Milwaukee Film Festival 2013

by Lee Gutowski

It’s that time of year again!  
From September 26 until October 10, our town will host movie makers, students, fans and out-n-out “film geeks” from all over the world for the fifth annual Milwaukee Film Festival. Movies of all genres will roll all day and into the night.  

Riverwest will be well represented this year in the highly-anticipated 2013 installment of The Milwaukee Show, which screens at 7pm at the Oriental Theatre on Thursday, October 3.

For the past three years The Milwaukee Show, has garnered so much excitement that it has been a sold out event. A collection of shorts by local emerging artists and established filmmakers, The Milwaukee Show is “the first event our organization ever presented, before we even put on our first film festival,” according to Milwaukee Film’s artistic and executive director, Jonathan Jackson. “The work we [present] has grown stronger and more diverse. It is incredibly exciting that every year The Milwaukee Show features work from new filmmakers, ones we never met or heard of before.” 

Riverwest boasts five film folks who are part of the 2013 event. We caught up with them – one is even about to have a baby and still found time to answer some questions – during crunch time just before the Festival, and got their take on the Milwaukee film scene, how they got their start, and what they love about living in Riverwest.

Kurt Raether, Wes (WC) Tank, Andrew Swant and Carol Brandt each contributed to Spectacle! A film that incorporates six different genres/pieces into one running narrative, it was originally commissioned as an installation for the opening of the North End apartments in early 2013. 

Heather Hass created the animated short, Begong Ava, Begong Hele. Its story sprang from the song of the same name by the band Altos (which Heather plays in), who will also be performing during the festival.

Kurt Raether (co-writer/producer/director, Spectacle!) This dynamic Riverwest filmmaker’s student project (from his stint in film school at UWM), Documenting Westphal, was screened during The Milwaukee Show in 2011. 

On landing the original gig to make Spectacle!:“[I was commissioned to do] a short film for the hard hat tour of some new apartment homes at the North End. The apartments weren’t finished yet, but [they] wanted people to explore the space. I proposed a six-part film installation, and … decided to develop a story that continued through the six rooms, so you had to move on to find out what happened next.”

On the Milwaukee Film Festival: “I go every year! I love it so much, we have a festival that is recognized nationally as one of the best. Something to be very proud of.”

On the Riverwest scene: “There’s very dense creativity happening, and it’s great to be a small part of it.”

Wes Tank (co-writer/actor, Spectacle!; rapper/musician known as WC Tank) This multi-talented Riverwest dweller was involved in last year’s event via his six-minute rap video Demigodz of tha Law, a “dancing and vocal performance with a narrative that flows through it. I was shocked that it got in [just because] I don’t think a rap video had ever made it in.” 

Wes got started in film by editing sports highlight reels in high school. He took a video production class and “realized [he] had a knack.” He eventually moved from his hometown of Dodgeville to Milwaukee to go to film school.

“[Kurt and I] got the idea for Spectacle! while walking around Milwaukee late at night. The commission had come in and we were just wandering around under the Marsupial Bridge, past Trocadero and Blue Dress Park, over to Hotel Foster… and conceived of the script.”

Andrew Swant (director, “Silence” segment of Spectacle!) Swant and his business partner, Bobby Ciraldo, run Special Entertainment, a small production company that’s worked on everything from features to iPhone apps and more. “I’ve had something in [MFF] every year I think. We’re so lucky to have such a great film festival – and it seems like it just keeps getting better and better every year. I’m super excited to see 2001 A Space Odyssey on the big screen this year!” 

On working on The Milwaukee Show: “It was great getting to meet this new group of filmmakers – I didn’t really know any of them before Spectacle! but we’ve all become friends and most of us live in or around Riverwest.

Carol Brandt (director, “Independence” scene/genre of Spectacle!) A current film student at UWM, Carol says her piece “was mostly drawn from the more independent films of the 1970s cinema, though I threw a bit of modern mumblecore in there because I love it so much.” 

Regarding her involvement in The Milwaukee Show: “It is my first time! I’m very excited and honored to have been able to sneak in with all of these other talented directors.”

On Riverwest: “I think Riverwest gets a bad rap … once you actually spend time here and meet the people, it really is a whole other planet of art and talent.” 

Heather Hass (director/animator, Begong Ava, Begong Hele)

On her submission: “It is an animation using the second half of the song … written by Altos. It begins with the characters on a ship in a terrible storm, they sink to their deaths on the seafloor. These two little girls, Ava and Loretta, summon Seagordon (a mermaid/dog with human hands) to rescue them and drop them in this magic forest where giant spiders revive them … It sounds a little crazy when it’s written out like that, but while you watch the video, everything makes total sense, I swear!”

On her “can’t miss” list for this year’s MFF: “Altos is performing an original score to an ultra-rare 35mm print of silent Soviet classic Earth (Zemlya). I’m sure I will get to a couple more things, but yes, I will be quite busy with a shiny new baby at that time!”

Schedule:The Milwaukee Show, which screens at 7pm at the Oriental Theatre on Thursday, October 3.
The Milwaukee Show
These filmmakers may hail from the Milwaukee area, but their celebrations of the cinematically succinct have a truly worldwide scope, displaying a diversity of locales and styles (from sci-fi to stop-motion to experimental) in a program that showcases our thriving and vital local filmmaking scene.
Riverwest Currents is proud to sponsor The Milwaukee Show, a vibrant selection of local films and shorts. The Milwaukee Show will air as part of the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival at 7pm at the Oriental Theatre on Thursday, October 3.

The Milwaukee Show Line Up

Before You 

Director: Michael T. Vollmann

Begong Ava, Begong Hele

Director: Heather Hess


Director: Andrew Gralton

The Glitch

Director: Zijian Yan

I Am

Director: Karim Raoul

Love You Still

Director: Michael Viers

Margaret Hue Would Like To Go To Mars

Director: Anna Sampers

Pluto and the Vessel

Director: Harrison Browning

The Quiet City

Director: Brian McGuire


Directors: Andrew Swant, WC Tank, Erik Ljung, John Roberts, Kurt Raether, Carol Brandt


Director: Jessica Farrell

Within A Stone’s Throw

Director: Cecelia Condit