‘Love for the craft’ – New Unspooled film fest hosted by UW-Stout will feature independent, student storytellers

Film and animation event debut invites community May 12-14; submissions close April 28
Abbey Goers | April 3, 2023

For three days in May, professional filmmakers can rub elbows with UW-Stout video production and animation students, area high school students and the community in a new juried event.

The Unspooled Film and Animation Festival will run Friday, May 12, to Sunday, May 14, with films screened in the university’s historic Harvey Hall Theatre, as well as other local destinations.

Unspooled will feature 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, with early bird special pricing ending Saturday, April 8. Audience members may purchase tickets for specific screenings or a pass for all screenings.

Shout Out to Filmmakers and Animators

Projects must be received by April 7. Late deadline is April 28.

Interested attendees may sign up for the email list. The list of events includes:

  • 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. 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.

Creators are invited to submit their projects to Unspooled online via FilmFreeway. Films must be received by Friday, April 7, with a late deadline of Friday, April 28. Creators should refer to the rules and terms listed on the FilmFreeway page for additional information. Invited creators will be notified by email or phone.

Eighty-five projects have been submitted so far. The final selections are a work in progress. Awards in eight categories will be presented, selected by a panel of jurors, including faculty, students and professionals, Wheeler said.

Official Unspooled selection "No Such Thing" by Nicos Wiard and Zach Hoffmire / Dayton Feldt and Joey Lange


Hunt, of Minneapolis, plans to attend the student screenings and hang out with attendees on May 12. And on May 13, he plans to show some of his award-winning short film, “Frostbite,” before speaking about scene construction and his latest feature-length film “The Infernal Machine,” starring Guy Pearce. Over the past 25 years, he has produced, written and directed a variety of works for clients, including Dreamworks Television, T-Mobile, Ford, NBC Sports and MSNBC.

‘A love for the craft’

Festival Director Jonathan Wheeler, lecturer of video production, noted several student showcases at UW-Stout, including SOAD Senior Show and Best of Design Biennial Show, as well as the former 4:51 Film Festival. The Red Cedar Film Festival and the Chippewa Valley Film Festival showcase the work of professionals from around the world.

“In planning Unspooled Film and Animation Festival, we wanted to strike a balance between the two by inviting both students and professionals to submit films and animations, carving out specific days in the event for each,” Wheeler said.

Rebecca Thacker and Jonathan Wheeler
Rebecca Thacker and Jonathan Wheeler, Unspooled collaborators, in Harvey Hall Theatre / UW-Stout

“From the student side, they can benefit from the authentic film festival experience by having their work measured by a professional-level rubric. From the professional side, they can benefit from participating in an event that showcases the up-and-coming generation of storytellers. Unspooled can be a place for these two groups to come together in appreciation, in partnership and in a love for the craft,” he said.

UW-Stout student filmmakers will work with area high school students on May 12, in a workshop geared to produce short narrative films. They will practice development, preproduction, production and postproduction before watching their works in Harvey Hall Theatre.

“Hunt is particularly interested in watching these student films as he loves to see emerging talent,” Wheeler said.

‘My life is film’

Four UW-Stout students, all filmmakers themselves, are working with Wheeler to coordinate and promote Unspooled.

“My life is film. It's made me into the man I am today,” said Payton Kosiorek, a video production junior from Eagan, Minn.

Kosiorek is the festival’s student ambassador, working on his independent study. With his public speaking skills, he pitches the festival, reaching out to news outlets in the area for interviews.

Pang Chia Yang, of Plover, is the team’s dedicated Master of Fine Arts in design graduate student. And Dayton Feldt, of Beloit, and Joey Lange, of Harmony, Minn., are making social media and YouTube promotional films as a part of their video production capstone class.

Dayton Feldt and Joey Lange interviewing Parker Cmeyla
Dayton Feldt and Joey Lange interviewing Parker Cmeyla for Unspooled / Dayton Feldt

“I love promotional work and event documentation,” Feldt said. “I love highlighting the cool, hard work that video students are passionate about.”

For their promotional videos, Feldt and Lange interviewed fellow students whose short films have been selected for the festival, including:

  • Parker Cmeyla, Menomonie: “Errands”
  • Lucas Falkavage, Stevens Point: “Shared Space”
  • Cole Finn, Mondovi: “Paper Boats”
  • Zach Hoffmire, Kenosha, and Nicos Wiard, Minneapolis: “No Such Thing”
  • Sarah Vicchiollo, Greenville: “Being Mr. Vicchiollo”
Official Unspooled selection "Paper Boats" by Cole Finn / Dayton Feldt and Joey Lange


Feldt will be submitting his short film “Folded,” as well as a documentary he is co-directing with Natalie Watters, of St. Paul, about the production of “Be More Chill,” the first theater performance at UW-Stout in three years because of the pandemic.

Although Kosiorek mainly focuses on narrative projects, he submitted his Menomonie Culvers documentary to the festival, capturing the reasons why it was rated best in hospitality, to Unspooled.

“The video productions professors are outstanding at what they do; they all have their own strengths to create a diverse major. There’s a melting pot of knowledge between them, and they help us learn about what we love and to get better every day,” Kosiorek said. For young filmmakers who are “passionate about film and want to learn, coming to the festival and talking to our professors would be helpful,” he added.

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