Not your average Gal Friday

By - Jul 15th, 2010 04:00 am
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Mulrooney (left) and Kerns

Concepts like conservation in the movie industry, women occupying formerly male-dominated filmmaking roles (thank you Kathryn Bigelow), and a commitment to community now have a collective home in Milwaukee.

Gal Friday Films, founded by Susan Kerns and Kara Mulrooney and named after a Howard Hawkes’ 1940s film, His Girl Friday, plans to address just such cinematic concerns at the local level. Kerns and Mulrooney, both Milwaukeeans, felt the gender imbalances in their own careers long before deciding that something had to be done for the next generation of cinephiles.

Kerns, originally from Iowa, has lived in Milwaukee for the last eight years. Before committing to film here, she traveled all over the country as an actress, screenwriter and film reviewer. She currently works as an associate lecturer in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s English department and is finishing a Ph.D. in English there.

She is a also Midwest Features judge for the Milwaukee Film Festival and a screenwriting mentor for Milwaukee Film’s Collaborative Cinema—a screenwriting competition for high school students.

Kerns cites her age as a major contributing factor to the development of Gal Friday Films.

“I couldn’t have done this in my 20s,” Kerns, now in her late 30s, notes. “I don’t know if I was too nervous about what people thought of me or if I simply lacked self confidence, but I know I would not have succeeded then.”

Mulrooney holds an inter-arts degree from UWM in Film Production and Visual Art. After graduating in 2005, she felt naturally drawn to art direction in film, but acts a little as well. She recently played Captain Ida in the Brian Perkins’ soon-to-be-released web series The Heavens.

Mulrooney has done art direction and wardrobe work for the Milwaukee Film Festival commercial, Danceworks’ vaudeville show No God, No Master, Resurrection Ferns and The Waiting Room. She’s a substitute teacher in her spare time.

The two met while working with Milwaukee cinematographer Tate Bunker on the set of Resurrection Ferns. Bunker asked Kerns to write the film’s screenplay as well as assist in direction. Mulrooney was the art director and helped fill-in for all things that could or would go wrong.

It was in those close quarters that the two women discovered their collective interest in making local, sustainable films employing women in “departments typically dominated by men.”

To be clear though, neither wants the company to be a hostile feminine takeover of the film industry. In fact, Mulrooney writes vehemently : “We have deep fondness and appreciation for so many of the male filmmakers we’ve worked with over the years — we’re just working to create more gender balance in film production.”

Another refreshing goal is a commitment to the community.  In their second short film, Missed Connections, not only are the two women filming locally in Johnson’s Creek’s 70s-era supper club The Gobbler, but they are also employing The Rep’s “Scrooge” (Dan Mooney) as a lead actor.

Kerns and Mulrooney also plan to put on workshops for young filmmakers. They want to provide more opportunities for youth in film and to give them access to the right tools. “Right now, there are not a lot of opportunities for college-aged filmmakers to get their hands on the Red camera (a 35 mm HD camera),” Mulrooney says.

Mulrooney writes proudly about meeting all three Gal Friday Films’ principles in their first film which will be shot using local actors, local businesses and employing a crew of mostly women.

This year Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for best direction in a feature film with The Hurt Locker. The reverberations of that win were felt far and wide.  Milwaukee can be grateful Gal Friday Films felt it first.

Come raise some (and some cash) on Thursday, July 15, 8 p.m. at The Best Place, 901 W Juneau Ave., with Gal Friday Film ‘n Friends for their upcoming film, Missed Connections.

Categories: Movies

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