Published January 08, 2014 by Dan Presser
Here’s a fun exercise: I’ll say a phrase and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. Ready? Go: “Wisconsin Film.”
TIME’S UP! Remember your answer—we’re going to come back to it in a moment.
Before I started my job at Tweedee Productions, my production outlet was primarily YouTube. I made several short films and even a brief web series. My colleagues in these attempts were not media professionals but mostly friends who were looking for some more interesting to do than watch TV on a Sunday afternoon.
I think we can all agree that these mini-videos are a far cry from a major motion picture like, say, Public Enemies, the 2009 film shot in Columbus and several other locations across the state of Wisconsin. Compared to YouTube, where you can grab a cat and an IPhone and you're in business, Public Enemies was a major motion picture. It had a huge budget, an all-star cast and a big crew. They shut down streets, rented out buildings for days on end and generated a lot of excitement (as well as a few public works issues, according to some reports).
Now, let's go back to that little word association game from earlier. When I said "Wisconsin Film," what did you think of first? Was it Public Enemies? Or perhaps another moderately successfully Hollywood-based picture that was set in Wisconsin? If so, don’t feel bad--that is what most people think of when they hear the phrase “Wisconsin Film.” And if the thought of Wisconsin residents making movies even occurs to them at all, they probably only think about in terms of people like me and my YouTube masterpieces.
Most likely, they never consider that there is whole other side to Wisconsin film.
Since I graduated from Madison Media Institute in 2011 and began pursuing video as a career, I have found numerous film production companies right here in Madison. They are comprised of people who live in the area and make it a point to produce their films in Wisconsin whenever possible. Here are a couple examples:
CRADEMade Entertainment. This company was founded in January 2012 by Corrina Crade, who was named one of Brava Magazine’s Women to Watch in 2014. Their flagship feature film, Oranges, was shot in the Madison area and is to be released in spring of 2014.
4114 Production House. Founded in September of 2012, they have already filmed and released the full first season of their flagship series. Chic: Season One is comprised of six full-length (20 minute) episodes and season two is currently in pre-production.
Project Famous. Starting as a web magazine and meetup group that explored local film, music, art and style, this growing arts collective is now turning more of its attention to film production. They took home several awards in the 2013 48 Hour Film Festival for their submission D, including Runner Up for Best Film and a number of technical awards, and they have another short film due for release in 2014.
This is just a few of the companies operating in Madison. Others include Makeshift Media, Living Storm Productions, Firmament Films, Barking Shadows Productions, Public Image Media, JC Films, and Iver Pictures--and those are just of the ones I know about!. If I were to examine other areas of the state more closely, like Milwaukee or the Fox Valley, I bet I’d find even more.
We don’t need to bring the film industry to Wisconsin—we already have one. It’s local, it’s small, and it still operates out of the public eye, but it has the potential to do fantastic things.
In order to grow, however, it does need our help. The film industry in general is unique in that its products are partially based on the perceived demands of the public. If people don’t watch a film, that film doesn’t sell. If the film doesn’t sell, the company won’t make another one like it (in fact, they might never make another film again, depending on their monetary situation). Bottom line: a film just isn’t the same without an audience.
So the next time you’re looking for something different to do, find and attend a screening by a local filmmaker. Maybe you’ve never heard of the film or anyone in it, but it’s guaranteed to be more unique than anything at the megaplex, not to mention a lot cheaper. You might even get to experience the thrill of seeing your favorite restaurant or neighborhood bookstore in a scene or two. And nine times out of ten, you will be able to say hello to the filmmaker after the show. Believe me, he’ll be a lot more grateful for your patronage than whoever made the generic action-comedy-love story movie you would have seen instead. Let’s start thinking of “Wisconsin Film” not just as film in Wisconsin, but film BY Wisconsin.