From his home base in Marinette, writer, director and comedian Pete Schwaba remains connected to the independent film community as host of Director’s Cut, as well as introducing documentaries shown on Independent Lens and POV.
Each year, the Director’s Cut season kicks off with a preview of the Wisconsin Film Festival. Join Schwaba and special guests – festival organizers and filmmakers – 9 p.m. Monday, April 1 on WPT to discuss some of the great offerings in store. Then, come on down to the fest itself from April 4-11, where Schwaba presents the Golden Badger Awards to the best of Wisconsin’s Own films.
Schwaba spoke with us to share some of his favorite indie film picks from past seasons, and what he loves about public TV. Read on!
The Wisconsin Film Festival is the state’s premier cinema event, featuring local filmmakers and movies shot in the state, as well as a diverse range of national and international films. Celebrating its 18th year in 2017, it takes place in Madison from March 30 to April 6.
In this year’s Director’s Cut special episode Wisconsin Film Festival 2017, host Pete Schwaba sits down with the Jim Healy, the festival’s director of programming, to preview this year’s selection of films from a variety of categories. From American visionaries to films by new female directors and even pre-teen filmmakers, Healy’s selections on the program particularly showcase movies made right here in Wisconsin.
“We program thinking about the audience,” Healy says. “We’ve picked the best films from festivals around the world, and films that have been submitted to us in our Wisconsin zone section, to make a festival of festivals.”
With a look at five films screening at the festival, Schwaba and Healy are joined by:
Director Andrew Swant — Silently Steal Away: The film explores the story behind the Jack Raymond Show, which has aired on an eccentric Chippewa Falls radio station. But who is Jack Raymond?
Director Mark Davis and subject Jan Jensen — The Bear and the Owl: This short documentary film explores the story of an ailing young girl and the kindness of a stranger.
Director, producer and screenwriter Katherine Acosta — Divided We Fall: This documentary looks back at the massive 2011 protests inside the Wisconsin State Capitol against Act 10. The investigation revisits many issues that remain relevant in a post-2016 election America.
Co-directors Wesley Morgan & Kate Feldt — Fake Jewels: This nostalgic and comedic movie explores a long-lost friendship as two women attempt to find a time capsule buried a decade ago.
Editor Luke Bassuener and fifth graders Jaeana Sabally and Jalen Baumback (directors, cast, writers) — Daedalus and Icarus: Students in the 4th grade classes of Madison’s Crestwood Elementary School animate the classic Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, using block-print and paper-cuts. This film has been awarded one of only three 2017 Golden Badger Awards as a top Wisconsin’s Own honoreee.
Director’s Cut airs Monday, March 27 at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.
Wisconsin Public Television is a proud sponsor of Wisconsin’s Own, hosting a brunch each year for the festival’s film industry guests. This year, more than 150 people submitted films to be considered for Wisconsin’s Own.
Director’s Cut is back and we once again kick off our season with our annual Wisconsin Film Festival Episode 2016. After talking with Program Director Jim Healy, it’s obvious that the indie film scene is alive and well here in Wisconsin. Jim has been programming the Wisconsin Film Festival for almost a decade, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a bigger film enthusiast. His energy for the festival and film in general is infectious.
Besides showing you wide variety of clips from domestic and international films at this year’s festival, I also had the privilege of interviewing some great local directors about their intriguing and outstanding films. Wendy Schneider discussed her film The Smart Studios Story. This is a great film about a recording studio based in Madison that produced some of the most influential music of the last 20 years, including albums by Garbage, Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. Wendy’s film has been sold out at the festival for at least two weeks, but maybe you can find a respectable scalper if you’re really dedicated!Continue reading Preview: 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival→
Written by Director’s Cut guest host Pete Schwaba, a film writer and director (and occasional stand-up comic) whose credits include “A Guy Thing” and “The Godfather of Green Bay.”
On our annual Director’s Cut Wisconsin Film Festival special (9 p.m. Friday, April 5) we preview this year’s line up of films that will be seen at the festival in Madison, April 11–18. We’ll take a look at some film clips, talk with Wisconsin Film Festival (WFF) director of programming Jim Healy and meet some really talented Wisconsin filmmakers.
