About Us.

YellowHouse Films was founded in 2009 by filmmaking and life partners, Vince O’Connell and Kathy Swanson.

Since then, YellowHouse has produced over twenty short films. The films have had some success on the festival circuit but have mostly entertained and educated audiences in rural community art houses, libraries, village parks and town halls of Washington state, British Columbia, Ohio, Vermont and Massachusetts, exposing indie film to people that didn’t know it existed.

The yellow house behind YellowHouse.

Vince and Kathy bought the 200 year old house partly because everyone else wanted it but mostly because it sat fifty feet from the groomed cross-country ski trail on which they’d met years before. It was what most people call a ‘tear down’ but, as with their films, they found energy they didn’t know they had to make the project all it could be.

Vince O’Connell. Born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in a lot of other places, Noel O’Connell, aka Vince to the few friends he still has, became obsessed with the storytelling possibilities of film 7 years ago. After selling a successful business he and his business partner and wife, Kathy Swanson, attended a one-year film production program at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC where their filmmaking passion was fanned. With several shorts under his belt Vince now just wants to know how to convey “deadpan” on film.

Kathy Swanson Born on a dairy farm in Minnesota and surrounded by a huge extended family as a child.  Despite leaving the farm after college, Kathy’s spirit and outlook have never strayed far from her prairie roots. A writer with a voice directed by intuition rather than intellectual intention, Kathy obsesses about creating compelling character-driven narratives that convey deceptively simple and intimate stories, often with a strong female protagonist.

YellowHouse is a lot of things.

It’s a production company dedicated to producing thought provoking, character-driven narratives and documentaries, of varied genres, that are always engaging and at least a little funny.

It’s a classroom providing youth workshops in select rural communities at no cost.

It’s a website where Kathy and Vince can store more than anyone would probably want to know about their past, present and future projects.

And it’s the name their tiny community has endearingly attached to their sunny Vermont farmhouse.

Our Projects.

 Over the years we’ve written, directed, produced, catered, shot, argued about, and lost sleep over all of our films. From that first experiment with a camcorder to our latest ambitious feature film project.  Sign up on our email list to receive updates including links to our short films every now and then.




(formerly ‘Good Life’)

Observational Documentary 19:59

The kids are grown, the flowers are plastic and haircuts are eight dollars.

For three years Kathy followed her Dad, Howard, an eighty year old Minnesota farmer, around with a camera in his concrete winter surroundings at Good Life RV Park in Mesa Arizona. It’s here he spends his winter’s along with a thousand other northern seniors having the time of their life, playing poker for dimes, dancing in the afternoon and wearing shorts in December.

A documentary by Kathy Swanson. Shot in Mesa Arizona.


Comedy. 7:04

‘Summertime’ tells the story of how three young lemonade stand entrepreneurs stumble upon what it takes to run a successful business despite the accidental best efforts of older ruffians.

Created as the teaching tool and final product of a summer youth film camp (ages 6-13) in Metaline Falls, Washington. A script was written and adapted to the class then shot under the direction of Vince O’Connell and Kathy Swanson. Each student acted and observed the technical, behind the scenes aspects of film making.

Gideon Blood, PI

Comedy, drama, fantasy. 12:45

What do you do when you think your girlfriend is cheating on you? Hire your favorite imaginary private detective of course.

A short film by Vince O’Connell starring Russ Crowley and Kaiden Scott. Shot in Athens, Ohio.

Dog Heaven

Documentary. 13:27

Does running a dogsledding business sound exciting and romantic? Think again. Or maybe not. Jim Blair has 32 sled dogs for a family. And an unruly family it is. Like any small business it’s lots of work, long hours and “why am I doing this”? In the end, Jim loves his dogs, his customers and, though he might deny it, his employees.

A documentary by Vince O’Connell. Shot in Eden, Vermont.

Reservation For Hinkle

Comedy, drama 13:35

All she wanted was a room.

A short film by Kathy Swanson starring Tom Olson and Nancy Gasper. Shot in Metaline Falls, Washington.

The Journey of Maggie Monroe

Dark-ish comedy, drama, road-trip, fantasy. 16:12

A goofy, spunky, easily distracted bridesmaid takes a road trip to deliver an heirloom wedding ring to her overbearing brother’s wedding and doesn’t allow quite enough time.

A short film by Kathy Swanson starring Lisa Bol, James Euto, Kristina Kopf, Emilio Tirri, Abe Adams. Shot in Athens, Ohio.

Staying On Track

Documentary. 6:09

A rural county in northeast Washington takes over a short line railroad company to try and save some of the few remaining businesses. They encounter many obstacles, adapt and continue to struggle with an evolving economy.

Vince’s first video. This was the first semester project for the one year intensive film program at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC.

I Love Bagels

fantasy. 4:28

A man in search of the perfect breakfast.

 A short film by Kathy Swanson starring Vince O’Connell. Shot in Athens, Ohio.


Comedy 2:43

Short exercise with a fun premise by Kathy and Vince to demonstrate ability to acquire “clean” and accurate sound. No post processing.

Being Billy

Dark comedy, drama 15:09

Billy doesn’t speak, is hounded by bullies and wants a dog. His mother doesn’t so Billy has to get creative.

A short film by Vince O’Connell starring Xav Miller. Craftsbury Common, Vermont.

Hundred Mile Diet

Dark comedy, drama 14:38

What happens when someone interprets a benign idea too conveniently and literally?

A short film by Vince O’Connell starring Martin DeGues and Christopher Colt. Shot in Craftsbury Common, Vermont.

This is the first use of a drone for one of our films.

Gas Money

Comedy, drama 5:11

If he lost his wallet…well, that’s his problem.

A short film by Vince O’Connell. Shot on black and white reversal film without sound on a vintage 1957 ARRI S, it was an exercise in maintaining good exposure. Starring Heidi Wilhelm and Tess Wilhelm. Shot in Athens, Ohio.

Milk Run

Dark comedy, action, drama 5:30

It started out as a trip to the grocery store.

A short film by Vince O’Connell starring Jake Washburn. Shot in Athens, Ohio.

You’re Not Cindy

Comedy, drama 22:23

Brian brings Kathy home for Christmas to meet his family. They are expecting his girlfriend of 6 years that they like a lot. She thinks he told them.

A film by Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell. This is what happens when your first film has a cast of sixteen with kids and animals. Shot in Colville, Washington and Ymir, British Columbia.


Just A Second

Our rough cut is now a smoother rough cut but it’s still about 2 hours long so we’re trying to figure out how to shave off 20 or 30 minutes which is not a lot if you are talking about driving from NY to LA but is a lot if you’re talking about a film.  Shaving off a few frames here and a few seconds there helps but at 24 frames/second, that’s around 28,000 frames so we have to start thinking about getting rid of whole scenes (as if we haven’t been thinking about that the whole time!).   With over a hundred thirty scenes you wouldn’t think that getting rid of a couple of them would be a big deal but every scene was so painstakingly produced with writing, locations, actors, community and family support, lighting, shooting, eating, memories, money etc., that it is a big deal.

So, what do you do?

You sit down in front of your film with someone that doesn’t have all of those personal associations and more experience than we’ll ever have.  In our case that person is Harry Keramidas (editor ‘Back To The Future’…yes, I know I’ve told you that before).

Harry dissects our cut in his editing suite.

Last week we sent Harry a dvd.  He loaded it into Final Cut Pro and cut it apart.  Then yesterday we drove to his home Western Mass and sat with him for 8 hours discussing which of the 28,000 frames we didn’t need.  We all decided on at least one scene we could save for the dvd bonus features (ie. cutting room floor) but I won’t say which one. 


