Arts, Dining & Entertainment
March 20, 2019

Indie film ‘Farmer of the Year’ captures the Heartland

Thursday & Friday, March 21-22—WOODSTOCK— When Vince O’Connell and Kathy Swanson sold their sports clothing business in Northampton, Massachusetts, they retired to Craftsbury Common so they could cross-country ski from November through April. Then they learned filmmaking and have released their first feature, the award-winning “Farmer of the Year.”

“Farmer of the Year” will screen in Woodstock at the Town Hall Theatre, March 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. A reception will follow at 6 p.m. and a Q&A following the screening, on March 21.

General admission is $10.

Shot largely at the farm where Swanson grew up in Tyler, Minnesota, “Farmer of the Year” tells the story of an aging farmer, who, after selling the farm he’s worked for over 60 years, finds himself useless and adrift. Struggling to maintain his youth he road-trips across the country in a ’73 Winnebago with his equally directionless and unreasonably self-confident granddaughter.

“The film is set in farm country and the main character is an aging farmer but it’s not just about farming,” said Swanson. “It’s a commentary on themes of aging, loss, transition and relationships.”

“We’re wrapping up our festival circuit and self-distributing the film across the country theatrically now,” said O’Connell. “We’ve been in about 75 theaters since September.”

“We love screening in Vermont,” continued O’Connell. “The audiences ‘get’ and enjoy the film’s embedded humor and low-key authenticity … not to mention, Vermont is home.”

Swanson and O’Connell met at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in the early ‘80s where they worked three hours a day for room and board before moving to  western Massachusetts to grow their business.

“We always knew we wanted to return to Vermont” said Swanson, “so when we saw that the yellow house we’d always loved on one of the ski trails was for sale we made an offer for the asking price, pronto.” The house is still yellow and gives their film company its name, YellowHouse Films.

The film stars Emmy-nominated Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Urban Cowboy,” “War Games”), Mackinlee Waddell (“Good Christian Belles”), and Terry Kiser (“Weekend at Bernie’s”).

The film has been selected to screen at film festivals across the country, winning audience choice awards at the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sedona and Woods Hole international film festivals.

Barry Corbin won Best Actor at Woods Hole and the film was nominated for Best Feature Film and Best Actor at the Soho International Film Festival in New York City and Lady Filmmakers Festival in Los Angeles. The couple won the Emerging Directors award at the St. Louis International Film festival.

“We’re overwhelmed with the response … audiences are really enthusiastic about it – and not just Midwesterners,” laughed O’Connell. “We were one of the only feature films at Woods Hole to sell out.”

Swanson wrote the screenplay, O’Connell edited, and they both directed and produced. Although principal photography was done in Minnesota and South Dakota, most of the post production was done at the yellow house in Vermont, with Vermont sound and digital effects.

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