Healy, an avid film buff, discusses the changes in venues at the festival this year as well as some of the featured films. I, for one, am blown away by how much the WFF has grown over the years. My film “The Godfather of Green Bay” was in the 2005 WFF and if the ’05 festival was standing next to this year’s, you wouldn’t even recognize it.
On the program, we welcome a variety of directors including Chris James Thompson of “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files.” “Dahmer” is the veteran filmmaker’s directorial debut and from the clip we featured, his film looks haunting and very true to life — the actor playing Dahmer is spot on. It will be very interesting to see the response to this film from festival goers.
Madison filmmaker, Marc Kornblatt also appears on the show and talks about his film “Street Pulse,” about the homeless in Madison. An insightful and touching work.
We also talk to Director’s Cut alum, Jim Carrier who directed “The Librarian and the Banjo” which tells the story of a music librarian who proved that the banjo came from Africa with the slaves. Blyth Renate Meier features her film “So I Could Fly Away,” a short about her father’s childhood on the farm in North Dakota. In the documentary, Blyth proves you don’t need a big budget to get some really nice cinematography. Another short playing at WFF 2013 is “Siszilla” by Madison resident and Director’s Cut veteran Eric J. Nelson. Eric tells us what it was like making a stop-action film and using his own kids — a brave man indeed is this Eric Nelson!
By the way, this year’s WFF is not without comedy. If you’re looking for laughs or can relate to a text-based relationship, check out “Long Distance.” We spoke with Madison comedians, and stars of the film, Stacy Kulow and Bryan Morris who each made their film acting debut in this quirky indie. This might be the perfect change of pace after seeing Mark Metcalf in the creepy “Little Red.”
There are so many intriguing and interesting selections this year that it’s a little overwhelming. If the films you want to see are sold out, there is a good bet you’ll still see some really outstanding works if you just take a chance and play Wisconsin Film Festival roulette. Good luck movie buffs and don’t forget to check out Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival this Friday for more info on the WFF and some really great film talk.
Garry Denny previews Shelter Me, The Central Park Five, Director’s Cut and more new programs coming to Wisconsin Public Television.
Michael Mosley Specials
On public television we schedule a lot of science and technology programs, not the least of which being NOVA and my personal favorite NOVA scienceNOW. In fact, the Wednesday night schedule on PBS has become the television destination for good science programming. Notice I said “good.” Because if you look around the dial you’ll find plenty of what I consider to be junk science — programs that are highly promoted with style and import, but with substance that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
In recent years we’ve added a new face to the public television stable of host. His name is Michael Mosley, a British bloke with a curious nature and insatiable appetite for science. During April, we’re airing three new specials from Mosley and his team — each an informative and entertaining look at topics that are near and dear to us all — living longer.
In Eat, Fast and Live Longer Mosley explores whether or not it’s possible to eat whatever he wants, lose weight and live longer, all while making very few changes to his lifestyle. He takes us on an intriguing journey and makes the trip fun, while giving us a dose of serious science as part of the bargain. In The Truth About Exercise Mosley investigates new science that suggests we can all benefit from just three minutes of high intensity exercise per week. In the aptly titled Guts Mosley truly takes one for the team by swallowing a tiny pill camera to demonstrate what goes on “down there” during the admittedly fascinating digestion process. You can’t say he’s a host that mails it in.
Eat, Fast and Live Longer premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 3. The Truth About Exercise premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 and Guts premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 17. Each with their respective encore at 10 p.m. the following Tuesday.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Okay, I’ll be honest: Phryne Fisher is one good-looking woman. But, she’s also whip-smart and awfully good at solving crimes.
Set in 1920s Melbourne, the gorgeous actress Essie Davis plays a glamorous, wealthy socialite who constantly finds herself mixed up in solving crimes that baffle the police and serve as wonderful backdrops for drama and action. This is one of the few mystery series that I’ve seen in recent years that I purchased for the WPT schedule after previewing only one episode. It’s just that good. The stories are intriguing, the supporting cast of characters is fun to watch, and the sets and costumes are simply exquisite. And did I mention that Miss Fisher is easy on the eyes?Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries premieres 9 p.m. Thursday, April 4 and airs weekly, right after Poirot.
Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival
Our local series Director’s Cut takes its annual walk through the Wisconsin Film Festival. This year guest host Pete Schwaba gives us a wonderful insider’s tour of the festival along with clips galore and interviews with filmmakers. Without rival, Wisconsin Public Television is THE home for independent film on television, and Director’s Cut’s involvement with the Wisconsin Film Festival is another way for us to showcase the important and impressive work of independent filmmakers from Wisconsin and around the world. Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival premieres 9 p.m. Friday, April 5 with an encore later the same evening. As a reminder, the Wisconsin Film Festival runs April 11-18, and the new season of Director’s Cut and Director’s Cut Presents premieres Friday, April 19.
Independent Lens “The House I Live In”
Speaking of independent film, the new film from producer/director Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight”) takes a penetrating and devastating look at one of America’s longest wars — the War on Drugs. The film illustrates the effects of the decades-long war on children, families, communities and the nation. Most eye opening is the film’s illumination of how the African American community has been decimated by the War on Drugs and overall drug policy in this country. I suspect that you could watch this film and find reasons to agree and disagree, but you will certainly come away with a new perspective on the drug war, and asking questions that few politicians and jurist have answers. Independent Lens “The House I Live In” premieres 9 p.m. Monday, April 8.
R&B artist John Legend performs “The House I Live In” theme song.
The Central Park Five
In a mesmerizing new documentary from Sarah Burns (yes, daughter of Ken Burns) and David McMahon, the case of the rape and brutal beating of the Central Park jogger is brought to the screen like no film before. In New York in the summer of 1989 a white woman jogger in Central Park was attacked, raped and beaten until near dead. The city and the country were outraged. Someone had to be brought to justice.
The haste to justice and judgment lead police to arrest, question and ultimately charge five teenage boys with the brutal crime. The problem is they didn’t do it. Their confessions were coerced — the result of slimy police and prosecutor tactics — and all five teenagers served time in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The Central Park Five focuses on the events in chronological order and tells a sad, almost angering story using great footage from the period, and most importantly, the words of the five convicted teenagers, who are now grown men irrevocably affected by their ordeal.
This is not easy television to watch, but it’s a well-made film with tones that still resonate, more than two decades after the crime. The Central Park Five premieres 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 and encores 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 17.
Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home
I’ve already established in this space that I am an animal lover. My two golden retrievers made an appearance here, and now they are world famous. Last year we aired the first episode of Shelter Me, which featured wonderful stories of adopted shelter animals helping people with personal difficulties. In Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home host Jane Lynch (Glee, Best of Show) leads us through great stories of shelter pets that go from being rescued to rescuer. We get to see dogs that visit patients in hospitals; shelter dogs being trained by firefighters for search and rescue; and even a dramatic rescue of a litter of puppies in danger of death from starvation. Just like episode 1, Shelter Me: Let’s Go Home is moving and uplifting television. It premieres 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.
The Bletchley Circle
In the past two years our colleagues at PBS have been on the look out for more dramas and mysteries for the schedule. The popular series Call the Midwife is just one example of the fruits of their labor. The Bletchley Circle is another series picked up by PBS and has a limited three-week run in April.
Based on the famous World War II British code-breaking center known as Bletchley Park, the series tells the story of four women who used to work as codebreakers. A series of murders takes place in 1952, that the women feel have a pattern, but police are making no headway in solving. The women take it on themselves to investigate the murders and hopefully bring the culprit to justice. It’s a dark, moody drama, but it gives viewers a rather good yarn to enjoy. The Bletchley Circle premieres 9 p.m. Sunday, April 21.
The Oscars are behind us — Jennifer Lawrence no longer dominates the headlines of every website, and Ben Affleck has regained his street cred. So what’s a film lover to do now that we’re officially in the dark months between Oscar buzz and summer blockbusters?
Seems like a good time for a film festival. We’ve got three of ’em (and you don’t even have to leave the couch to enjoy them).
