In February, Madison filmmaker Nicholas Langholff will begin production on Feed the Fish, a romantic comedy set in Door County. Langholff is co-producing the film with Tony Shalhoub, the Emmy-winning star of Monk who will commence shooting on the eighth-and-final season of the program this spring. Shalhoub will also star in the film, along with veteran character actor Seymour Cassel.
Feed the Fish will shoot for four weeks in Door County, then wrap up with two days of filming in California. Written and directed by Wisconsin native Michael Matzdorff, it's a about a burned-out children's author who heads from California to Wisconsin, hoping that the Polar Bear Plung will cure his writer's block. He meets a local sheriff (Shalhoub), a fisherman (Cassel), a new love, and survives a kidnapping by his old girlfriend. The producers describe the film as "Groundhog Day meets Fargo."
Langholff has been setting up the production for the past 16 months. The budget is modest (under $1 million), but signing up Shalhoub was a coup. The actor is from Green Bay himself, and he's passionate about Matzdorff's script.
Langholff was impressed with Shalhoub's gracious appearance at a kickoff event for Feed the Fish at Milwaukee's new filmmaking facility, RDI Stages, on January 8. "He's down to earth, he's funny and he's kind," Langholff says. "He's taken on this project and will give it 100 percent."
Langholff is hopeful about the future of filmmaking in Wisconsin. A state tax incentive for productions kicked in this year, and RDI Stages now offers a state-of-the-art soundstage. "Now productions that shoot on location in Wisconsin don't have to go back to New York when it's time to shoot on a stage," Langholff says. "It's important for Wisconsin to have something like that here."
Langholff is a Fort Atkinson native who left college at 21 to open a video store in Cottage Grove. Six years later, he decided to head to New York City with his backpack to get a job in movies. He began as a production assistant and worked his way up to producer. He has credits on 40-plus films, shooting in locations around the world. In 2006 he moved back to Madison after his grandfather was diagnosed with dementia; he decided to bring projects here along with keeping up his contacts on the coasts. He shot the feature film Madison in town in 2007.
Last fall, Langholff partnered with the nonprofit Film Wisconsin to promote filmmaking in Wisconsin. He and the group's director Scott Robbe served on a panel at the Producers Guild to pitch the state as an attractive location.
"There's a crew base here, with great young talent coming out of both the UW-Madison and the UW-Milwaukee," Langholff says. "We have great cities and great landscapes. Locations here can look like the plains of Nebraska or the rolling hills of Vermont. You can have a lot of looks in a short drive."