Last year's inaugural Free Range festival was the organic outgrowth of what started as casual mow movie nights after Fisher-Merritt and Dugan bought the homestead in December of 2002.
"Robin was making her first movie, and we started trying to imagine a premiere for our friends in the barn," Scholtz says. "Then we went to the Fargo Film Festival in March 2004, which cemented this idea that there are a lot of independent films that need venues."
The Free Range barnburners: (Left to right) Valerie Coit, Mike Scholtz, Annie Dugan, Janek Fisher-Merritt
When they screened The Exorcist in the barn for a few friends on Halloween night 2004, the Free Range idea was officially born.
"That started us thinking that it would be cool to show movies no one had heard of," Scholtz says. The Free Range folks report that last year's fest attracted just over 300 people--100 or so each night, and 80 for a Saturday-afternoon session. "Two high school kids from Wrenshall were here for every screening," says Scholtz. "It's just a really cool way to get lots of people here, and to showcase film in a fun atmosphere," Fisher-Merritt says. "People like to be in the barn. Using it for something like this is a really good thing."