‘Hap and Ashley’ is still our title for now.  We’re not sure when updating a working-title becomes an emergency so we’re continuing to add and subtract from our potential film name list…a list that we’ve managed to bring down below 200 possibilities.


Break-time at Yellowhouse World Headquarters…

…we edit a lot but not all the time!  

 See you in April!

March 30th, 2017|

Breaking the Bank

Ines Peter as Iney, the bank teller, makes change for Hap while Brent Teclaw furiously adds numbers…with a pen!

Let’s say you’re shooting a film and one of the scenes takes place in a bank. You’re a stranger in town and trying to convince the banker it would be a good idea for him to let you use his bank as a location. You tell him your crew of 25 plus actors and extras needs to eat 2 meals while they’re there and you’ll be shooting until 11 pm. Plus that 20 foot Penske truck he’s seen driving around? It’s full of equipment and it all has to come in. What do you do?

  1. You tell him you’d need to get into the vault then tell him you’re kidding so your other requests seem less overwhelming.
  2. You wait until the cleaning crew shows up then tell them the banker said it was fine for them to let you in.
  3. You re-write the scene to take place in a laundromat.

While all three are good options, an even better one is when Greg, the banker, was one of your 52 high school classmates. Greg Peter sat right in front of me (Kathy) in most of my classes (he was a ‘P’ and I was an ‘S’ (there were no ‘Q’s and only one ‘R’) so we were always close. When I asked Greg if we could shoot in his bank he said ‘yes’ before I even finished asking. Then, when the bank teller we’d cast a month earlier, while we were all playing BINGO at the nursing home, had to drop out (the morning of) because of her daughter’s (also a classmate of Kathy’s) surprise visit from Iowa, I read my wish list of bank tellers to Greg. Five minutes later I got a text. ‘Mom will do it.’

Iney (Greg’s mom-rhymes with ‘tiny’), had been my dream teller from the start. In fact, when I was writing the screenplay, I used the name ‘Iney’ as a placeholder for the teller and it ended up sticking. Iney is young and she isn’t…she’ll never see 90 again but she can dance and take direction with the best of them. As she and her husband had owned the bank before Greg, it was a space in which she was totally comfortable and familiar. It’s such a thrill to see an actor make what some would consider a small role into something huge…which is what Iney did.

That kind of access and support was so important and appreciated throughout our shoot. Thank you Greg! You were a huge huge help. Everyone should shoot a film in their hometown.

February 28th, 2017|

Emergency Stunt Double

We were using the frankentrike Kathy’s 84 year old dad Howard had built a few years ago from a 1976 Yamaha 500 and a Chevy rear end as a key prop for the scene. It was one mean machine.  We’d used it in a couple other scenes (where it didn’t have to be driven come to think of it) and really didn’t think twice about using it again for this scene.  In setting up the shot we asked second team* to drive down the road, turn around and drive toward us.  Easy enough, right?  Nope.  No one could drive it.  Everyone tried but no one could master the subtle coordination of clutch and forty year old sticky transmission.  We couldn’t drive it a foot and no amount of movie magic was going to work.

Barry Corbin as Hap Anderson

Barry’s stunt double, Howard Swanson


Ring Ring. 

Kathy: “Hi Dad, what are you doing?”

Kathy’s dad Howard: “Oh, watching 60 Minutes”

(Crap.  I figured he’d be watching 60 Minutes since I know he arranges his week around it.  I hated to ask-but I had to.)

Kathy: “Can you come out to the farm and ride your trike for us?”

(I held my breath for the short pause that seemed like a long pause.) 

Kathy’s dad Howard: “OK but it will be a little while.”

Kathy: “How long?” (as I watched the sun moving toward the horizon)

Kathy’s dad Howard: “Oh, about 5 minutes.”

All hands were on deck as Howard pulled into the driveway.  We whisked him off to the hair and makeup trailer where Kate, our wardrobe coordinator, was waiting for him with the wardrobe Barry had been wearing. Kaci, our key makeup artist, brushed a little color onto his cheeks and two minutes later he emerged as Hap Anderson’s stunt double.  We directed him to hop on his mean machine and drive toward us down the gravel road, turn into the driveway and park under the maple tree.  Action.  Here he comes.  Getting closer.  Closer.  Into the driveway.  Under the tree.  PERFECT.  One take.**

Unphased, Dad (Howard) got in his car, drove away and was back home in time to watch the end of 60 Minutes.

*Second team ( stand-ins) allow the director of photography to light the set and the camera department to light and focus scenes while the actors are absent. The director will often ask stand-ins to deliver the scene dialogue (“lines”) and walk through (“blocking”) the scenes to be filmed.

**Rob’s ( our director of photography) camera work was perfect too!

January 18th, 2017|

BIG NEWS and ‘WHAT?, no popcorn?!’

We wanted to show you the Yellowhouse headquarters in the winter and sneak in another blog post while it was still 2016.

Now.  Are you ready for our big news?  It snowed today and….we have a rough cut*! (by the end of the year just like we promised ourselves).

So with the snow, Vince having fixed the fireplace and our paperwhites blooming…we’re all set for our next phase.

*Wikipedia says a ‘rough cut is the first stage in which the film begins to resemble its final product. Rough cuts…still undergo many changes before the release of the film’.

YellowHouseOur cozy editing nerve center.


December 31st, 2016|

Freeze Frame On Friday

We thought it would be fun to reward our loyal followers with a freeze frame* once a week. We’re going to call it ‘Freeze Frame On Friday’ and it will be a still image from our actual footage.  The images will be in no particular order, have a caption (or not) and be posted on our Facebook page.  

Freeze Frame on Friday - Week 1 - Hap reading '1000 Places'...

*Collins Dictionary defines ‘freeze frame’ as:  A freeze-frame from a film is an individual picture from it, produced by stopping the film or video tape at that point.

November 4th, 2016|


Kathy here.

Every once in a while I’ll come across a film festival that feels like a good fit and I’ll submit one of my short films.  Now and then one will be selected and I’m always surprised!

This spring I came across a festival soliciting funny films made by women.  I mentally scrolled through my list of shorts.  Hmmm, Reservation For Hinkle.  After all, I laugh every time I watch it.  Feeling lucky, I decided it was worth the $35 gamble, sent if off and forgot about it.

Then, one 90 degree day during our feature shoot, I got a surprise congratulatory email.  Reservation For Hinkle was an official selection for the ‘The Broad Humor Festival’ in Los Angeles.  I was really excited (and really surprised).  Every day of our feature shoot had been really hard and not that much fun so it was good to be reminded that making a film can have some upsides.

2016_10_31-1-reservation-cast-and-crewThe entire cast and crew.

Anyway, September 1-4 (the festival dates) came and went. I’d long forgotten about ‘Broad Humor’ (love that name!) until the other day when, just for fun, I went to their website and there it was Reservation For Hinkle, WINNER-BEST STUDENT FILM. I was excited and surprised all over again.


A few days later, I got an etched star plexiglass trophy and tube of lipstick. 

I have no idea how many student shorts they received or if my award was a mistake but I don’t care.  It’s still fun for someone other than Vince to think something I did was the best.

There is a thumbnail of Reservation For Hinkle on our website. 

There is a thumbnail of Reservation For Hinkle on our website. It’s on Vimeo, password protected, and everyone that signs up for our email list gets the password. 😉

2016_10_31-2-reservation-crewThe crew.