#SheDocs Online Film Festival
In celebration of Women’s History Month, #SheDocs Online Film Festival brings you the best independent documentaries that tell the stories of women and girls defying odds and rising to leadership positions throughout history. (Could it be the first film fest that’s also a Twitter hashtag)?
If film festivals were known for their headlining acts, in the way summer music festivals are, MAKERS would be the #SheDocs headliner. MAKERS: Women Who Make America, a 3-hour film narrated by Meryl Streep, debuted on WPT Feb. 26 to much fanfare and it dominated the social media landscape thanks to engaged viewers like you. A lot of you called in to WPT Audience Services to tell us you want to share MAKERS with parents and children alike. This tweet sums it up best, “Watching agn! w/my mom (born ’52) & even had the attn of my daughter (born in 2006) 4 a moment!”
One of the best ways to enjoy the #SheDocs festival is by participating in an upcoming Ovee screening. Ovee offers a way to watch your favorite public television films and connect with other viewers during the screening via social media. Check out all the upcoming #SheDocs Ovee screenings.
PBS Online Film Festival
PBS, this month, happens to be running its own little festival — the PBS Online Film Festival — showcasing 25 short films that feature a diversity of subjects, voices and viewpoints. I’ll plug CatCam. In a short 16-minute film you’ll find out what happens when an owner straps a camera to a cat that constantly disappears from home.
Wisconsin Film Festival
After #SheDocs and the PBS Online Film Festival wrap this month, you’ll have a few days to recover before the Wisconsin Film Festival (WFF) swings into action. The official kick-off (in public tv land, at least) is 9 p.m. Friday, April 5, when Director’s Cut airs it’s annual preview of the WFF. The official lineup will be announced later this month. Stay tuned to wifilmfest.org for details.
Ok careful readers… I fibbed a little bit earlier. You can preview the WFF from your couch, but if you want to see the films, well, that requires changing out of your pajamas and making the trip to downtown Madison for some engagement with the community. The WFF is no SXSW or Sundance, but there’s always a special buzz in the restaurants and theaters the week of the WFF. Hope to see you out there, or online.
Garry Denny is Director of Programming for Wisconsin Public Television. He is responsible for the acquisition, scheduling and delivery of programming services on WPT, and each month, he gives you the inside scoop on the best new programs in his post “A Look Ahead.“
“Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey”
I can say without even a hint of doubt that Wisconsin Public Television is THE broadcast home for independent film. Sure, there’s a cable channel called Independent Film Channel, but trust me when I say that the vast majority of their schedule consists of films produced by the major Hollywood studios. The fact is we air more hours per month of true independent media work than any other broadcast or cable channel available on the dial. One of our hallmark series, Independent Lens, presents a very special film this month starring everyone’s favorite character Elmo. In “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” we are treated to a rare behind-the-scenes look into the world of artist Kevin Clash, the brilliant creator, voice and hand of Elmo. The film takes us along Kevin’s journey from his early days in Baltimore, dreaming of becoming a part of Jim Henson’s legendary team of puppeteers, to ultimately realizing his goal of establishing himself as a children’s entertainer using his many talents. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Kevin at Sesame Workshop in New York and he is just as engaging and genuine in the film as he is in person. To look at him and realize that Elmo’s voice comes out of his mouth is worth the price of admission alone – which is free to you, by the way. This film is a sheer joy to watch for adults and kids, so gather the family and settle in for a wonderful shared viewing experience. Independent Lens “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey” premieres on Friday, April 6 at 9:30 p.m. with an encore on Monday, April 9 at 8 p.m. Preview Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival 2012
Speaking of independent film, April is the month for the Wisconsin Film Festival. This year the fest runs from April 18-22 in several venues throughout Madison. WPT’s ongoing commitment to independent voices and stories, particularly by Wisconsin filmmakers, is highlighted in this annual special of our series Director’s Cut. In this episode we take a sweeping look at the films and directors coming to the festival. Along with great clips from featured films, several directors join host Charles Monroe-Kane in studio for a discussion of their work and a look ahead to their film’s debut at the festival. If you’re a fan of new ideas, new techniques, unique stories and great film, don’t miss this primer for the Wisconsin Film Festival. Director’s Cut: Wisconsin Film Festival 2012 premieres at 8 p.m. Friday, April 13, with encores at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 15, and 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 18. With three chances to watch you really have no excuse to miss this special. Visit the Wisconsin Film Festival website.
