There are only thirteen days until Madison's biggest cinematic celebration of the year begins in the late afternoon on Thursday, April 12. With the screening of the thirty-year-old lost-and-found classic Killer of Sheep at the Cinematheque late that afternoon, the Wisconsin Film Festival will run 76-and-a-half hours until its conclusion that following Sunday night.
Here are a few more Wisconsin Film Fest basics, by the numbers:
- This the ninth annual edition of the festival, which was kicked off in 1999.
- There are 183 total films being screened in this year's edition of the festival. Generally speaking, notes Hamel, about half of the programming is feature-length and the other half are shorts in any given year.
- Festival director Meg Hamel is the fest's sole full-time staff person, and is helped by two part-time student assistants (Jesse Overman and Issac Walters). Everybody else is a volunteer, with the foundations of support also coming from the UW Arts Institute and UW Department of Communication Arts.
- Two staff members of the Dept. of Communication Arts are picking up 300 film reels from Chicago. Technical volunteers will be going through each and every reel making sure there are no tears, poor splices, or other problems with the prints. Hamel confirms that this task will easily take well over 100 hours -- or more appropriately days -- to complete before the opening of the event on Apr. 12.
- There are roughly 200 volunteers this year, out of 275 who originally signed up for the gig. Another volunteer, Jess Main, coordinates all of them. "She's putting the finishing touches on our volunteer schedule," says Hamel. "This is a considerable increase over past years."
- There will be ten total theaters in use for the festival, all clustered downtown in a "movie mile" around Capitol Square, State Street, and the UW campus. These theaters have different capabilities when it comes to their screening formats, however.
The Orpheum Main Theatre and Orpheum Stage Door, along with the Capitol Theater will be screening film (all 35 mm).
The Bartell Theatre, and the lecture halls at the Wisconsin Historical Society and Monona Terrace will be screening digital video.
Then there are the Play Circle and Wisconsin Union Theater at the UW Memorial Union, the lecture hall at the MMoCA, and the Cinematheque (in Vilas Hall on the UW campus), which are capable of screening both film (35 mm and in most cases 16 mm) and digital video.
Additionally, Cinematheque and both locations inside the Overture Center (the Capitol Theater and MMoCA lecture hall) are capable of screening films on reel-to-reel projectors.
- There are 72 films -- short and feature-length -- from 31 countries screening this year. These international entrants are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Peru, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
- There are three special series featured at the festival: "Diaspora Melancholy" (about the Asian-American experience), "African Action Figures" (by and for Africans), and "FilmÎ‡ABLE: Disabilities on Screen" (in a way that defies expectations).
- A little of one-quarter of the programming -- 48 films in all -- were created by filmmakers with connections to the Badger state and are featured in the Wisconsin's Own and Wisconsin Student Shorts series. Several other entrants also have local connections, usually in the form of a producer or director who is a UW alumna.
- Tickets cost anywhere $3.25 and $7.00 per seat, depending upon one's status as a student and the number purchased.
- There is a four-ticket limit per film per order, There is also a limit of 16 total tickets per order. However, if one person were able to purchase every seat through the entire event, it would cost her roughly $305,000 at general prices or $189,000 at student prices, thanks to the festival's bulk discount for 13-16 tickets. This is indeed an affordable festival.
- 23,271 out of some 58,000 total tickets have been sold so far by late afternoon on Friday, Mar. 30.
- There are 21 screenings for which tickets are currently available only at the door. They are: All the Days Before Tomorrow, both screenings of The Boss of It All, Cinemaphotographer Style, Everything's Gone Green, the Saturday screening of Gypsy Caravan, Henry Fool, It's Happiness: A Polka Documentary, both screenings of Killer of Sheep, both screenings of King Corn, the Saturday screening of Lights in the Dusk, the Friday screening of Muxes: Authenic, Intrepid Seekers of Danger, the Sunday screening of Radio On, the Friday screening of Rape of Europa, the Friday screening of Retribution, The Spirit of the Beehive, and the Friday screening of Tim's Island. Rush tickets are also available for the short film series short.times.six and Jim and Joe's Animated Shorts.
As always, though, tickets to many of these films will be available for those willing to wait in line at the door. Indeed, keep your eyes on the filmguide over the next two weeks, particularly for the screening featuring shorts. "We may be able to return some tickets into the pool because they may not be used," says Hamel.
- Remaining tickets can be purchased online through 5 p.m. on Thursday, Apr. 5 for persons wishing to receive them by mail. (This deadline allows the festival enough time to mail them out). They can also be purchased online after 5 p.m. on Thursday, Apr. 5 until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Apr. 11, and will be available for pick-up at the festival box office in the UW Memorial Union. Finally, during the four days of the festival itself, all tickets remaining can be purchased at the individual theaters.
- There were 26,000 ticket stubs collected at the theaters through the entire 2006 Wisconsin Film Festival.
- Over 80 visiting filmmakers -- many of these from Wisconsin -- have confirmed attendance at the festival so far.
- There are 11 jury awards this year for entrants accepted in the Wisconsin's Own and Wisconsin Student Shorts film series.
- There are two Steep & Brew Audience Awards given at the end of the festival, for Best Dramatic Feature and Best Documentary Feature, as determined ballots completed by filmgoers. In 2006, though, there were three audience awards, given a tie in the dramatic category.
- When the festival ends at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Apr. 15 (with Life of Reilly at the Bartell) , there remains plenty of work for Hamel, her two student assistants, and their nucleus of help (technical director Jared Lewis, volunteer coordinator Jess Main, and support volunteers Erik Gunneson, Tom Yoshikami, Stew Fyfe, Joe Beres, and Jim Kreul).
The team will need to break down the film prints -- with tasks like removing the festival's own trailers from the reels -- and subsequently pack and ship them for the next screening in another part of the country or world. "The bulk of the films will need to be shipped out that very next day," says Hamel, with the major portion of this physical denouement typically lasting about three days.
Hamel has some final words of advice and a starting number for festival newbies.
"Go see four movies," she says, "because it's not going to wear anybody out, but it's enough to make it feel like an event, like you've actually participated in the festival." The festival director suggests that attendees select three films they think they're going to love and another they probably won't. "One of the marvelous opportunities people have at a festival is to try new things," she concludes. "You've got that opportunity at a very low cost."