Writing this triggered a few memories of the 2 night shoot.  The morning of the shoot we had no crew.  That afternoon, we met three smart, curious, popular, enlightened local high school kids with really steep learning curves. They had no experience in filmmaking but after a 5 minute tutorial (i.e. ‘this is a boom’) they agreed to sacrifice two of their summer Friday and Saturday nights (until 4 AM) to experience guerrilla filmmaking at the Cutter Theatre in Metaline Falls, Washington (pop. ~200).

October 31st, 2016|



– March 24, 2019, by Irene Racz, Montpelier Bridge

The late writer and director Nora Ephron famously said that “everything is copy.” Kathy Swanson, a Craftsbury resident who hails from Minnesota, appears to have come by that notion intuitively. For as long as she can remember, she has written down anything that tickled her fancy, including many of her father’s priceless expressions and one-liners.

That inclination came in handy when Swanson and her husband, Vince O’Connell, decided to produce and direct a feature film called Farmer Of The Year. Swanson drew on her treasure trove of observational material to write a touching and very witty screenplay that, though fictional, relies heavily on her dad’s life as a small-town farmer. The film was shot in her hometown of Tyler, MN, with some scenes filmed on the family farm and in her retired father’s house.

The story follows a widowed farmer named Hap (Barry Corbin of Northern Exposure fame) as he is about to retire and turn his spread over to his son and daughter-in-law. At a loss for what to do with himself, Hap initially tries to corral his brother Virgil (Terry Kiser of the Weekend at Bernie’s films) into taking a road trip west with him.

When that doesn’t work out, Hap’s granddaughter Ashley (Mackinlee Waddell of ABC’s Good Christian Belles) steps in. Adrift after returning from college and having trouble finding a job, and in perpetual conflict with her parents as they take over the farm, Ashley sets off with Hap in a Winnebago that looks like it could disintegrate at any minute.

As they head west, Hap and Ashley encounter a variety of recognizably absurd and comic situations involving satellite navigation, online dating, currency (remember traveler’s checks?), and people who aren’t what they seem. Despite their generational differences, Hap and Ashley come to understand and assist each other as only two people on parallel tracks can. One of the film’s tag-lines, Life Is One Long Growing Season, says it all.

The film played in January at Montpelier’s Capitol Showplace, where it beat several Hollywood movies as the second-highest-grossing film of the week. It has also been viewed at a number of film festivals throughout the country, racking up nominations for best feature film, best actor, and best supporting actress, and winning in the audience choice, best actor, and emerging director categories.

Swanson and O’Connell took an unlikely and long route to filmmaking, and are gratified by how it’s worked out.

After childhoods that couldn’t have been more different (Swanson was a cheerleader, a dairy princess, and a college wrestling statistician in Minnesota, while O’Connell was born in Brazil and lived all over the world with his peripatetic parents), the two met in the early 1980s while working for the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

Given the seasonal nature of the work, Swanson also worked for the US Forest Service in Washington state. Meanwhile, O’Connell, a cyclist and Nordic ski enthusiast, founded the endurance sports apparel company VOmax in western Massachusetts.

After selling the highly successful business in 2005, the pair spent time in Washington, where they enrolled in a one-year film production program at Selkirk College, across the border in Nelson, British Columbia. O’Connell notes with amusement that they were the oldest students in the program “by 35 years.”

By this time, they were already establishing permanent roots in Craftsbury, having bought a ramshackle farmhouse in sight of the ski trails where they had met. They spent years renovating the house that also serves as headquarters for their production company, YellowHouse Films.

Swanson already had degrees from the Minnesota State University at Mankato and Syracuse University. O’Connell, who had attended the University of Massachusetts without graduating, finished his degree at Johnson State College in 2011. Armed with those credentials and their Selkirk experience, they enrolled in the film school at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. With a number of short films under their belts, they spent four years bringing Farmer Of The Year to fruition.

The television sitcom Seinfeld, which its creators called “a show about nothing” because it used common situations to great comedic effect, was a major inspiration for them as they worked on the project. “Our daily routine was work, eat, ski and watch two Seinfeld episodes,” said Swanson.

During their film’s run at the Capitol, Swanson and O’Connell were on hand two nights for an audience Q and A. As the pair exited the theater the final night, manager Teddy Cheney said to be sure to let him know when their next film is ready, because he’d like to feature their work again.

They are, indeed, thinking ahead to two projects. O’Connell is working on a “gritty, dystopian sci-fi” story that would be manageable to produce. Swanson has an idea that would be more complicated to produce, but which they believe has a lot of promise. It’s based on a true story involving a small-town sports team and school consolidation — issues that are near and dear to Vermonters’ hearts, especially these days.

For more information:
Farmer Of The Year website: www.farmeroftheyearmovie.com
Farmer Of The Year screening schedule:


Special screenings of the award-winning comedy-drama, ‘Farmer of the Year’, July 11-13 benefiting Vermont Land Trust.  – June 2019

What better way to celebrate a film by Vermont filmmakers than screening at an historic Vermont opera house.

‘Farmer of the Year’, an award-winning first time feature film by Vermonters, Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell will screen in historic Vermont opera houses at 7 pm in Derby Line (July 11), Plainfield (July 12) and Enosburg Falls (July 13) as the Vermont Opera House Tour benefiting the Vermont Land Trust. “A small town screening in a building that’s been the center of the community for generations feels like such a Vermont way to screen the film. Homey and welcoming…a bit out of the movie-viewing box,” said Swanson. “There is a nice synergy. I feel like the opera houses really compliment the film’s tone and themes as does the Vermont Land Trust’s mission.”

Kathy and Vince met at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in the early 80’s where they worked 3 hours a day for room and board before moving to Western Massachusetts to grow their business, VOMAX, a custom athletic apparel manufacturing company started by O’Connell in one of the dorm rooms at the Center. After selling the company, the couple moved back up north to Craftsbury. “We always knew we wanted to return to Vermont” said Swanson, “so when we heard that the yellow house on one of our favorite Craftsbury ski trails was for sale we made an offer for the asking price, pronto.” The house is still yellow and where their film company gets it’s name, YellowHouse Films.

The film, ‘Farmer of the Year’, written by Swanson, shot largely at the farm on which she grew up and in her hometown of Tyler, Minnesota (pop. 1100), ‘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. Heading west, they find themselves in seemingly impossible situations with only each other for support. As the journey progresses so does their relationship and they begin to understand and appreciate each other as individuals while discovering that being young and being old, aren’t all that different.

“We’ve wrapped up our festival circuit and self-distributing the film across the country theatrically now,” said O’Connell, “We’ve been in about 90 theaters since September.” The film is screening in theaters from Washington state to Vermont. From multiplexes and family owned chains to four-walling which is where they bring their own equipment and turn the venue into a movie theater. “We love screening in Vermont, said O’Connell. “The audiences ‘get’ and enjoy the film’s embedded humor and low-key authenticity…not to mention, Vermont is home.”

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).

Filled with understated small town humor and restraint, ‘Farmer’ of the Year’ captures the sense of real life, location and spirit of the rural America with a unique combination of homegrown and Hollywood.
“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,”

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 It won ‘Best Actor’ for Barry Corbin’s performance at Woods Hole and 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 duo won the ‘Emerging Directors Award’ at the St. Louis Int’l Film festival. “We’re overwhelmed with the response…audiences seem to really relate to it…and not just Midwesterners,” laughs O’Connell.
Swanson wrote the screenplay. O’Connell, edited. They both directed and produced. Though principle photography was done in Minnesota and South Dakota, most of the post production was done at the yellow house in Vermont. “We farmed out a lot of the sound and digital effects to artists in Vermont.”

