Brian Jacobson

Milwaukee Short Film Festival reels up its 9th season

By - Jun 1st, 2007 02:52 pm

It’s with some irony that the decaying relationship between Time Warner Cable and the local public access outlet (MATA Community Media) helped foster the physical existence of the Milwaukee Short Film Festival, and even more ironic that the internet – well known for stealing eyes away from theaters and television – has helped the local showcase become more popular.

Festival founder and director Ross Bigley first showcased local filmmakers’ short submissions – each narrative run between 2 to 18 minutes – for several years on public access in the mid-1990s. After a short break, the festival moved to area coffeehouses before finally landing at its present venue in the Times Cinema (5906 W. Vliet St., Wauwatosa) in 2004. The 2007 series now starts with an unusual feature attraction at the Astor Theater (1696 N. Astor St., Milwaukee) Saturday June 9 at 4 p.m. and continues Sunday June 10 at the Times with a 4 p.m. retrospective and main contest showings at 7 p.m.

The rapid ascent of the internet as marketer and community tool actually helped spread the word about the festival. Now entries come all the way from Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and London. MSFF has received notices from magazines and websites and features a judging panel of several accomplished members of the entertainment industry.

A $1000 juried grand prize was created by previous festival sponsors and has remained by popular demand along with a separate “audience award,” both to be determined at the event. The monetary prize comes directly from entry fees and sales – so the showcase is not technically a money-making venture. Bigley and friends do it for the love of film and storytelling.

MSFF’s growth can be most easily attributed to the loyalty of supporters and now two other events: one is a Sunday afternoon exposition at the Times Cinema featuring “Best Of” entries from a 10-year span by such known artists as Dan Wilson (Leavings), Malona P. Voigt (Chicxulub) and Michael John Moynihan (Take a Chance and Happiness is a Long Shot).

The other, and more experimental, event takes place the day prior, way over on the east side of town. The Astor Theater plays host to a special free premiere showing of Realization by Chicago’s Splitpillow. The five-year-old non-profit film company’s concept was to create a feature-length film broken down into seven chapters, with each segment written and directed by different crews all utilizing a continuing thread. Also, different actors play the same characters in each segment, creating a very heady concept film. According to Splitpillow, the plot revolves around “a lovesick physicist trying to complete his father’s unfinished work to impress the girl of his dreams.”

Official entries in Sunday’s main event are as widely varied in length as they are tone or subject matter, yet most of them promise to not be the typical summer multiplex film.

Some highlights should include:

The Furry Revolt, by Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design graduate Jessica Bayliss, is a brief stop-motion animation piece about a girl who comes to a fitting end after torturing various animals and features voiceover work from actor/producer Mark Metcalf.

Moviebonics, by local artists Lance Miller and Donald P. Unverrich, takes place in parts of Milwaukee’s defunct Grand Theater as two wandering Jehovah’s Witnesses are bewildered by a couple who can speak only in famous movie lines.

Stephen Keep Mills’s Cigar at the Beach has been finding success at various local and national festivals before arriving in Milwaukee. It tells the tale of a man swept up in a seaside daydream complete with beautiful women and high-adventure, before a rude snap back to reality.

Linger is a special feature that was kept out of the competition due to a conflict of interest (it was produced by Dirty Job Films, Bigley’s production company) but organizers wanted to showcase it anyway. Directed by local Combat Theater actress Chantel Harpole, Linger is a rather adult tale of a woman cloaked in memories after running into an old lover. One of the unique ‘guerilla’ aspects about this piece was that it was intended to be written, shot and edited quickly.

England’s sci-fi entry is called Agnieszka, a Dark Symphony of 2039. Martin Gauvreau, a former illustrator and f/x supervisor, debuts his first film (shot in Lodz, Poland with a Polish crew) about an angelic being faced with a spiritual decision and a great responsibility.

And that’s the easy explanation of what’s going on. Some things you just have to see for yourself. VS

For more information, prices, and times visit or call Ross Bigley at (414) 807-4008

0 thoughts on “Milwaukee Short Film Festival reels up its 9th season”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A thoughtful insight and ideas I will use on my blog. You’ve obviously spent some time on this. Well done!

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us