A family documentary, peculiar creatures, alien chases, murder mystery and more captured in short films, stop-motion animation
By Abbey Goers, UW Stout
Menomonie, Wis. – Video production and animation students at University of Wisconsin-Stout are gearing up for a three-day festival as they promote the event, their university and the city of Menomonie. And within their related interviews and ads, they’re giving future festival goers a taste of their talents.
The Unspooled Film and Animation Festival will run Friday, May 12, to Sunday, May 14, screened in UW-Stout’s historic Harvey Hall Theatre, as well as other local destinations.
Unspooled will showcase films and animations, documentaries, narratives, commercial projects and experimental films from regional and international independent storytellers, as well as the talents of university students.
Ticket sales are open. Audience members may purchase tickets for specific screenings or a pass for all screenings:
May 12, 4 to 9 p.m.: Student films and keynote speaker. Harvey Hall Theatre
May 13, Noon to 10 p.m.: Professional independent films and keynote speaker Andrew Hunt. Harvey Hall Theatre and Brewery Nonic
May 14, 3 to 6 p.m.: Animation films and keynote speaker Mike Owens. Harvey Hall Theatre
May 14, 8:30 to 10 p.m.: Films free for all ages. Wilson Park, with Harvey Hall Theatre as the rain site.
“Immerse yourself in a world of film and animation from both established and emerging voices,” said festival Director Jonathan Wheeler, lecturer of video production.
Collaboration ‘creates magic’
Video production students Dayton Feldt, of Beloit, and Joey Lange, of Harmony, Minn., have created promotional videos for Unspooled, interviewing fellow students whose short films have been selected for the festival.
In her short film “Being Mr. Vicchiollo,” Sarah Vicchiollo, of Greenville, captures the story and experiences of her dad.
“I have always admired my dad, especially since he took 13 years away from his own career to raise my siblings and me,” Vicchiollo said. “I wanted to share his story, since being a stay-at-home dad in the early 2000s was not common and, as a result, he experienced discrimination for just trying to be a parent.”
In Feldt and Lange’s interview with Delaney Hoffman, director of “Radio Head,” Hoffman said, “The most rewarding part of creating ‘Radio Head’ is probably getting to work with so many different kinds of people. Being able to create another community that’s not just in my major – it’s really unique how we all could bond over this film.”
“Radio Head” is a 15-minute stop-motion and live action film that follows a young girl named Hazel, who finds herself stuck inside of a radio filled with wonder and peculiar creatures.
“There are more than 75 members who took a role in the making of the film,” said Hoffman, of Dorchester. “I think the thing that brought us all together was the desire to be a part of something bigger. To reach beyond the limitations of school and to use our passions to create something we've never done before. To create a community of artists and creatives in all different fields to do one thing: create magic.”
Zach Hoffmire, of Kenosha, and Nicos Wiard, of Minneapolis, collaborated on “No Such Thing,” inspired by alien media.
“We have this vision for what we want this project to look like,” Hoffmire said in his interview. “Making what we set out to make is probably the most rewarding part. It actually turned out the way we wanted it to, and in some cases, even better.
“We really wanted to push the realism and make the world of the story rich and grounded even though the concept was quite out of this world,” Hoffmire added. “We loved acting in our own project not only because it was convenient with scheduling but also because we could translate our friendship and chemistry in real life to the screen.”
But the filming process was not without setbacks, either by human error or environmental forces. In the chase scene, Hoffmire’s character is leaning out the window of the van, filming an alien spaceship. During one of the takes, his hat flew off.
“I managed to catch it with my left hand, which I was initially impressed by, but I quickly realized that I was now not holding onto anything and could very well fall out of the moving van. Luckily, Nicos was holding my leg, and all was fine,” he said.
“We leaned into mistakes and flaws. We ended up loving this take, as it felt the most authentic because of the mistakes,” Hoffmire added. “All of those unplanned moments that ended up working perfectly are the reason this short film turned out as well as it did.”
And when they shot the final scene, it was freezing and windy. “Poor Zach was wearing a white tank top and falling around in the snow. I had my hands covered in fake blood. I learned that fake blood freezes at a higher temperature than water, so my hands started freezing,” Wiard said. “After the scenes were done, Zach drove home shaking, and I drove home with paper towels stuck to my hands so I wouldn't get fake blood on my steering wheel.”
While students collaborate across campus to create cinematic magic, faculty also enjoy stepping in to collaborate on their projects.
Lucas Falkavage, of Stevens Point, explained in his interview how Wheeler was excited about Falkavage’s murder mystery, “Shared Space,” and helped with a rough version.
Falkavage thinks that what makes UW-Stout unique is the “genuine passion that goes into our projects. And that’s not just from the students, it’s from the professors as well. Our professors are always willing to go above and beyond the role of teacher to bring our creations to life.”
While Wheeler helped Falkavage with the writing, one of the primary roles in his film is voiced by Lecturer Co O’Neill. “You can tell that they are just as excited as us to make awesome videos,” Falkavage said.
“As an instructor, it's hard not to get really interested in the projects of the students,” Wheeler said. “Their work is often so creative and unexpected. I feel very fortunate to be able to see and help the realization of students' vision on screen.”
Unspooled promotional films by students also include ads that bring students’ animations to life; highlights of the Menomonie area, like historic downtown and natural sites, like the Devil’s Punchbowl; and satirical sketches.
Unspooled is supported by the School of Art and Design and Continuing Education and Conferences.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes. Learn more via the FOCUS2030 strategic plan.