Audiences around the country are talking about the film:
“It was a charming film from start to finish … My favorite movie of the entire [MSP Film] Festival,” Katie Matthies, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
“Cleverly written, humorous with small-town flavor, layered generations … The Real Deal!” Noreen Ireland, Sedona, Arizona
“I love this movie. It’s entertaining and funny, but it’s also a meditation on youth and age that will kind of break your heart and put it back together again.” Lu Lippold, Flyway Film Festival Director, Wisconsin
“Fabulous, funny, sad, heartwarming, beautiful movie.” Julie Lund Zimmeth, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The film delicately blends the comedy and drama of life.

Swanson wrote the screenplay. O’Connell, edited. They both directed and produced.

“Swanson’s screenplay avoids sentimentality, achieving instead the kind of gentle, humanistic comedy we rarely see these days in movie theaters” – Margot Harrison in SevenDaysVT and Rotten Tomatoes

‘Farmer of the Year’ will screen at Vermont Opera Houses, July 11-13 and without major studio distribution, it may be the only chance people will have to see it. All screenings start at 7 PM followed by Q&As led by the filmmakers.

General admission-$12.

Tickets available at the door and at eventbrite.com


Vermont Opera House Tour tickets:
Haskell Free Library and Opera House (July 11):

Plainfield Town Hall Opera House (July 12):

The Opera House at Enosburg Falls (July 13):


– June 19th, 2019, by Cody Beltis, Wicked Local Provincetown

Vince and Kathy in Truro image credit Wicked Local Provincetown

Like the intrepid subject of their first feature film, “Farmer of the Year,” an 83-year-old widower who embarks on a road trip after selling his family farm, Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell decided to change their lives. The couple, who have a waterfront bungalow at Ryder Beach in Truro, sold their athletic apparel manufacturing company, VOmax, and devoted themselves to traveling, going to film school, and producing a feature film.

“We bought land in upstate Washington, and found this film school just over the border in British Columbia, about an hour away,” Swanson says. They ended up getting their MFAs at Ohio University, shot “Farmer of the Year” in Swanson’s hometown of Tyler, Minn., inhabited by just over 1,000 people, and did most of the postproduction in Craftsbury Common, Vt., where they had kick-started their own production company, YellowHouse Films. Swanson wrote the script, they produced and directed together, and O’Connell served as editor.

Now they are releasing the movie themselves. “We are self-distribution on steroids,” Swanson says. “We do it all ourselves. It’s a lot of work, getting all of the moving parts together and getting people into the theater.” “Farmer of the Year” was an award-winner at the Woods Hole Film Festival and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival last year, and Swanson and O’Connell will be screening it at 7 p.m. tonight, June 20, at Wellfleet Preservation Hall, as part of the Local Lens Film Series, introducing the film and doing a Q and A afterward.

“Farmer of the Year” tells the story of Hap Anderson (played by Barry Corbin of “Northern Exposure” and “No Country for Old Men”), who sells his family farm to his son and daughter-in-law, packs up his Winnebago camper and travels to California for a reunion of his World War II regiment with his granddaughter, Ashley (Mackinlee Waddell), a modish millennial.

“Audiences really enjoy the film,” Swanson says. “It’s a ‘coming-of-aging’ story with a sense of real life within the rural Midwest vernacular. Cinematically, as the landscape is so evocative, we knew it would transfer well to film, and we wanted to introduce an audience to a location and lifestyle that’s rarely seen.”

They’re working hard to make it visible. Swanson and O’Connell say that they have screened the movie at multiplexes, film festivals, independent theaters, and rehabilitated community spaces across the country. “We’ve had ten showings a day in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, where the subject matter and setting were very familiar,” O’Connell says. In Hendricks, Mich., for example, they sold 900 tickets in a very small township.

Swanson’s screenplay is gentle and nostalgic, with a smattering of sweet-tempered comedy. Although stubborn in his ways, Hap is a likable guy who has still got game when Ashley introduces him to online dating.

Swanson and O’Connell hired a professional director of photography, Rob Featherstone, and, with incentives from the State of Minnesota, got Will Van De Crommert to compose an original score. The 28 other crew members were either local or from their alma mater, Ohio University. Other than the principals, they got locals to act in the film, including local police officers — and their cars. In one scene, the cops arrive when Hap pilfers a corn ornament from the Corn Palace gift shop after his traveler’s checks are rejected by the cashier. “The chief of police wasn’t exactly expecting the policeman driving the vehicle to turn the lights on,” O’Connell says. “So there was a little difficulty there, in terms of legality.”

While discussing the film at their beach house, they get a call from Swanson’s father — most likely about an internet problem, O’Connell says — the man who partly inspired the character of Hap and gave the couple permission to shoot on his farm. “I’ve always felt lucky to have that world as my foundation,” Swanson says. “I grew up doing chores, knowing everyone, dancing with my parents at the Legion Hall, and watching beef commercials. It was only natural to draw from that world.”

In anticipation of summer renters, Swanson and O’Connell are planning to move their editing lab and equipment back to Vermont. They eventually hope to release the film on DVD with a commentary track, but their last plan of action is to put it on a streaming platform. “We have a great mailing list of people really dedicated and supportive of the film,” O’Connell says.

Screenings of ‘Farmer of the Year’ set for April 16-18

– April 9th, 2019, Ohio University

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.

ATHENS, Ohio (April 9, 2019)  – Ohio University film MFA students, Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell, will be screening their OHIO-supported feature film, “ Farmer of the Year,” at the  Athena Cinema from 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, 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 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. “The road trip is to his World War II reunion in California. 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 can come and enjoy seeing 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).

{PHOTO CAPTION: 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.}


Contact: Samantha Pelham, media relations specialist, at pelham@ohio.edu or 740-597-1939. Visit OHIO’s official media page for the latest University news and updates, or follow us on Twitter @ohioumedia.

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– April 15th, 2019, Keisha Martin, Ohio University Film

The Athena Cinema is opening its doors once again to OU Alumni as Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell bring their feature-length film, Farmer of the Year, to Athens, Ohio. Screenings take place on Tuesday, April 16th, at 7 PM, Wednesday, April 17th, at 5 PM, and Thursday, April 18th, at 7 PM. All screenings have a Q&A afterwards.

Farmer of the Year follows the story of 83 year-old Minnesotan farmer, Hap Anderson, who sells the farm he worked his whole life on. Now at a loss, Hap and his brother set out on the road trip of a lifetime in an ancient Winnebago all while Hap questions his purpose and accomplishments along the way. The film stars Barry Corbin (No Country for Old Men, WarGames), Mackinlee Waddell (GCB) and Terry Keiser (Bernie Lomax from Weekend At Bernie’s).

Farmer of the Year has been a project long in the making, starting all the way back in the winter of 2014. Kathy expresses that “Vince and I had done so many short films between us, we figured it was time to do a feature…the gold standard of filmmaking.” So the project took off with both Vince and Kathy pulling inspiration from their lives. Kathy, who grew up on the farm used in the film, wanted to show the world in which she grew up in “doing chores, knowing everyone in town, and dancing with her parents at the legion hall.” With a foundation laid, they wanted to create a theme for the story. “I had been watching my 80-year-old dad struggle with staying young and positive and liked the idea of a young person’s and an old person’s lives paralleling each other” Kathy said. “I wanted to blend those aging and transition themes with authentic dialog and real people. Our intention was to universalize themes for people who are finding their way between stasis and change. So, it’s really relatable for all ages.”

