DJ Hostettler

Cultural Zero at the Milwaukee Mad March Music Mini-Movie Festival

By - Mar 25th, 2010 04:00 am

The Milwaukee Mad March Music Mini-Movie Festival took place last night at the Eisner American Museum of Advertising & Design on Water Street. I happened to be there because—full disclosure, yo—the ol’ rock band and I had a video entered with our pal Jack Packard, he of previous videos by The HiFi and The New Loud, as well as those bitchin’ “High Five” videos on Jon Anne had sent me an email about the festival, probably in the hopes of us covering it (which, hi! Look! Coverage!), but because I am a glory hound, I immediately sent the email to Jack, because we had a video concept we had planned to get around to but never did. Now was the time.

The rules of the contest were presented in the original email as thus:

“Participating filmmakers must create a new short film/video that features any Milwaukee-area musician, band, other musical group or vocalist, and runs no longer than 7 minutes including credits. The short can take the form of a mini-documentary, music video, depiction of a live performance or performances, or experimental piece. Filmmaker-musicians may use themselves as the subject if desired. The short can contain previously shot, created and/or recorded material, but must be a newly produced or newly edited work for the festival.

The winning filmmaker will receive $500 cash, and the musician or group featured in the winning short will receive 8 hours of studio time at Fly Studios Milwaukee.”

Sweet. Let’s do this. B-movie space opera video for “Black Holes Resonate (in B-Flat), Baby” is a GO!

Fig.1: Yale Delay as “The Weapons Guy”

We shot our footage for this sucker in the span of an afternoon, in front of Jack’s trusty green screen. That was the easy part. For Jack, it was the start of a lot of sleepless nights over the next two weeks, as he shot more footage and began designing sets in his computer and editing like a fiend. It’s no wonder the dude’s hair is thinning and is about as unkempt sometimes as Christopher Lloyd’s in Back to the Future. Dude busted his hump to get our Ed Woodian masterpiece ready in time for the festival deadline ( the video was due on March 21—hell, according to festival organizer Ross Bigley during last night’s opening monologue, the Milwaukee Independent Film Society only decided to go full speed with this festival sometime near the end of February! Talk about gittin’ ‘er dun! Actually, no, let’s not talk about gittin’ ‘er dun), and we were amazed at what Jack accomplished in such a short period of time.

Fig.2: Our humble director, aka SQUID MONSTER!

The fest itself was held in the Eisner’s theater, a cozy little room on the first floor. The lineup was a diverse cross-section of Milwaukee’s music scene, covering blues singers (Brad Campbell in Paul Ruffino’s “Five Places”), rap (“S.H.A.K.U.” by Ku Mays), and even the occasional diva (“Blonde Girl Who Sings” by France Aprahamian). The Violent Femmes also got some long-overdue exposure with a pair of performance videos (and thank god—it’s about time someone gave that band their due in this town). As for style of film, they ranged from traditional music videos to documentaries ( there was even one mockumentary), to…well, a collage of still photos, YouTube videos, and some performance footage? (I dunno, let’s just say that “Blonde Girl Who Sings” was…interesting. OK, fine…someone was overheard remarking that it looked like it was filmed by a stalker.)

There were some quality standouts, though—High Frequency brought the skills with a pair of gorgeously shot videos: a stellar Juniper Tar performance in the basement of Club Garibaldi and a document of the final Triforce Festival (a local basement venue fest featuring only three-piece bands) that perfectly captured the punk madness of basement shows. Hair Metaler-turned-children’s musician Eric “E Rock” Sencer left the room in stitches with a mini-biopic that culminated in his adorable “Don’t Talk to Strangers” digitally animated children’s video.

But the clear winners of the night were director Tate Bunker and the boys of Uncle Larry, whose “The Life and Times of Frederick Caesar” took both the overall grand prize as well as the $200 audience award. An elaborate, colorful theater production, this one was, we grudgingly had to admit, the clear standout. As soon as the band members were lowered onto the set with wires, we knew it was all over. Slim Goodbody costumes! Fencing! Crazy sets and ridiculous makeup! This clip had it all. How they managed to plan, shoot and edit this thing in a mere two weeks is beyond me. (Just teasing, guys!)

Fig.3: Trailer for the victorious “The Life and Times of Frederick Caesar.”

That this little festival was able to come together in the span of about a month deserves all sorts of praise. Kudos to the Milwaukee Independent Film Society for putting it together, and to all their sponsors (including Guitars for Vets, a nonprofit that provides music therapy for veterans and showed a moving video about the cause while the votes were being counted—check ‘em out and show ‘em some love). Hopefully there’ll be another one next year. We’ll get ‘em next time.

0 thoughts on “Cultural Zero at the Milwaukee Mad March Music Mini-Movie Festival”

  1. Anonymous says:

    While the winning video by Tate Bunker and Uncle Larry was clearly a stand out and commercial, I would hate to see this festival award only the most commercial videos/films or those that roll out a big budget crane shot at the end for no other reason but to have a crane shot…at the end. Commercial does not always mean the best. Although the winner was clearly very good in this case.

    This may be a problem with the judges who don’t appreciate the artistic aspects of a well done “raw” video that perhaps only used one camera and no musicians swinging on wires.

    My favorite video was ANTHOLOGY, directed by Don Ford and featuring Tom Umheofer of Old Earth. Beautiful and haunting, I was scrambling in the darkness for something to write with to scrawl down some notes.

    Milwaukee has many talented film makers who need exposure but if the judges always vote for the “slickest” or the video that looks the most like MTV then they will not get the recognition they deserve.

  2. Anonymous says:

    While I agree with you I also think that some of the videos should have been scraped due to extremely love production value, and not fitting the format of the fest.

    For example the footage of the Fems that was just them performing “faith”, Yeah I get it the FEMS are a town staple but really you just found some old footage and entered it, how is that anything new? how is that anything but pointing a camera at the band and let them do there thing?

    “Blonde Girl Who Sings” should have been out, it really did look like a stalker put it together with youtube footage and boombox recordings.

    I guess what I am saying is if I feel I could have made the “films” in the fest with no film making experience then they are not really that valid and shouldn’t have made the cut.

  3. Anonymous says:

    the judges were given criteria on which to vote for each of the films. I would hate to see those with the best gear, props and funding always make the grade…In this case however, the judges will have to weigh in on the decision.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yale – a 25 year old performance of arguably the most famous band from Milwaukee has cultural significance and is a gift from a local film maker to fellow music fans.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The total budget of the video was around $200, I do not know of what crane shot you are talking about, but this video was made with good old hard work and creativity. It doesn’t cost any more for better costume, sets, spirit, and hard work ethic. Maybe one should not keep making excuses and just go out and do it. Making movies is not hard, nor do you need the most expensive gear. Also, I have been working and busting my butt for many years to better my craft, why should I be punished for it? That goes for the band too, they are the hardest working group I know, and the song and video show that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In the video we are actually swinging on ropes not wires… And there was no crane, just two guys in the rafters holding on to the other ends of the ropes.

    Thanks Kyle and Rick for not dropping us!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Artistic merit (or lack of) aside, your video should’ve been disqualified due to not being created within the rules of the festival.

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