Photo courtesy of: Kathy SwansonBarry Corbin and Mackinlee Waddell star in 'Farmer of the Year' the award-winning independent feature film screening at the Athena Cinema, April 16-18.
These screenings are likely the only opportunity for the Athens community to see the film, slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16; 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 17; and 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 18. Question and answer sessions will be held after each screening.
The film, produced by O’Connell and Swanson, has had a great deal of support from Ohio University, and not just from the Film Department. OHIO students, alumni, faculty and programs supported the two MFA candidates, as well as three graduates of the program.
The University also provided equipment and grant funding through a Student Enhancement Award to O’Connell, and School of Film Lecturer Tom Hayes offered technical help.
O’Connell explained that their independent film “incubated” in Athens and the Athena Cinema screenings will be something everyone in the Ohio University community can enjoy.
“You have the OHIO connections then you have the fact that it’s a good film by objective and subjective measures,” O’Connell said. “We’ve won audience awards at a number of festivals — we won best actor awards and an emerging director award. The response for the film has been great. When we do Q&A’s, no one leaves, which is kind of unheard of. It really resonates with people.”
“Farmer of the Year” follows a widowed 82-year-old Minnesota farmer who thinks he’s still quite the ladies’ man. When Hap Anderson sells his family farm, he finds himself adrift and staring a short future in the face.
Motivated by the possibility of showing up with an old flame and impressing his old army buddies, Anderson sets out to attend his World War II reunion in California with his unemployed and unseasonably self-confident and entitled granddaughter, Ashley.
Together, each with their own issues and conflicting agendas, they head west in a dilapidated Winnebago.
“They’re both in transition,” Swanson said. “They end up supporting and learning from each other along the way.”
Swanson noted the film has quite a bit of human interaction and real-world humor, and according to O’Connell, “Farmer of the Year” doesn’t “beat people over the head with drama.” Instead, it leaves a lot open for the audience to interpret.
“Everyone who had a part in the creation of the film can come and enjoy and see what all their hard work turned into,” Swanson added. "For the Athens audience in general, it’s got a real Midwestern feel to it, sort of the honest, understated characters and tone.”
So far, the two have shared their film at more than 80 theaters around the country. Often times, Swanson said, they find themselves outselling big Hollywood-produced movies.
“We don’t have the support of a big distributor, so once we get it into a theater, we really work hard to promote it because it’s not going to be on TV, the trailer,” she added. “We’ll get it into a local paper or radio station, we promote it that way. Once we get it into a theater, we feel an obligation to get people to see it.”
Swanson wrote the screenplay based off her adolescence growing up in Minnesota. She was born on a dairy farm and surrounded by a large extended family as a child. Swanson began writing the feature in 2015 and they completed the final cut in October 2018.
The filmmakers, who are also life partners, said they have written, directed, produced, catered, shot, argued about and lost sleep over all of their films — from their first experiment with a camcorder to their latest ambitious film project, “Farmer of the Year.”
The film features Emmy-nominated Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure, No Country for Old Men); Mackinlee Waddell (Good Christian Belles); and Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s).
Kathy SwansonBarry Corbin and Mackinlee Waddell star in 'Farmer of the Year' the award-winning independent feature film screening at the Athena Cinema, April 16-18.
Creators of the award-winning feature film, 'Farmer of the Year', Kathy Swanson and Vince O'Connell, on the red carpet at the Minneapolis St. Paul Int'l Film Festival. The film screens at the Athena Cinema, April 16-18.