The principal photography for the film was 28 days in the summer of 2016 with four additional days of pickups the following summer when the exteriors all matched the same. An official wrap of production happened after a one-day shoot in January 2018, which was only three weeks before the film’s world premiere at the Sedona International Film Festival.

An experienced crew was needed in order to make this film happen. “Our cinematographer was out of New York and our sound person was out of Minneapolis.” Recruiting other crew via “OU grads and word of mouth…we did a couple of recruiting presentations at the school. We reached out to the School of Film, Media Arts, Journalism, classmates. Also, we didn’t really want to make the film unless we were able to recruit some experienced, recognizable actors. And we really didn’t know where to start, so we just started…one step at a time. And learned about the casting process.”

In the end, Farmer of the Year was finished and on its way to being shown to the public. Kathy and Vince express that, “We want the audience to empathize with the two main characters and to experience a deceptively simple movie that engages serious, universal themes: transition, aging, loss, loneliness. We wanted it to be funny in a human, real-life sort of way. The same with the drama. We want the audience to relate to the characters and feel satisfied when they leave the theater.” To achieve this, they worked endlessly to keep “high production values and score and a project we could be proud of.” Most of all, though, Kathy and Vince want people to enjoy the film.

Kathy and Vince express excitement in response to bringing the film back to their alma mater. “We don’t know how many of the crew are still around, but it will be really fun for them to see their hard work up on the big screen. Also, we were in Athens long enough to meet a lot of nonstudent folks and it will be fun for them to see it too. And it will be enlightening for current film students, if they are serious about being filmmakers, to see that making a feature film is possible.” Along with this, they express thanks to Ohio University students, alumni, the Ohio University School of Film for the equipment, and grant funding through a Student Enhancement Award. Additionally, they extend gratitude to “School of Film faculty and filmmaker Tom Hayes…who’s editing help was invaluable and Annie Howell, an ex OU faculty member and filmmaker, who was very generous with information and support as well…even after she retired from the program.

Kathy and Vince have no plans on stopping now that they have the ball rolling. “Farmer of the Year is still going strong and, as long as that is the case, we’ll keep promoting and screening it around the country. We have another screenplay and we’re just starting work on securing funding. Another thing we’ve never done!”

Make sure to catch Farmer of the Year this week only at the Athena Cinema, April 16th -18th. And stay after the screening for a talk back with the filmmakers.


– March 18th, 2019, Audrey Kletscher, MN Prairie Roots

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

HER BACKGROUND MIMICS MINE. Grew up doing chores on a southwestern Minnesota dairy farm in a community where everyone knows everyone. Surrounded by a large, extended family. Danced at the American Legion Hall, ate beef commercials and called the noon meal dinner, the evening meal supper.

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.
Although I’ve never met Kathy Swanson, I feel a sisterhood with her. We are both creatives, decidedly connected to the Minnesota prairie of our roots. The place that shaped us, that remains a part of our identities and our creative work.

That mutual rural background is the reason I’m so excited about Kathy’s award-winning independent feature film, Farmer of the Year, produced and directed with her life partner, Vince O’Connell. That film by YellowHouse Films (named after the yellow house in Vermont where the couple lives) shows at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 23, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. Ticket cost is $10. When Kathy reached out to me asking for help in bringing the film to Faribault, I didn’t hesitate. I’m always happy to assist another creative and especially someone from my home region. My native county of Redwood is a bit farther to the north and east of hers.

Filming in southwestern Minnesota. Photo courtesy of YellowHouse Films.

Kathy, a former Lincoln County Dairy Princess, grew up near Tyler, a farming community of some 1,100 within a half hour drive of the South Dakota border. The Vermont filmmakers took their cast and crew to southwestern Minnesota, shooting scenes on Kathy’s home farm (now owned by her brother and his wife), inside her octogenarian father’s house, at the local Citizens State Bank, on area roads and more. The crew also filmed in places like The Lunch Box Cafe and Hole in the Mountain Park in Lake Benton and in downtown Marshall. The film takes viewers along Interstate 90 in Minnesota and into South Dakota, right up to the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. Other shots are of Mesa, Arizona. And, most unique, 1950s farming footage from Kathy’s dad’s 8mm film incorporated into Farmer of the Year. Such documentation can only add to the authenticity of the film.

The mail carrier in the film is the real Tyler mailman. The guy mowing the cemetery is the guy who mows the cemetery. This is real rural life, a life Kathy understands well and tapped into when writing the script.

The character-driven film tells the story of an 83-year-old widower farmer who has just sold his farm, then gets an invitation to his World War II Army reunion in California. Hap Anderson and his granddaughter take off in a 1973 Winnebago with plans to stop in Nebraska so Hap can reconnect with an old flame.

So much of the promo material about Farmer of the Year resonates with me:

The film aspires to have a sense of real life within the rural Midwest vernacular.

Farmer of the Year blends the comedy and drama of life into a deceptively simple story of aging, transition and resilience.

Life is one long growing season.

Rated between a PG and a PG13 film, Farmer of the Year has already been widely-shown and praised in Minnesota. It stars noted performers like Barry Corbin of Northern Exposure fame, Mackinlee Waddell of Good Christian Belles, Terry Kiser of Weekend at Bernie’s and others with impressive credentials. YellowHouse Films has 20 short films to its production credit.

Just north of Lamberton in southern Redwood County, my home county. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Just north of Lamberton in southern Redwood County, my home county. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I look forward to watching this 1-hour, 43-minute film in my community of Faribault, a 2 ½-hour drive from my hometown of Vesta. I value the exposure southwestern Minnesota gets in Farmer of the Year. This rural region seems too often underappreciated, too often considered the middle-of-nowhere. But it’s some place. It’s the place that shaped creatives like Kathy and me. It’s a place we once called home among people we loved in a land we loved. Still love.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photos (unless otherwise noted) courtesy and copyright of YellowHouse Films


– October 30th, 2018, Staff Report, Greenfield Recorder

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

PLAINFIELD — Vince O’Connell and Kathy Swanson will bring their award-winning feature film, “Farmer of the Year” to Plainfield Congregational Church on Friday at 7 p.m.

Longtime Plainfield residents, O’Connell and Swanson retired and sold the business they created, VOMAX, and thought about what they’d do next. Then, one long, cold night, while watching a bad movie they started thinking they should apply to some film schools, they said. Nine years later, they were winning awards in film festivals with their first feature.

“We’re wrapping up our festival itinerary and starting to self-distribute the film theatrically,” said Swanson. “We’ve been in about 40 theaters since September.”

The film is screening in theaters from Washington to Vermont — from multiplexes and family owned chains to four-walling, which is what they are doing in Plainfield where they will bring their own equipment and turn the venue into a movie theater.

“We had a lot of venue options for premiering the film in western Mass,” said Swanson. “But we really wanted to screen it in Plainfield. It still feels like home.”

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

Written by Swanson and shot largely at the farm on which she grew up and in her hometown of Tyler, Minn. (population 1,200), “Farmer of the Year” is the story of Hap Anderson, a widowed 83-year-old farmer who thinks he’s still quite the ladies’ man.

After selling the family farm he has worked for more than 60 years, he finds himself adrift and staring a short future in the face. Driven by the possibility of showing up with an old flame and impressing his old army buddies, he sets out in a dilapidated 1973 Winnebago to attend his 65th World War II reunion in California with his unreasonably self-confident and also directionless granddaughter, Ashley.

