Along with music, dance, art and kids' activities, Madison's 150th Birthday Bash (Sunday, April 9, Monona Terrace, 1-6 p.m.) will feature work by the local filmmaking group Wis-Kino. "Wis-Kino Madison 150" is a free program of 15 films with Madison or Dane County themes. The program screens at 1 and 4 p.m. in Monona Terrace's Lecture Hall Theater.
Wis-Kino's Tona Williams says the selection committee made a point of including work from filmmakers of all ages. And, in the egalitarian Madison tradition, films by the accomplished Kino auteur Aaron Yonda and the Cherokee Middle School AV Club are given equal weight in the program.
"I think we really have a great range of experience and perspectives," says Williams.
Wis-Kino kept the rules for submission broad. Any film "relating to Madison or Dane County's past or visions for its future" was eligible, says Williams. As a result, the films run the gamut from Yonda's delightfully unhinged travel PSA, "Wisconsin Tourism Video," to John Feith's straightforward historical doc "Hoofers: Since 1931," which uses period footage to illustrate how ski jumping on campus helped kick off the UW's popular outdoors club. In the cautionary tale "My Town," exuberant 9-year-old narrator Maiya Hotchkiss and her elementary school teacher Larry Gundlach explore the history and future of Verona.
Like all good sesquicentennial projects, "Wis-Kino Madison 150" is being packaged and preserved for posterity. A DVD will be on sale at wis-kino.com later this month, and Williams says copies will be distributed to local libraries. The films will also be available for viewing online after the April 9 screenings.
We ought to be in pictures
By the end of April, Wisconsin should be a much better place to make movies. That's when the Film Wisconsin Bill (SB 563), which offers incentives to production companies that do business in the state, is slated to reach Gov. Jim Doyle's desk. Madison producer Scott Robbe says Doyle is expected to sign the measure, and once he does the bill should bear fruit immediately.
"Wisconsin will go from not being on the radar to being viewed as a very film-friendly state," says Robbe, who helped jumpstart the bill along with other members of the filmmaking advocacy and support group Film Wisconsin. Robbe adds that discussions are already under way to bring an $8 million production to Milwaukee and a $12 million production to Green Bay.
The legislation passed easily in the Legislature's joint finance committee, and Robbe reports that it has significant support in both the Assembly and the Senate. In fact, the only sticking point is an amendment to the bill that withholds its effective date until July 2007. Robbe would like to see the date pushed up, so that approved productions can begin reaping the 25% tax credit and other benefits right away.
With cities like Wilmington, N.C., seeing tens of millions of dollars pouring into the local economy after the enactment of similar film-friendly measures, Robbe believes the payoff for Wisconsin residents could be enormous in terms of new revenues and high-paying jobs. He says the bill should also help budding Wisconsin filmmakers.
"The tangential benefit is that it's going to stimulate the possibilities for Wisconsin filmmakers to do larger-budget productions and to enlist the aid of people who are on the Hollywood level."
Film Wisconsin won't spend much time celebrating the bill's passage. The group is also working to put together and fund a new state film office in Milwaukee that will aggressively market Wisconsin as an attractive place for film production (a satellite office is planned for Madison). Robbe says work is also under way to develop soundstages in Milwaukee and elsewhere that are suitable for major productions. If all goes according to plan, he expects an exponential increase in film work in the state by this time next year.