Milwaukee, Wisconsin is home to internationally known breweries, artisan cheese makers, famous rock bands, and the world’s biggest music festival. But there is a new addition to that list – the Milwaukee Film Festival.
Once home to a relatively quiet film scene – yet boasting one of the world’s top film schools - Wisconsin’s largest city has recently found a permanent place in the national film festival circuit thanks to Milwaukee Film and the dedicated work of its staff.
The Argosy Foundation has partnered with Milwaukee Film since 2009 with grants in support of general operations, helping to fund among other initiatives, the non-profit’s acclaimed Film Festival. Argosy’s support enabled the Milwaukee Film Festival to produce a successful showcase of over 177 films from 44 countries, including screenings of Oscar-winning films such as The Artist and Undefeated well before these flicks officially hit the city’s theaters.
In its four short years of existence, the Festival’s attendance grew considerably, reaching about 36,000 viewers in 2011 – a 50 percent increase since the Festival’s inception. For that reason, festival organizers have added four more days to the 2012 festival schedule in order to accommodate the audience growth – proof that Milwaukee is excited to support a yearly event such as this.
Moreover, Milwaukee Film helps raise awareness and visibility for other area non-profits with several collaborative projects. For example, 2010’s screening of Metropolis (1927) had live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Also, for the screening of Waiting for Superman, a movie about education reform in the US, Milwaukee Film partnered with several foundations and non-profits to bring the movie to a sold-out audience of 1,000. Of those, 450 were admitted with free tickets previously distributed to schools and community groups in order to ensure a diverse audience of parents.
In addition to hosting panel discussions with artists and filmmakers, the organization also provides truly unique educational programming that includes screenwriting classes, educational screenings for school groups, filmmaking workshops for teens and adults, among other initiatives.
Youth are also at the forefront of one of Milwaukee Film’s boldest programs, Collaborative Cinema, where young and aspiring Milwaukee film makers get a chance to work with established professionals in the field in order to create original works of film. “One of the core principles of this program is increasing minority participation in film production,” explains Jonathan Jackson, Artistic and Executive Director for Milwaukee Film. “For example, not only here but around the country, there is a problem of women being a huge minority on film sets.” In order to address this disparity, Milwaukee Film recently hosted a free cinematography workshop that taught a group of aspiring women and minority cinematographers how to use the highest level camera equipment available. Furthermore, in 2011 and again in 2012 Collaborative Cinema produced films written by women and minority high school students, who were also represented in the demographic makeup of the production crew. “Over 50 percent of the high school students who’ve participated in this program have gone on to pursue [film] production in college,” says Jackson, underscoring the organization’s tireless efforts to promote filmmaking in southeastern Wisconsin while simultaneously increasing diversity in the industry.
It is through initiatives such as these that Milwaukee Film strives to serve everyone. And “everyone” doesn’t only mean individuals of all backgrounds, but also of all ages. The 3,710 children who attended the Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival can attest to that. In 2011, they were treated to a unique and age-appropriate selection of shorts from around the world, complete with take-home guides, hands-on activities and educational tools to help teachers incorporate themes from the movies into their curriculum. "I think it is important to introduce students to different genres of film and to teach them to experience film in a more critical way,” said one teacher. Another one shared, “The youth were inspired to work harder to achieve in their art and academically.”
“We were formed not only by a group of people devoted and interested in film, but also by community and civic leaders who would not have come together if it weren’t for Chris Abele and the Argosy Foundation driving the effort,” said Jackson.
Argosy believes in the powerful economic and intellectual boost Milwaukee Film provides for the city, as it delivers to its diverse audience members unparalleled educational opportunities, world-class festival programming, and valuable cinematic experiences they will cherish for years to come.
For more information, please visit www.mkefilm.org