Howie Goldklang

Obligatory year-end article … go!

By - Dec 1st, 2008 02:52 pm
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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.

Seriously, I am three days past deadline. I have been trying to concentrate on awesome Milwaukee film happenings in 2008 and big action in 2009. If you’ve read this far, you can see I’ve been struggling. That was until last night when I didn’t meet Faythe Levine at a semi-annual meeting for Our Milwaukee (, a grassroots organization advocating the whole think local/buy local/live local thing. I slinked into the meeting, did a lap around the bar (free Lakefront beer), did the name tag bit, found a friendly face, pulled up a chair. After a brief welcome from one of Our Milwaukee’s founders, Faythe was introduced to discuss her Milwaukee-based book-turned-documentary-film project Handmade Nation as well as her handmade gift fair, Art vs. Craft. I snuck onto my iPhone, Googled her name and found more information than I knew what to do with. According to her blog ( Faythe Levine is a filmmaker, author, independent curator and creative director. She is currently documenting the rise of DIY and the new wave of art, craft and design. I got tired just reading that. She even has a whole Wikipedia page with a timeline and external links and everything! F that!

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.

Categories: REEL Milwaukee

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