Paradise Theater hosts Existentia (in Paradise)

Mora’s Paradise Theater, a Highway 61 Film Festival partner, is hosting an extraordinary free event on April 26! Read the press release below for more.


Kanabec County theatre artist Roger Nieboer specializes in creating site-specific performances. He describes the work as “theatre that is inspired by, and built for actual, existing places.” Nieboer created just such a work last June for Northern Spark, an annual all-night Twin Cities arts festival. He created a philosophical travel agency called “Existentia,” that functioned out of the Amtrak ticketing offices of St. Paul’s newly renovated Union Depot.

That entire creative process and the ensuing all-night performance were captured on video by Mora native Matt Utecht, and later became the subject of his 45 minute documentary film, “Existentia.”

“We gave Matt total access to everything,” Nieboer claims. “Every rehearsal, every meeting, every moment of performance, every blemish and every flaw. But my favorite parts of the film involve his interviews with audience members. They make it all worthwhile.”

The documentary will have its world premiere at 2 pm on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at the Paradise Theatre in Mora. There will be no admission charge for this special event.

During the post-film reception, audience members will have an opportunity to participate in the Existentia interactive performance process, in a special consultation area created specifically for the Paradise. “I can promise you that you’ve never experienced anything quite like it,” Nieboer proclaims. “Nothing scary or weird, just… unique.”

Nieboer describes his working relationship with the Paradise as a dream come true. “I love the Paradise. They’ve given us a great opportunity to demystify ‘performance art’ and show the community what it’s all about. ” He is also profuse in his praise of the East Central Regional Arts Council. “They provide continuing support for arts organizations and individual artists in our area. Frankly, I don’t know if events such as this would even happen without their vision and support.”

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the East Central Regional Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

On your marks, get set…

Are you ready? The 2014 Highway 61 Film Festival will open up submissions on May 1.

We’re going to be trying something new this year. In order to encourage filmmakers to submit their films earlier we’ll be having an early deadline of July 15 and a late deadline of Aug. 15, with reduced fees for early submissions.

More information and new submission forms will be on this site soon. Can’t wait to see all the great films you have to offer in 2014!


International Film Festival Summit



The Highway 61 Film Festival is proud to be listed as a featured festival of the International  Film Festival Summit! This great event will be held from Dec. 8-10 in beautiful Austin, Texas.

Producers, directors and filmmakers of all stripes will join with film festival organizers to meet and discuss how better to further their projects.

Especially noteworthy participants at the festival are famed indie producer John Sloss (Waking Life, I’m Not There, Before Midnight) and John Sayles, the renowned writer/director of Matewan, Eight Men Out, Sunshine State and many more.

There will be a discussion on programming from organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival, and more conversations about crowdsourcing, sponsorships, and other details of festival operations.

Visit to find out more.

Thank You!

The Highway 61 Film Festival and “Photos on Buildings” were two great arts events that entered their third year on Oct. 4-6, 2013. The Highway 61 Film Festival Committee would like to thank the many contributors who made it possible, especially Pine Center for the Arts, Dan Carlson and all staff at Danny C’s BeachRocks, Pine Technical College and PTC staff, and all the great folks at the Pine City Pioneer: Kathy Ericson, Donna Heath, Sharon Fore, Annette Krist and Wade Weber. Thank you to Donna Sandberg, who went above and beyond in delivering programs and posters.

Thank you to our judges, C.J. Gustafson and Pamela Jambeck, for their thoughtful and discerning work choosing the best from among the contenders. Also, a big thanks to C.J. for turning her home into a B&B for our itinerant filmmaker friend! Thanks to Becky Schueller for her key support and Loreal Lindstrom for making the late night films possible. Thank you to Supervolunteer PJay Siltanen and Red Carpet photographer Noah Sikkink, to East Central Minnesota PFLAG members Paul Oium, Paul Wilkens, Don Quaintance, Phil Schroeder and Barb Schroeder. Also, thanks to the Pine City Public Works crew for babysitting our banner – for the second year in a row! – through the windstorms of October, and to Lee’s Pro Shop for getting the battered banner repairs done so quickly.

Thank you to Eric Carlisle and the Paradise Theatre for including us in their first annual “Magic of Movies” Film Festival this past April.