Along the way, Hap with his road map and Ashley with her gps, begin to understand and appreciate each other as individuals, while discovering that being young and being old aren’t all that different. It’s a deceptively simple look, presented lightly and with humor, at aging, transitions, loss and family.

Filled with understated small-town humor and restraint, “Farmer of the Year” captures the sense of real life, location and spirit of rural America with a unique combination of homegrown and Hollywood.

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

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. It won Best Actor for Corbin’s performance at Woods Hole, and was nominated for Best Feature Film and Best Actor at the Soho International Film Festival in New York City, N.Y., and Lady Filmmakers Festival in Los Angeles, Calif.

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

Swanson wrote the screenplay and O’Connell did the editing. They both directed and produced the film.

The screening of “Farmer of the Year” at Plainfield Congregational Church, 1 Church Lane, will be followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers.


– December 5th, 2018, by Margot Harrison, Seven Days

Farmer of the Year may be the most Vermont movie ever made in Minnesota. To explain: Directors Vince O’Connell and Kathy Swanson shot the film in the Midwest, much of it in Swanson’s hometown of Tyler, Minn. (population 1,100). Then the couple, who own YellowHouse Films, did most of the postproduction at their yellow house in Craftsbury Common, Vt.

Since then, the low-key comedy-drama has played festivals around the U.S., picking up honors such as the New Filmmakers Forum Emerging Director Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Audiences have praised its authenticity and humor and compared it to The Straight Story. Vermonters, however, might be more likely to think of John O’Brien’s Man With a Plan.

Like that 1996 local cult classic, Farmer of the Year tells the story of a retired farmer who’s not ready to slow down. Barry Corbin, who played Maurice on “Northern Exposure,” stars as 83-year-old widower Hap Anderson, narrating the film in voice-over. Slow-moving and soft-spoken, Hap’s just sold the family farm to his son and daughter-in-law, but he’s still over there every day.

When the younger folks hint that they’d like him to back off, Hap decides to spiff up his ’73 Winnebago and road-trip to the reunion of his World War II regiment, picking up an old flame along the way. Meanwhile, his fresh-out-of-college granddaughter, Ashley (Mackinlee Waddell), is fed up with living with her folks. After a blowup with her mom about her jobless status, she opts to join Gramps on his cross-country jaunt.

In the wrong hands, this odd-couple story could have been pure corn. But Swanson’s screenplay avoids sentimentality, achieving instead the kind of gentle, humanistic comedy we rarely see these days in movie theaters. While the film’s first third is a little rambling, it gathers steam as the pair sets off through South Dakota.

Corbin and Waddell create full-fledged characters with great comic chemistry: Hap is an ornery bugger under his reserve, while Ashley wields a masterful millennial deadpan. Both are navigating life transitions, and neither has much figured out. While Hap tries to pay for transactions with his ancient traveler’s checks and persists in hitting on women his son’s age, the equally lovelorn Ashley is convinced all the answers are searchable on her phone.

The film punctures both their delusions, often with ironic visual contrasts. (When Hap touts himself as runner-up for the local honor of Farmer of the Year, for instance, we see that honor being conferred in a severely underpopulated auditorium.) But there’s no mean-spiritedness in Farmer of the Year and no patronizing jokes about aging. While the pair don’t “learn lessons” from each other in any obvious way, the film has its share of understated poignant moments.

Hap is a Midwesterner through and through; the depths of skepticism with which he infuses the interjection “I s’pose” made me feel like my Iowan grandma had returned to life. Yet Vermonters will immediately grasp the stakes of this story in which the old warily approaches the new. Farmer of the Year suggests there’s no right time in life to stop growing.

O’Connell and Swanson know something about that: They headed to film school comparatively late in life, after selling their athletic-apparel company, VOmax. If this movie is any indication, it’s far from the last we’ll hear from them.

Farmer of the Year screens on Thursday, December 6, at 7 p.m. (followed by filmmaker Q&A) and Sunday, December 9, at 3:30 p.m. at Essex Cinemas. Regular admission.


– September 28th, 2018, by Spokesman-Review

Filmmakers Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell call their film “Farmer of the Year” a “coming of aging adventure.”

After selling his farm, widowed 83-year-old veteran Hap Anderson (Barry Corbin) is looking for some excitement.

And at first, a trip to a 65th World War II reunion seems to be just what he’s after.

But he can’t show up to the reunion without a date, “like some kind of loser,” so he, joined by his unemployed granddaughter Ashley (Mackinlee Waddell), decides to drive from Minnesota to California in his 1973 Winnebago, planning to pick up a former flame on the way.

Despite their impending deadline to make the reunion, Anderson and, reluctantly, Ashley throw their agenda to the wayside to stop at a handful of oddball tourist attractions, like the Corn Palace in South Dakota (“Corn I help you?” an employee asks Anderson).

During the trip, and with the help of a few eccentric characters, Anderson realizes he doesn’t have to be defined by his age.

The film will have its Pacific Northwest premiere Saturday at the Cutter Theatre in Metaline Falls, where Swanson and O’Connell once lived.

“Farmer of the Year” is Swanson and O’Connell’s first feature film, though the pair has made several shorts through their Yellow House Films since attending a yearlong film program in Nelson, British Columbia, in 2009.

It was during this time that the pair split their time between Nelson and Metaline Falls.

“We had always liked film. It wasn’t like we were born with a camera in our hands,” Swanson said. “If there was an indie filmmaker showing a film within 100 miles and there was going to be a Q&A, we would always go because they were really interesting.”

The story of Anderson and Ashley was personal for both Swanson and O’Connell.

A few years ago, O’Connell’s uncle lost his wife of 60 years. Around the same time, that uncle’s grandson graduated from college and was a little confused as to his next step.

“They moved in together and supported each other as buddies and helped each other get through that tough time,” Swanson said. “We were visiting, and I could see all that. It was such a wonderful situation, the two generations supporting each other like that.”

When creating the character of Anderson, Swanson also took characteristics from her father.

“People will ask ‘How did you nail aging so well?’ ” she said. “ ‘I have a bigger than life example right in front of me.’ ”

The pair shot “Farmer of the Year” in Minnesota and South Dakota in 28 days during the summer of 2016, following five months of pre-production work that found the pair staying with Swanson’s father in Tyler, Minnesota, where she grew up.

Swanson grew up on the farm that doubled as Anderson’s farm (her brother still works the land), and the pair used Swanson’s father’s home as Anderson’s home.

The pair filmed a new opening sequence during the summer of 2017, and filmed a new ending in January.

“It was blowing snow, but we made it look like summer,” O’Connell said.

“Farmer of the Year” star Corbin is best known for roles in “Northern Exposure,” “WarGames” and “One Tree Hill.”

The pair believes Corbin was interested in the role of Anderson because it was unlike the military or law enforcement characters he typically portrays.

“He’s a real pro,” O’Connell said. “We had a limited amount of time, and we had 37 locations, so the fact that he could nail it in one or two takes really helped.”

The pair estimates they had about about 60 actors and 25 crew members, a majority of whom came from the graduate film program at Ohio University they attended after their time in Nelson.

“It was a huge undertaking but there was a huge amount of community involvement,” O’Connell said.

For instance, the town’s electrician, who Swanson attended school with, let the crew use their boom truck for overhead shots, and the mailman in the film was played by the town’s mailman.

Swanson estimates about 18 members of her extended family appear somewhere in the film.

