Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

John Ridley Opening Movie Studio

Oscar-winning, Milwaukee-born movie maker aims to transform city's film scene.

By - Feb 27th, 2018 02:00 pm
Building 14 and Building 15 at The Brewery. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Building 14 and Building 15 at The Brewery. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley will open a filmmaking and arts hub in The Brewery on the northwest side of Downtown. The complex, which will occupy two historic buildings at 1037 W. McKinley Ave., is intended “as a space where people can come together,” he says.

The Milwaukee native, writer and director has been working on the effort for four years with his sister Lisa Caesar. “The idea in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles is not that revolutionary, but in Milwaukee it is,” says Ridley. “Yes is something you don’t hear enough, which is part of why this is called No Studios.”

Ridley received a quick yes on the project when he was put in contact with one Milwaukeean, County Executive Chris Abele. The two are now business partners on the for-profit venture. Both serve on the board of the Milwaukee Film Festival, which will move into the building.

Ridley also notes that “NO” is the Japanese root word for skill, talent and artistic endeavor.

John Ridley announces No Studios. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

John Ridley announces No Studios. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“We’re not trying to bring Hollywood to the lakefront,” says Ridley. “What we know we can do is create a conduit.” Ridley envisions attracting outside investment for film production to the city.

The complex will include long-term and short-term office space available for lease, a 50-seat screening room, food and beverage services, galleries and a rooftop event space.

Ridley, who wrote the script for 12 Years a Slave, the 2014 Oscar winner Best Picture, announced the studio complex at a press event at the Brewhouse Inn & Suites hotel Tuesday morning.

Announced tenants for the complex include the Milwaukee Film, the UW-Milwaukee School of Film, the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance, 371 Productions, Custom Reality Services, and Marquette University.

Milwaukee Film, which hosts the city’s 15-day film festival, will occupy an entire floor. The non-profit will relocate from the Railway Exchange Building this spring. The festival will begin operating the Oriental Theatre this summer.

“This is a great city, but a city we know is divided in too many ways,” says Ridley. He envisions the hub as a way to connect, inspire and employ people to help address that divide.

“Now if you’re going to pick up something, you can pick up a gun or you can pick up a hammer, you can pick up a weapon or pick up a camera and do something with it, tell your story your way. That’s powerful and that’s what we want to do in this space,” said Ridley.

The effort won’t have to start from scratch. Ridley cited a study from the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance that touts the region’s film and media industry as being larger than the brewing industry.

This won’t be the first time the two-part, 41,847-square-foot building has been used for creative purposes. The building, the oldest part of which dates back to 1894, was the long-time home of Pabst Brewing’s research lab.

It was redeveloped nearly 10 years ago into a satellite campus for Cardinal Stritch University. The school has since retrenched to Fox Point, and developer Joshua Jeffers was poised to convert the building to 43 apartments that were slated to open in March 2018.

But before Jeffers could begin construction, he received an offer he couldn’t refuse. Approximately six months after buying the buildings for $2.6 million, Jeffers sold the complex to Ridley and Abele for $3.2 million.

Abbacus Architects is designing the space. Development is being led by Abele’s firm CSA Commercial. Greenfire Management Services is leading the project’s general contracting.

Rendering and Floor Plans

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