Thanks to all the “Photos on Buildings” photographers: Judy Scholin, Cliff Odendahl, Terri Huro, Kelli Maag, C.J. Gustafson, Gene Webster and Stan Grubbs. Thank you to the owners and occupants of Pine Plaza (Journey North Church, Jim and Kandis Koppen, and John and Mary Jo Lahr) for offering a viewing location, although rainy and windy weather conditions forced “Photos” showings to the PTC indoor location. Thank you, Robert Musgrove and PTC, for being an accommodating rain site.

Our gratitude to Kirk Eckstine and Nate Johnson, Kevin Horn, Ryan Becken, Zach Hammill, Elliot Diviney, Mike Gainor, Jerome Erickson and the DAAM Crew for providing films not for competition.

Thank you to the following Film Fest program advertisers for their financial and other support: Coldwell Banker Results, Mary Kay Brautigan, Campbell Auto & Tire, Images of America: Pine City and (new book) Legendary Locals of Pine City, by Nathan Johnson, Stogies, A&W, Shear Obsession, Old Oak Inn, Cabin Coffee’s, Roubinek Motors, JoLyn’s Sewing Service, The Pine City Scrapbooking Co., Sauser’s Hardware, Rick’s Auto Sales, North West Company Fur Post, Lee’s Pro Shop, Chris’ Food Center, Deutschlander Fencing, Pizza Pub, Signatures Closing & Title, Inc., The Wizard of Oz, Peaceful Pines Farm, The Flower Box, D.Q. of Pine City, Pine Insurance Agency, Voyageur Bottle Shop, East Central Men’s Circle, Chubby’s, Jan Carl, RedRock on Air and FirstLight Health System.

A special thanks to the inspirational Al Milgrom for returning to Pine City to share two amazing international film selections along with the amazing insights he shared with our audience.

Thank you to the tri-county coalition of Carlton, Pine and Chisago for choosing us to help launch their “Discover the FUN on Old Hwy. 61” promotional effort, and thank you for collaborating with us to bring the charming, gracious, and talented journalist/filmmaker Cathy Wurzer to Pine City on Oct. 4.

Thank you, Cathy, for your support and enthusiasm and for so generously sharing your time and “Tales of the Road: Hwy. 61” – part one – with us. We wish you well on your sequel journey and eagerly anticipate the finished film in 2014!

Big thanks to ALL the filmmakers who came to the event and shared their creativity and time, and to all those who came to enjoy the films. To anyone we’ve forgotten, please forgive us. Thank you all and see you next year!


The Highway 61 Film Festival Committee: James Tuckner, Kris Magnuson, Sara Maki, Jimmy Keebs, Nathan Johnson, Stan Grubbs, Mike Gainor, Heidi Briski-Gainor


And the winners are…

The judges had a challenging time winnowing through the great films submitted to the 2013 Highway 61 Film Festival. After tallying their results, these are the winners.

Comedy Short

First Place: Rocket Surgeons (Director Wes Fischer)

Second Place: Not Like the Commercials (Director Wyatt Cagle)

Drama Short

First Place: Les Esclaves (Director Jesse Mast)

Second Place: Aakhir – At Last (Director Tarun Jain)

Drama Feature

First Place: Not Quite Lyin’ Eyes (Director Doug Phillips) 

Student Short

First Place: Syren (Director Will Nelson)

Second Place: Honor Among Thieves (Directors Jack Beiderman and Gabriel Strauss)

Animation Short

First Place: Maze (Director Marianna Mankowska)

Second Place: Coffea – The Coffee Fairy (Director Susan Shay Brugger)

Documentary Feature

First Place: The American Road (Directors Warren Leming and Kurt Jacobsen) 

Second Place: Sled Dogs to St. Paul: The Race for Clean Water (Directors Kelly Schoenfelder and Patrick Knight) 

Action/Horror Short

First Place: The Information Thief (Director John Gigrich)

Action/Horror Feature

First Place: The Giant Spider (Director Christopher R. Mihm) 





Cash prizes ($50 short/$100 feature) will be awarded to all first-place winners. Prizes were awarded for all categories in which films were submitted. Congratulations to all the winners!

Map of Highway 61 Film Festival

Coming up to Pine City for the festival? Here’s a map showing festival site locations. Day and evening showings will be presented at the Pine Technical College Auditorium (900 4th Street SE, Pine City 55063), while the free late-night shows will be held at Danny C’s BeachRocks (10762 Lakeview Shore Drive).

Photos on Buildings will be held on the back of Pine Plaza as shown on the map. However, in case of rain, the photos will be shown indoors at Pine Technical College.

See you soon!

Map for Film Fest Program B W