There is more than one major Wisconsin-made movie directed by a onetime Madisonian resident that is premiering in June. While that one gangster movie with the movie stars may be breaking the bank in terms of attention, a new indie feature titled Mary Sweeney -- is also gearing up for its moment on the big screen.
Baraboo is the directorial debut for Sweeney, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who was born in Madison and still maintains a summer home in town. She has had a longtime collaborative relationship with David Lynch, working variously as editor and producer on many of his films, including Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, winning a British Academy Award for her work on the latter. Along with these roles, she and John Roach co-wrote The Straight Story, the acclaimed Lynch film that's based on the unhurried odyssey of Alvin Straight, who drove a lawn mower some 240 miles from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion (a few miles north of the Wisconsin River from Bascobel) back in 1994 in order to visit his ailing brother.
Sweeney returns to her roots in this Midwestern landscape in Baraboo. Originally titled Motel, Gas Station, the film was shot late last summer in various locations around Madison, including Cambridge, Utica, and Devil's Lake. Its synopsis reads: "Set in bountiful rural Wisconsin, Baraboo follows six people who have each carved a life out for themselves at Petersens Cabins, a rundown motel/resort. Some are there by choice, and others by circumstance. They circle one another with caution, desire, anger, confusion and compassion, inching their way toward understanding."
The film has its world premiere next week at the in July. Though no domestic screenings are scheduled yet, Baraboo seems like a natural fit for the Wisconsin Film Festival; hopefully it will be a part of the programming next April.
The official trailer for the film follows.
In a January interview with the non-profit group Film Independent on which she serves as a board member, Sweeney describes her thoughts on her debut in the director's seat for Baraboo as "like I stepped into my own shoes for the first time in my life." She also discusses her work with Lynch, her non-linear narrative screenwriting class at USC, and her advice for first-time filmmakers. More information about the making of the film can also be found in a report from the Baraboo News Republic, a column by Doug Moe about the casting of APT associate artistic director Brenda DeVita (who is married to the actor/author James DeVita) in a starring role, a brief commentary published online by another of its cast members, and in its Facebook group for fans, which features plenty of production photos.
"Mary Sweeney here makes a striking and idiosyncratic first outing as writer/director," declares the official film description provided by the Scottish festival. "This tender study of connection, recovery and delicate personal dynamics circles the residents of Baraboo, Wisconsin -- ordinary souls rendered fascinating by Sweeney's compassionate close-up attention."