Selective Focus: Mike Scholtz

Mike Scholtz makes movies about odd little things that no one seems to know about, but after watching them, you think, “Why didn’t I know about that?” Also, these are not little things, they are big parts of some people’s lives. The world premiere of his latest film “Riplist” at the Fargo Film Fest was just announced today. Mike talks about what drives him to dig into these stories and presents some trailers from his work.

I’m a documentary filmmaker who enjoys making funny films about serious subjects. Or serious films about funny subjects. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure which. But I do like to sneak up on an audience with a few laughs before I hit them with the soul-crushing realization that we’re all going to die in a cold, uncaring universe.

That’s how I approached my latest film, Riplist. It’s about a group of friends from Fargo who compete in a celebrity deadpool. It’s a contest where players draft celebrities they think might die in the next year, like fantasy football but with elderly presidents and ailing musicians. I hope people are as morbidly fascinated with this hobby as I am, because it’s premiering at the Fargo Film Festival in March. I suspect it will play at some other festivals in the area shortly after that. If you like your comedy as black as your soul, I think you’ll like this film.

Riplist Trailer

I’ve been making documentary films for about 20 years now. My first film was a short about a woman who made silent films in Casselton, North Dakota in the 1920s. She made comedies and documentaries and I really admired her for doing something so unexpected in, really, the middle of nowhere. “The Angela Murray Gibson Experience” had a brief festival run and played on Prairie Public TV.

The Angela Murray Gibson Experience

I worked in advertising, helped found the Free Range Film Festival and made a few other short films for about a decade before finding a subject worthy of a full-length feature film in the snowmobiling criminal from Willow River, Wild Bill Cooper.

Wild Bill’s Run Trailer

I guess curiosity is what drives me to explore a subject in a film. I’m genuinely interested in how people get by in this world. So there’s usually a human being at the center of my work. Rather than an issue. That’s not to say issues aren’t important. Global warming sucks. Donald Trump sucks. People should make documentaries about those things. But I’m going to make documentaries about an artist from Duluth leading a double life as a professional wrestler in Japan who eats babies.

Kinderchomper Trailer

People can find me and some of my stuff online at I produced a documentary about competitive jigsaw puzzling called “Wicker Kittens” that’s available to buy or stream on a bunch of different platforms, including iTunes and the Sports Illustrated channel on Amazon. Or you can watch my film about the secret Viking invasion of Minnesota, “Lost Conquest,” absolutely for free, here:

For my next project, I’ll be helping Justin Christopher Ayd and Jennifer Lillemo Ayd produce the most blissfully serene documentary I’ve ever seen. It’s about the people who live in Knife River, Minnesota, as they smoke fish and make candy and hunt trolls. We’re going to be launching a Kickstarter in February so we can finish shooting the movie on 16mm and Super8. I’m a huge fan of shooting on actual film whenever possible. And this Kickstarter campaign will help make it possible.

Knife River Extended Trailer


Riplist Twitter

Mike Scholtz directing stuff

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