Kat Murrell

An open mic night for Milwaukee filmmakers

By - Jul 20th, 2011 04:00 am
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Image courtesy of MARN.

Major summer movies are often big-budget affairs, with slick special effects and over-the-top action. But if you’re looking for something a little more experimental, perhaps a bit edgier and unexpected, make a date to be part of the premiere of MARNkino this Thursday night.

The underlying idea of Kino is a sort of improvisational film fest. Filmmakers submit short pieces and they are screened for that evening’s audience. MARNkino kicks off on July 21 at the Times Cinema  for the ultra-modest admission of $3 per person.

There are two themes for this inaugural screening: Sci-Fi and Road. The idea is that filmmakers will submit pieces of seven minutes or less that relate to one of these concepts. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a tangential piece, if someone has just completed a short that is screaming to be shown.

“If somebody just finished a film about crime and the theme is sci-fi, that’s ok,” says MARN Executive Director Melissa Musante.

MARNkino is scheduled to run the third Thursday of every month, and is a fundamentally collaborative event. It’s not just for audiences, but for filmmakers as well, which is one of the most interesting aspects. Anyone who’s got a film they would like to show can bring it to Times Cinema on DVD that evening, at least 15 minutes before show time.

A sort of motto of Kino, “Do well with nothing, do better with little and do it now,” speaks strongly to the DIY, inclusive spirit.

However, there are some specific criteria to adhere to: films should be seven minutes or less including credits, the filmmaker must be present, and X-rated material is prohibited. Filmmakers must also sign a statement confirming they have obtained rights to all the content in their film, such as music. There is no submission fee, and interested filmmakers can also give permission for their work to be screened at other Kino events internationally. But generally, the field is pretty wide open.

Musante, herself a filmmaker by training, is looking forward to the opportunity this affords local auteurs.

“It’s challenging to put yourself out there and say ‘look what I did’.”

Milwaukee isn’t the first city to have a Kino project. Madison was a forerunner in this endeavor, but the origins are found in Canada. The name “kino” has a couple of different connotations, including its Greek roots meaning “movement,” and as slang for “cinema” in other languages. As a sort of recurring short film fest, it began in late 1998 in Montreal. It was initiated as a challenge from Kino founder Christian Laurence, who described it as a “jam session for filmmakers,” to make a new film for screening every month until 2000. It lasted far longer than that, however, and Kino cells started popping up internationally, including this most recent incarnation in Milwaukee.

The monthly affair planned here adds a twist with the selection of two themes for each screening, rather than a single idea. Upcoming themes include “Sound or Music” in August, “Twist or No Cuts (i.e., films in one continuous take)” in September, and “Pets or Guilt” in October. A “Kino Kabaret” is planned for November, which will be a 48-hour event with the topic to be introduced at a later date.

The plans are ambitious and have come to fruition quickly as the Kino project snowballed from conversations this past January between Musante and others to the realization of the MARNkino screenings. Musante says she’s looking forward to what films might come in the door, but if there aren’t enough to fill out a 90-minute program, selections from other international Kino events will be shown.

Ultimately, MARNkino is geared to be a galvanizing force in the Milwaukee film community for both makers and viewers. When asked what excites her most about the project, Musante paused a moment, collected her thoughts, and launched into a litany of enthusiastic reflections on the impact this could have for professional development in cinema, community building, networking opportunities, and audience engagement. But ultimately, it’s about seeing the material that’s being made. As Musante says, “there are a lot of great filmmakers here.”

This week opens the door to see some of this fresh talent, and if you’re a filmmaker, it’s a chance to share your vision on the big screen.

MARNkino “Sci Fi or Road”  kicks off Thursday, July 21, 7 p.m. at the Times Cinema (5906 W. Vliet St.). For more information, click here. 

Categories: A/C Feature 2, Movies

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