Obligatory year-end article … go!
What a crazy year it’s been for independent film in Milwaukee! Isn’t that what you’re supposed to say to start these year-end warm ‘n’ fuzzies? I am trying as hard as I can not to write that everyone should have a Christmas Story leg lamp in their window or remind you how Clark Griswold’s accapella drum roll before he plugs in the Christmas lights in Christmas Vacation might be Chevy Chase’s finest on-screen moment. Not this year. No sentimental musing from me. I won’t say a peep about how Scrooged, Die Hard, Gremlins or even the sexed-up weirdness of Eyes Wide Shut should be a part of everyone’s holiday movie season. What? It takes place during Christmas! I won’t reach for nods of approval from hipsters with A Nightmare Before Christmas midnight screening references. You won’t find me snickering over egg nog at the Red Room about how the 1934 Laurel and Hardy classic Babes in Toyland lives on as NYC sex store Toys in Babeland. They switched the words around and sell dildos! Unreal! Nope. This year, my lips are sealed.
The projector and PowerPoint fired up and her presentation about DIY and Milwaukee began. She was passionate and cool and ended her presentation with an eight-minute clip from Handmade Nation – and that’s when it hit me. I got up and went to the bathroom because three beers can break the seal. After that, another thing hit me. DIY is the sometimes forgotten but definite heart of independent film. Plain and simple. Sometimes that golden rule gets lost in the shuffle of million-dollar movie ideas or fantasizing about what you’d say in your Oscar speech. Not like we’ve done that.
Uh-oh … here come the warm ‘n’ fuzzies.
This past year saw the fall of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and the kickass rise of the lean, mean indie film group Milwaukee Film. The 48 Hour Film Project rocked, the Times Cinema, Alchemist Theater and Oriental Theater all programmed a healthy share of local documentaries and feature films, the Milwaukee Short Film Fest and Milwaukee Film both screened diverse films for a diverse city (thanks 88.9fm), and five of the seven prestigious Nohl Awards for 2008 were granted to Milwaukee filmmakers. It’s happening, people! Ideas are turning into films! DIY-style filmmaking in Milwaukee! Yeah!
What does this have to do with my not meeting Faythe Levine? I didn’t meet her for a lame reason: I had to leave the Our Milwaukee meeting early to get back to the salon. In retrospect this is kind of cool because I can define last night in my own way. Just knowing that Handmade Nation is out there – and that people are inspired by Milwaukee to get behind cameras to shoot and cut and screen – is inspiring, and a foothold reminder of what film is all about. From my little REEL Milwaukee corner, leaving that meeting and taking it in on the drive back to the shop was like my own mini Christmas movie ending, where everything feels right, it starts to snow happy snow and the dawn of a bright new, creative, grinding, insane, imaginative, artistic year of filmmaking in Milwaukee is there for the taking. See ya in 2009 … cue orchestra … Gonna go call Grandma and tell her I love her.