There are just over eight weeks remaining until the opening of the ninth annual Wisconsin Film Festival, to be staged in movie theaters and lecture halls throughout downtown Madison from Thursday, April 12, through Sunday, April 15. Things are very busy at the WFF offices in the UW's Vilas Hall, where festival director Meg Hamel, a small team of pro-bono assistants and two part-time student employees are busy lining up this year's film selections, organizing volunteers, and performing the seemingly endless tasks remaining in the two months before the event.
"The festival is sort of a miracle because it has such a small staff that's dedicated to making this thing happen every year," says Hamel, who works for the UW Arts Institute, the primary institutional host of the festival. She spoke about the WFF's ongoing work on Wednesday afternoon, highlighting some of her key volunteers and sharing a few more of the movies slated for screening. These notes follow below.
Hamel discusses the ongoing work behind the scenes at the festival, and shares a few more films (which join a restored Young Frankenstein and 12:08 East of Bucharest in the selections):
- "For of an event of this size, it's amazing that there's this handful of people, most of whom have participated for many, many years," she notes. "Everybody contributes their time as a volunteer." Who are some of these essential assistants?
- Jared Lewis is the head projectionist for the UW Communication Arts Department, and contributes his time to be the technical director of the festival. "He helps me confirm that all of the equipment in the theaters and that we need to rent and install is working and ready to go," Hamel says. "It's a huge job. I ask him to help, and he graciously cooperates."
- Erik Gunneson is a faculty associate in UW Comm Arts, who, Hamel explains, works as a technical adviser "for everything connected to the festival."
- Tom Yoshikami, a UW Comm Arts grad student and programmer for Cinematheque, shares an office with Hamel. "He gets roped into helping select the films for the festival," she explains.
- There are three more persons involved in the film programming and selection. Stew Fyfe is a UW Comm Arts grad student, Joe Beres is a UW graduate who currently works in the film/video unit of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and Jim Kreul is a festival co-founder currently teaching cinema at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
- The festival plans to show the new film by Hal Hartley titled Fay Grim, which features Parker Posey and Jeff Goldblum. It's something of a sequel to or continuation of Hartley's 1997 feature Henry Fool. Hamel says the festival is also planning to screen this earlier work by Hartley, to allow viewers to learn the backstory to Fay Grim.
- Severance is a comedic horror film written and directed by Christopher Smith (who also created Creep, released in 2004). "It's a very funny horror film about people lost in the woods," Hamel says. "This is the kind of film where you want to see it with hundreds of other people in the theater with you."
- The third film Hamel reveals this week is Punk's Not Dead, which was produced and directed by Susan Dynner, a UW graduate. "It's a fantastic documentary about the contemporary punk scene with a little bit of punk rock history thrown in," Hamel says, and includes Rancid's Tim Armstrong as an assistant producer. "It wouldn't be the Wisconsin Film Festival without a punk rock documentary," she says, "and it's great to have one by a graduate of the university."
- Hamel continues to seek volunteers, whose help is mostly needed over the four days of the festival itself. "We've had a lot of people respond to volunteering, but we're still looking for more," she says. If you are interested, sign up here.
- Finally, the festival is always looking for more financial support. "In the past, the festival has never had a system for people to support it through voluntary donations," Hamel says, "so as a nonprofit event, we want to make sure we don't overlook any sources of funding." Hence The Real Butter Fund, their charitable donation program. What's with the name? As explained by the festival...
This is Wisconsin. Real butter represents everything that is good and great about our state. The name was inspired by a mobile that hung above the popcorn counter at the former Strand Theater on East Mifflin Street in Madison. The mobile was salvaged before the building closed in 1990.The mobile currently hangs in the festival offices. "Any money that is contributed to the Real Butter Fund," Hamel explains, "will go directly to support the festival."
It's popcorn, it's movies, it's Wisconsin. It's good.
There are 57 days remaining until the opening of the 2007 Wisconsin Film Festival.