Waukon’s Katie O’Regan, Sacred Noise Society announce plans for July 23-25 Spring Grove-Caledonia Film Festival

Daniel Baldwin ...

Ed Asner during last year’s film festival...

Katie O’Regan ...

Festival events include prayer service at St. Patrick’s Church in Waukon with guest speaker Daniel Baldwin

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Sacred Noise Society, Inc., founded by Katie O’Regan of Waukon, has announced plans for the Spring Grove-Caledonia Film Festival scheduled for July 23-25, including an event in the Waukon area.

Featuring two plays, 42 movies, a parade and an award ceremony, the festival welcomes this year’s special guest of honor Daniel Baldwin, last year’s guest of honor Ed Asner and (via Zoom) Alec Baldwin – along with several other filmmakers who will be participating in live talk-backs after their films’ screenings.

Dr. Robi Ludwig, nationally known psychotherapist, award-winning reporter, and a regular on Nightline, CNN, Headline News and The Fox News Channel - where she talks about psychological/lifestyle issues - will be a special guest star announcer at the festival. She will be doing a live feed via Zoom for her online program, “Talking Live.”

Among the many events taking place during the festival weekend is a prayer service scheduled for Sunday, July 25 at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Waukon. Daniel Baldwin will be the special guest speaker for that event.

To purchase tickets for the film festival and see a full schedule of events, go to sacrednoisesociety.org.

People who know Waukon’s Katie O’Regan think of her as someone who “gets things done.” She just thinks of herself as someone who “shows up”; who pays attention and listens to the inner creative voice she calls “sacred noise - the quiet whisper that says, ‘Do this.’”

When O’Regan, a long-time actress, dancer, producer and director, founded and hosted the Spring Grove International Film Festival in Spring Grove, MN last year, she based the event on an idea that had come to her in a dream. She reached out on social media to friends in the industry and told them about her plan.

“I know we’re supposed to do this,” she said. Brian Connors - an actor and director from New York City now living and working in Los Angeles - saw the post. “I love what you’re doing with this,” he wrote in a message. “I have an independent film - do you want to see it?”

One of the stars of that film, “Senior Entourage,” was multiple award-winning actor Ed Asner. One thing led to another, and Asner came to Spring Grove as the inaugural film festival’s guest of honor last year. Asner is returning to this year’s film festival, to perform in a staged readers’ theatre presentation of “Good Morning, Miss America.”

Written by Portland artist Phyllis Yes, the presentation is Saturday, July 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the Caledonia Municipal Auditorium. Yes will be attending the event.

“I look forward with great anticipation to attending the Film Festival in Caledonia,” Yes said. “I definitely will be there to hear Ed Asner and the cast do a reading of my play, ‘Good Morning Miss America’. I’m so excited that Sacred Noise Society and Katie O’Regan are putting this together for everyone to see. My play and the movie are based on real life experiences.”

O’Regan has done two full productions of “Good Morning, Miss America” - one in Decorah and one off-Broadway; the company currently is in pre-production for shooting a movie version in Los Angeles, CA in the fall.

When it came time to organize this year’s film festival - re-named the Spring Grove-Caledonia Film Festival, O’Regan again turned to her friend, Brian Connors. “I was talking with Brian, and I wondered about who we could have as a special guest this year,” she recalls. She’d recently had a dream about Alec Baldwin; and, being someone who has long taken dreams seriously, she got in touch with Baldwin’s management agency.

“I started emailing with his assistant, and he was really nice; he told me to send him some ideas,” O’Regan explained.

It turned out that it wasn’t going to work out to have Alec; but O’Regan did some research and learned about a film his brother, Daniel, had made called “My Promise to PJ.” She mentioned the film, and her interest in it, to Alec’s assistant; he said he would pass that on to Alec.

“Not long after that, I got an email from Daniel,” O’Regan recalls. “He asked me, ‘Do you think it’s too late for me to submit my movie to your film festival?’ I told him I would love to have him submit it; and I promised him that I would watch it as soon as I got it, and that I would let him know. I watched it late one night and emailed him right away and said, ‘Um, yes - absolutely. We need your movie in the festival.’ He emailed me back: ‘Thank you so much for watching my film, and thank you for your words.’”

Eventually they spoke on the phone and arranged for Daniel to be the special guest at the 2021 Spring Grove-Caledonia Film Festival. The next day, O’Regan received another email from Alec’s assistant, informing her that Alec wanted to talk to her. “Are you all set to do this with my brother?,” he asked her. She said yes, and he said, “Okay, I’ll put it on my schedule.”