“What’s interesting is the film has that small town, local soul, but it has Hollywood production values so it’s a really nice combination, I think, of homegrown and Hollywood,” she said. “Audiences really are enjoying it.”

Some audience members, O’Connell said, think the film is a documentary because the acting and story seem so natural.

Critics are clearly enjoying it too, as the film has garnered a number of awards and nominations from several film festivals, including the Lady Filmmakers Film Festival in Beverly Hills, the Woods Hole Film Festival in Massachusetts and the Breckenridge Film Festival in Colorado.

Swanson and O’Connell are happy to see that no matter where they screen “Farmer of the Year,” audiences have taken to the film’s Midwestern sensibility.

They’ve been approached by a few distributors but are waiting to find the right fit. In the meantime, they’re screening the film theatrically, hoping to make it to as many screens as they can.

“We want as many people to see it as possible and we really believe in the project so it’s not that hard to sell,” Swanson said.


– April 11th, 2018, by Sleepy Eye Online

The directors of the Film “Farmer of the Year” liked the name “Sleepy Eye” so much they used it as the fictional hometown name for the character in their movie.

Kathy Swanson, originally from Tyler, MN and Vince O’Connell wrote, directed and produced the feature film.  Although none of the footage was filmed in Sleepy Eye, the name seemed to fit the story.

“I’ve always loved that name and it’s pretty specific to Minnesota,” said Kathy. “If you do an internet search on ‘Sleepy Eye’ you get the Minnesota ‘Sleepy Eye’ on Hwy 14. The name is charming, memorable, interesting and right down the road (from Tyler where many of the scenes were shot).”

“We are screening the film in Minneapolis at St Anthony Main Theater as part of the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival April 13, April 24 and in Rochester April 27,” continued Kathy. “Yes, SLEEPY EYE (in name only) on the big screen.”

The film performed well at the Sedona International Film Festival held in Arizona earlier this year.


When Hap Anderson, a widowed 83-year-old Minnesota farmer that thinks he’s still quite the ladies’ man, sells his family farm, he finds himself adrift and staring a short future in the face. Driven by the possibility of showing up with an old flame and impressing his old army buddies, he sets out to attend his 65th WWII reunion in California with his directionless and unreasonably self-confident granddaughter, Ashley. Each with their own issues and agendas, they head west in a dilapidated Winnebago. Encountering oddball tourist attractions and eccentric characters, they find themselves in seemingly impossible situations with only each other for support. As the journey progresses so does their relationship and they begin to understand and appreciate each other as individuals while discovering that being young and being old, aren’t all that different.

View Trailer


– August 16th, 2016, by Karin Elton, Marshall Independent

‘Hap and Ashley’ crew, along with star Barry Corbin, makes its way to small town

TYLER – Allen Lund and Bill Furan, both of Tyler, are bracing themselves for the fame that is sure to come once the movie, “Hap and Ashley,” which filmed a scene Friday in Tyler, premieres.

Allen Lund and Bill Furan embrace their new found fame.

Their parts were comprised of sitting in chairs parked against the wall at the Tyler American Legion.

“We do pretend talking and pointing a little,” Lund said.

No makeup was required for their roles.

“They figured we were handsome enough – we didn’t need any,” Lund said.

Lund figures he’ll soon be vying for parts that would otherwise go to Robert Redford. Not that Lund is a complete novice – he performed in a school play in the 1940s after all.

Yes, Furan said, this is their first time appearing in a movie.

“They don’t come to Tyler too often,” he said.

The film is about a Minnesota farmer, played by Barry Corbin, an actor notable for the “Northern Exposure” TV series and from the movie,”WarGames,” and his granddaughter, Ashley, played by Mackinlee Waddell, who was in the series, “Good Christian Belles.” The two venture to California in a Winnebago to attend a World War II veterans reunion. The reunion takes place at an American Legion which was filmed at the A. C. Hansen Post 185 in Tyler. Tyler native Kathy Swanson and her husband, Vince O’Connell, now of Vermont, are filming their movie this month in Marshall, Lake Benton and Tyler.

Lund and Furan said they were able to rearrange their schedules to fit the filming in. All joking aside, the pair found the behind-the-scenes look at how movies are made fascinating, as did Frank Jorgensen and Sandy Hanson, both of Tyler. Jorgensen and Hanson also were holding down seats next to a wall. For a while, Jorgensen got to get up and get drinks for himself and Hanson during filming, but that was eliminated probably since the buffet table was getting too crowded for the actors.

Jorgensen said even though he is sitting in a seat for most of the day, it’s been “very interesting” to watch how a movie is created.

Hanson said she hadn’t know how many times the same scene has to be filmed to get all the camera angles.

Jorgensen has known Swanson, the film’s writer and director, since she was a young girl. Hanson said her neighbor is Swanson’s brother. Hanson’s farmhouse was filmed for an outside shot.

Teresa Schreurs of Tyler spent the day Friday at the Legion waiting for her cue to step out on the dance floor and serve drinks to reunion attendees. After her character, Marlene, delivers the drinks, one of the Legionnaires asks her to dance. The two-piece old-time band plays a few bars of music so the dancers can get the beat. Schreurs and her partner on the dance floor, George Ruhmann of Tyler, another couple and a lone dancer must keep dancing in silence until they hear the “cut” signal.

Ruhmann said he hasn’t danced in years, and “hasn’t fast-danced ever.”

Schreurs was familiar with jitterbugging, so she came up with a few steps for her and Ruhmann to repeat for the camera.

Schreurs didn’t wake up that morning thinking she was going to be in a movie. She had seen a Facebook post announcing a casting call for background players who are older than 60. She doesn’t fall into that age category, but since she has acted in Lake Benton Opera House productions, she replied to the post saying she would like to help out or just watch. Friday morning she was asked to come in and play a waitress at the American Legion. When she is not delivering drinks and dancing, Schreurs has been watching the crew.
“This is exciting,” Schreurs said. “It’s so fun to see how this all goes together.”

Schreurs said the assistant directors are doing a good job giving direction to people who have no experience in acting in movies.

“The entire crew having been nothing but polite and extremely accommodating to us,” she said.


– August 5th, 2016, by Karin Elton, Marshall Independent

MARSHALL – People driving by on Main Street or shopping in downtown Marshall might have wondered what was going on Thursday. Cameras, a boom microphone, people yelling “rolling” and “quiet please” could be seen and heard.

Tyler native Kathy Swanson and her husband, Vince O’Connell, now of Vermont, are filming their movie, “Hap and Ashley,” in the area through Aug. 16.

Marshall was filling in for Mitchell, S.D., Thursday morning because of the logistics of filming in busier Mitchell and also Marshall was more conveniently located to crew members driving from Minneapolis, said the film’s unit production manager, Michael Arter.

Arter, who is from Ohio, but is now based in Los Angeles, said they are filming in Tyler, Lake Benton and Marshall and they were recently at the Corn Palace in Mitchell for two days.

The film is about an elderly farmer, played by Barry Corbin of “Northern Exposure” and “War Games” fame, and his teenaged granddaughter, Ashley, played by Mackinlee Waddell of Austin, Texas. The two head to California in a rundown Winnebago to attend a World War II veterans reunion.

The cast and crew are from all over the United States including actor Terry Kiser, who played the title role in “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

A few locals are working on the film such as key grip Joel Hamilton, who recently moved back to Marshall after living in Minneapolis. He attended Southwest (Minnesota) State University before starting his film production career, which includes working on the major motion picture, “The Purge,” and the Academy award-winning movie, “Whiplash.” A key grip works with the camera equipment.