America Revealed A four-part series, premiering April 11 It’s not often … in fact, never have I been able to say that a public television series is hosted by a previous winner of the reality blockbuster “Survivor.” But, now I can because we have a wonderful new series starring Yul Kwon, winner of “Survivor: Cook Islands.” In America Revealed Yul takes us on a whirlwind tour of all of the great, vast, complex and fascinating networks that make America run – food, energy, transportation, and manufacturing. I gotta say that Yul makes for an amazing host because he has great screen presence, a natural curiosity, and he is quite easy on the eyes – he was named one of People magazine’s 100 Sexiest. (Need more Yul? His best qualities are on display in this YouTube tribute). In the four-part series Yul takes us on an amazing adventure as he explores close up the complex systems that are required for America to supply food, generate energy, provide safe transportation and make the goods that consumers need and demand. In episode one, “Food Machine,” we’re taken from one end of the country to the other on a journey to reveal just how expansive and intricate our food supply is in this country. From how Domino’s Pizza sources and distributes its ingredients to thousands of stores, to the farm that grows onions to exact specifications for the wildly popular Bloomin’ Onion served at Outback Steakhouse. Spoiler alert: each onion costs approximately 30 cents to produce and transport, and Outback sells the Bloomin’ Onion for $6.99. But, it is mightly tasty and worth every penny.
Catch America Revealed on Wednesdays April 11, 18, 25, and May 2 at 9 p.m. Visit America Revealed on the WPT Schedule to watch a preview.
Frontline “Money, Power and Wall Street” “An environment of greed and envy.” That’s a quote from Frontline’s new landmark mini-series covering the history and aftermath of the global financial crisis, circa 2008. In “Money, Power and Wall Street” Frontline’s award-winning financial and political teams seek to answer a fundamental, but complex and critical question: are the world’s financial systems any safer. Because the series is still in production I have not seen the entire program, but from the few minutes I’ve seen I highly recommend that viewers tune in for this extremely important two-part, four-hour documentary. Whether you care about Wall Street or Main Street this mini-series covers a subject that affects us all. Frontline “Money, Power and Wall Street” premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 and concludes the following Tuesday, May 1 at 8 p.m. Each episode encores the following Thursday at 10 p.m.
With The Oscars – one of the world’s biggest celebrations of film – this weekend, it is a great time to start looking toward the new season of Directors Cut. So, show producer Mary Pokorney-Donelan is checking in to offer us a sneak preview of the forthcoming season.
Spring is almost here, which also means the premiere of Director’s Cut and Director’s Cut Presents’ fifth season is coming too. We have been working all year to put together an enjoyable and enticing lineup for viewers. The films for this year include a comedy starring Lauren Holly and Tony Goldwyn, The Godfather of Green Bay (click here to watch the trailer), a powerful and moving documentary by Frank G. Caruso, This Is My Sister (watch a preview here: http://vimeo.com/15112187), and a quirky and disturbing drama, Lovely By Surprise.
Our host Charles Monroe-Kane gets the behind the scenes stories from filmmakers about their work. Some of our guests include comedian/director Pete Schwaba, actor Lance Barber, Driftless Film Festival co-founders Nicholas Langholff and Darren Burrows, documentary filmmakers Trevor Velin and burro racer Roger Pedretti, and the organizers of the 48 Hour Film Project.
We are even going on location this year, with an entertaining documentary about the “heavy metal meets bowling” music video, Striker. We recorded our interview on location at the Sett Recreation Center on the UW-Madison campus.
Our season kicks off again this year with an hour-long preview of the Wisconsin Film Festival April 13. We will sit down with festival organizers Jim Healy and John Powers, as well as a collection of directors whose work will be shown at the festival.
I can’t wait! Stay tuned for our upcoming schedule and remember, check the gate.