With that, O’Regan had lined up Alec Baldwin for a special live-via-Zoom appearance at the film festival, following the screening of his brother’s documentary.

“When God gives you a dream and it is so vivid, and you don’t believe that action is needed, it’s a mistake,” O’Regan says.

Shortly after finalizing arrangements, O’Regan spoke at length with Daniel via Zoom about the movie, and about the actor’s reasons for making it. The full interview is available for viewing on Facebook @ Katie O’Regan.

“The film is about a boy that I knew since he was born,” Daniel told O’Regan during the interview. “I’m good friends with his parents, since my childhood. In my sobriety, I have always put it out there that I am here to be of service. That I’m here to serve God, and help people that are struggling with this problem of addiction.”

“His mother, like many others, came to me and asked me to help her son, who was a heroin addict. And this went on for over an eight-year period. I’d put him in recovery, he would do well when he was there, and he would get out, and he wouldn’t follow through and he would relapse and he would get in more trouble, legally,” Daniel continued.

“So the last time I put him in, I asked him to write a bucket list of the 10 things he always wanted to do - that if he overdosed or was incarcerated, he wouldn’t get a chance to do,” Daniel said. “He wrote his list, and I compared it to the list I wrote in 2006, when I got sober. And we had one match - to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

So I told him that if he got two years sober, I would take him to run with the bulls.”

PJ stayed sober for three years, but they never had a chance to go to Spain. “He decided it would be wise to try heroin one more time. He shot heroin, and on the first shot it was laced with fentanyl. He overdosed and died, and we lost him,” Daniel said.

Daniel said he struggled with this loss for a couple of years. He decided to lose weight and start training for a trip to run with the bulls in Pamplona - and to carry PJ’s ashes there. The film documents his training, and includes interviews with family members - both PJ’s, and his own.

“This is the first time, in any form, for TV or film, that all of my brothers and myself are all in the same film,” Daniel said. “We all knew PJ. Part of (this), for me, was having to go back and listen to my family members talk about my addiction, and to talk about how that affected them. The film, itself, is a journey for me - going back with my family and having to look at some of the wreckage and the wake of destruction that my addiction created. At the end of the film, my greatest fear is realized … (but) my greatest asset rises to the top and gives me the comfort that I sought. But it wasn’t from running with the bulls.”

For Daniel, the important thing about his film is that “it gives a voice to those people that are left behind… It gives a voice to the mother and father and family members - and it could be any kind of death; it doesn’t have to be addiction. What do you do with that tremendous void?”

Finally, Daniel said, he “wanted to use the years that I spent with PJ in a constructive way, to save lives. I hope there’ll be a single kid that watches the movie and says, ‘God, I’ve got to do something about that path that I’m on’.”

“My Promise to PJ” will be shown at 2 p.m. Friday, July 23 at the Spring Grove Cinema in Spring Grove, MN. A live talk-back with Daniel Baldwin and, via large-screen zoom, Alec Baldwin, will follow.

Headquarters for the Spring Grove-Caledonia Film Festival are at the offices of Sacred Noise Society, 111 East Main Street in Caledonia. Ed Asner Spring Grove soda will be available for purchase at the office starting June 17.

In addition to the many films being screened, a staged readers’ theatre presentation of “Cross Your Heart,” a play by L.A. artist Brian Connors, will feature a mix of local and broader industry talent. O’Regan and local Wennes Communications owner Greg Wennes will join Connor, Ed Asner’s daughter, Liza, and Daniel Baldwin for that performance Friday, July 24 at 7 p.m. in the Caledonia Municipal Auditorium.

The Film Festival Parade is Saturday, July 24 at 2 p.m. in Caledonia, where Daniel Baldwin will serve as Grand Marshal. Closing awards and ceremony are set for Sunday, July 25 at 3:30 p.m. at the Caledonia Municipal Auditorium.

Daniel Baldwin is an actor, director and producer. He is the second oldest of the four Baldwin brothers, all of whom are actors. Baldwin played the role of Detective Beau Felton in the NBC TV series Homicide: Life on the Street and has also starred in Ned Blessing: The True Story of My Life (1992), Mulholland Falls (1996), Vampires (1998), The Pandora Project (1998), Stealing Candy (2002), Paparazzi (2004) and Grey Gardens (2009).

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