Swanson’s niece, Tashauna Swanson, of Marshall, designed and developed the film’s website, yellowhousefilms.com where people can find more information about the movie.

The crew filmed in front of Marshall businesses including Coco Avenue, the Daily Grind, Bursch Travel and Mr. Cool’s.

Based in Tyler, the cast and crew are eating and shopping in Marshall including at Hunan Lion and Caribou Coffee.

The city personnel and townspeople have been “super-friendly,” said location manager Cory Pratt, who is in charge of procuring permits and scouting locations. Pratt is from east Tennessee but met Swanson and O’Connell in film school in Ohio.

Pratt said post-production takes about a year, after which the two plan to enter “Hap and Ashley” in various film festivals.

“After it kind of lives on the festival circuit for awhile, there’s a good chance a film of this size could get on Netflix or Amazon,” Pratt said. “There’s not a huge chance it would get released in theaters, but it could be released in larger cities.”

They plan to have a premiere event in Tyler or Marshall sometime in 2017.

“Everyone in the area has been so kind to us,” said Pratt.


– August 2nd, 2016, by Katherine Clayton, Mitchell Daily Republic

The Corn Palace parking lot was a movie set Tuesday.

Cast and crew members watched as a white RV pulled into the parking lot north of the Corn Palace for a scene of a film on Tuesday.
According to co-director Kathy Swanson, “Hap and Ashley” is the working title of the movie about a grandfather and granddaughter who go on a roadtrip in a RV from Tyler, Minnesota, to California.

“It’s kind of a transition roadtrip,” Swanson said.

The grandfather, Hap, recently sold his farm in Tyler, and his granddaughter, Ashley, recently finished college. The film highlights their adventures as they commute cross country.

In the film, Hap and Ashley stop in Mitchell to visit the Corn Palace.

“It’s a Midwestern icon. It’s important to have that authentic Midwestern (feel),” said Swanson about the Corn Palace.

Swanson wanted to highlight the Midwest and her childhood home of Tyler. During her time in Minnesota, she is staying with her 84-year-old father.

The cast and crew is comprised of approximately 85 people from Minneapolis, Ohio University and other areas.

Main character roles for the film are filled by Barry Corbin as Hap and Mackinlee Waddell as Ashley. Terry Kiser, known for his role in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” fills the role of Virgil; one of the characters in the movie.

Swanson and her husband, Vince O’Connell, are film MFA students at Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies and they are producing the film as thesis project. Swanson wrote the script, and both individuals are directing and producing.

Swanson and O’Connell started preproduction for the film in 2014, and they expect the film to be completed by next summer.

“It blends the comedy and drama of life,” Swanson said.

The film’s cast and crew began filming the middle of July and will end the middle of August. A majority of the film has been done in Tyler and other portions of southwestern Minnesota.

For Swanson, it has been a dream to return to the Midwest and her hometown to film the movie.


May 14, 2016 By Karin Elton, Marshall Independent

Tyler native Kathy Swanson is returning to her roots to put together an independent film.

They say writers should write what they know. For Tyler native Kathy Swanson, what she knows is the Tyler area.

Swanson, who now lives in Vermont with her husband, Vince O’Connell, is returning to her roots this summer to shoot a feature film based on a screenplay she wrote.

The two are producing and directing the “ultra low-budget” independent film, O’Connell said. Swanson wrote the script, which has a working title of “Hap and Ashley.”

The film’s principal photography will be shot in and around Tyler between July 17 and Aug. 16. The two were in Marshall last week to hold auditions for the two lead roles and will have auditions in June for about 30 other roles including featured extras, extras and background actors. Additional auditions will take place in Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, S.D.

The film will serve as Swanson’s and O’Connell’s master of fine arts thesis. After selling a successful manufacturing business 10 years ago, the two decided to attend film school and make movies as a creative outlet.

O’Connell said running a business is a good background for overseeing a film set.

“The production and business aspect, in that we know how to organize a big project,” he said. “That’s something that you do not get in film school.”

The two will employ 24 crew members – “a standard crew, but condensed,” he said.<

“Hap and Ashley” tells the story of a farmer who, after selling his farm, rebels against old age by road tripping across the country with his exasperated granddaughter.

“The film has universal themes – a lot of layers,” Swanson said. “It’s a dramatic comedy.”

The film’s characters aren’t based on anyone in particular, O’Connell said, but are an “amalgamation of traits and behaviors of people – some more than others.”

Swanson is looking forward to the prospect of spending a greater amount of time in Tyler this summer. Her father, Howard, still lives in Tyler. Usually the visits are two or three days long two or three times a year.

The main characters have 25 days of filming, while the 21 other roles will have one day to film. The actors and crew will stay at Danebod in Tyler during filming – except for one week which was already booked. During that week the Tyler hotel will be filled as well as other hotels in the area.

Craft services will be from Danebod as well.

“If we’re out filming a couple miles from Tyler, the food will be brought to us,” Swanson said. “We’ll be having lots of picnics.”

When not in Tyler, the pair and their crew will also venture to South Dakota for additional filming.

They will comply with green standards – leaving as small a footprint as possible, which is important to them.

“We will recycle and compost,” said O’Connell. “With the 20 short films we have made, we had the carbon footprint almost down to zero.”

After the film is all wrapped up, the two plan on taking the movie as far as it can go.

“We’ll submit it to the festivals – Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes,” said O’Connell. “Plus, there are other venues such as streaming, direct sales. We’ll travel with it.”

One of the hallmarks of being a film student is ambition. No matter who you are or where you are, if you’re a film student then chances are you dream big. Now, two of Ohio University Film’s own are about to make their big dreams into reality.

MFA candidates, Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell are currently preparing to shoot an independent feature film for their final, thesis project here at OU. The film, Hap and Ashley (working title), tells the story of an aging farmer who, after selling his farm, struggles to maintain his youth by road tripping across the country with his granddaughter.

Taking place over a thirty day window this summer (July 17th – August 16th), the film’s principle photography will be shot in and around Southwestern Minnesota in Tyler, a small town of about one thousand people which also happens to be where Swanson herself grew up. When not in Tyler, the pair and their crew will also venture to scenic South Dakota for additional filming.

Earlier this month, Swanson and O’Connell gave presentations to OU students interested in crewing on the film. Not only are there internship credits available for students, the pair explained, this opportunity will grant some aspiring filmmakers the chance to gain some necessary but often hard to come by experience working on a feature set.

Not only will students be able to add that all too important feature credit onto their resume, the opportunity affords the chance to gain a multitude of professional connections created by working side-by-side with experiences pros.

Unlike the classic LA experience of being a PA on a feature set where aspiring men and women often find themselves directing traffic three blocks away from the actual set, here they will be up close, right in the middle of the action.

And the cherry on top? It doesn’t cost you anything. Students who agree to crew on Swanson and O’Connell’s set will receive both food an lodging free of charge as well as a two-hundred dollar travel stipend. Experience on an actual feature set where you’ll be fed and housed? It’s hard to beat a deal that good.

Swanson and O’Connell begin rolling out their PR campaign starting today, April 9th, to start the one hundred day countdown to their day of shooting. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for students here at OU and an endeavor of which we in the OU Film Division are extremely proud and eager to see come to fruition.

If you are interested in Swanson and O’Connell’s film, Hap and Ashley, or would simply like for information about the project, you can contact them at kathy@kathyandvince.org. And stayed tuned to OU Film blog for periodic updates on the project.

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