yenser and his friends would get together and create comedy sketches. Yenser never stopped.

After getting his start as an intern and later staff writer for Conan, Yenser became a freelance contributor to SNL’s “Weekend Update” segment as well as the Oscars. But five days a week, he’s working on the “Ellen Show,” a job he loves. Yenser’s blue-collar roots give him the strong work ethic he needs to stay busy in the entertainment business.

“I work from 9 to 6 every day and every now and then there are shoots on the weekends. I also try to go out and do standup at least once a week and I am doing independent sketches as well.”

Yenser said a spring trip a few years back to Glacier National Park made him jump at the chance to return to Montana for FLIC. He had worked previously with FLIC director David King on a project with Kelsey Grammer and has great respect for King.

“I really connected with him,” Yenser said of King.

Valley Journal: Country star, St. Ignatius native Tim Ryan kicks off Polson film festival in January

Nov 27, 2018

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By Jaci Webb

Valley Journal

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.