Filmmaker Eric Gerber imports Milwaukee cast for “Pester”

Filmmaker Eric Gerber lives and works in Los Angeles, but he's importing Milwaukee talent for his dark American Dream drama, "Pester."

By - May 30th, 2012 04:00 am
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On the set of the indie movie “Pester” (stills courtesy Eric Gerber)

Filmmaker Eric Gerber began experimenting with the medium during his teenage years in Glenview, Illinois. During his undergraduate studies at UW-Milwaukee, he worked with professors including Carl Bogner and Dick Blau. Today, Gerber lives and works in Los Angeles in the television industry, but still draws from Milwaukee in his creative practice. Aesthetics and talent specific to this city are central to his forthcoming film, Pester.

Despite being located in LA, Gerber chose to import his talent from Milwaukee, the place that’s most “dear” to him.

Gerber wrote, directed and produced Pester. The film is about one family’s struggle to hold on to the American Dream. The family is in the pest control business and consists of two brothers and a father. It’s a story of the quest for the American Dream, mixed with PETA-influenced ethical struggles and family drama, set in the desert outside of LA, rich with subtext and explicit strangeness. With rats. Pester is a dark drama, like a Zappa song can be, with elements of humor, and colorful characterizations, hitting on blue notes.

The approach in casting is just one example of how independently Gerber has crafted and brought together the elements of the production. Though Gerber had the option of taking funding from “LA-type investors,” he thought it might start to “cloud intentions.” The prospect of casting the film with non-Milwaukeans was not an option for Gerber, so he’s funded the entire project with his own money, amassing a budget of about $30,000.

“I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to do something like this again,” Gerber admits.

When he’s not working on Pester, Gerber works full time as a camera operator for television shows. The gig provides a “bizarre balance,” for him as a filmmaker, enabling and influencing the surrealism in his work.

When I brought up the contrast between the famously anti-Hollywood aesthetic of his alma mater and his occupational field, Gerber replied:

“I don’t really feel like a person who is interested in Hollywood, but (the job) is a vessel for me to acquire technical knowledge.”

“I feel lucky to have been part of UWM’s Film Department, and the experimental material I was exposed to. I really miss that presence,” he said.

About the film community at large in Milwaukee, Gerber was nostalgic.

“One thing that stands out is that when someone comes to make a film in Milwaukee, people really want to help.”

Gerber will be capitalizing on and reconnecting with his filmic roots when he returns to Milwaukee this summer to wrap Pester.

Gerber hopes that the film will effectively bore into themes of family, the struggles of small businesses in the economic climate of today, ethics and “differing ideas of the American Dream.”

Pester features local talent including lead actor Nick Sommer, supporting actor Mathew Robert Dunlop, supporting actress Kelly Cunningham, producer Drew Rosas, associate producer Andrew Swant, and production designer Evan Murphy.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that Eric Gerber spent his teenage years in Glenville, Wisconsin, and had worked with professors Karl Vogner and Dick Bleau for his graduate studies. This information has been corrected.

Pester is scheduled for release in December of 2012. Gerber hopes to showcase the film at the Milwaukee Film Festival in 2013.

Categories: Movies

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