For moviegoers, the Wisconsin Film Festival has many rewards. One is that it lets them see films made right here in the state.
So why confine that experience to the festival? "Right now you only have April, and it's slam-packed," says local filmmaker Nicholas Langholff, referring to the festival's frenetic spring run.
His solution: Wisconsin Wednesdays, a monthly series devoted to films with Wisconsin ties. Presented at the Orpheum Theatre, the series begins at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 14 with a screening of Baraboo, writer and director Mary Sweeney's film about a woman who runs a Sauk County motel and gas station. The character is played by American Players Theatre's Brenda DeVita.
Sweeney, former romantic and creative partner of filmmaker David Lynch, will be on hand to take questions. Accompanying the feature is her short Mary's Friend. Says Langholff, "The reason we chose July [for Baraboo] is that Mary Sweeney spends her summers here."
Why Wisconsin Wednesdays? "It's hard to figure out a way to take a film and get it to an audience," says Langholff, who has producer credits on several films presented at this year's Wisconsin Film Festival, including Baraboo, NoNAMES and Feed the Fish. Audiences are interested in these films, he says, but there aren't many chances to see them in theaters. An exception was Feed the Fish, which had a run at Point Cinema earlier this year.
The new series, he says, "gives a chance for people to come see the movie and have a festival atmosphere." And, he adds, "I'd like to make it an event where filmmakers can come meet other filmmakers." Langholff envisions Wisconsin speakers at each screening, whether they're directors, writers, cinematographers or production designers.
The Wisconsin Wednesday series is presented by the Driftless Film Festival, whose inaugural run is slated for October in several southwest Wisconsin cities, including Platteville and Mineral Point. Langholff is organizing the festival with friend and colleague Darren Burrows, the actor who played Ed Chigliak on the television series Northern Exposure. Burrows and Langholff are collaborating on a movie called Driftless, which is being filmed in Madison, Mineral Point and Spring Green.
Burrows is visiting from Los Angeles to scout Driftless locations and appear at Mineral Point and Milwaukee screenings of NoNames. He gives the Orpheum Theatre, site of Wisconsin Wednesdays, his seal of approval. "It's beautiful," he says. "It's haunted."