‘The Milwaukee Show’ features city filmmakers

A Milwaukee film event showcasing 10 local short films of various genres, including music video, comedy, documentary and personal memoir hits the big screen for a one-time showing tonight at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave. The event is called "The Milwaukee Show" and starts at 6:30 p.m.

An independent panel of judges selected the competition shorts to be screened from a pool of nearly 70 submissions, more than twice the number received in past. The event will double as the launch party for Milwaukee Film, which was founded in 2008 and led by former staff members of the Milwaukee International Film Festival. The organization is committed to hosting Milwaukee's premier film festivals.

"Launching our new organization with 'The Milwaukee Show' was no accident," said Jonathan Jackson, artistic director for Milwaukee Film. "We believe in the talent of the local film scene and wanted to champion that with our inaugural screening. It's essential that Milwaukee filmmakers are given an annual opportunity to show their work in front of a large audience at such an incredible venue."

"Milwaukee Show" filmmaker Andrew Swant, who directed "Zombie Killer" with Bobby Ciraldo, said, "It's kind of like the film festival and the Internet have lifted up this big rock and exposed so many local works to the light of day." The two made last year's Milwaukee International Film Festival sensation "What What (In the Butt)."

Outside of the competition, screenings will include the world premiere of "The Waiting Room," a short film produced by Collaborative Cinema in partnership with Milwaukee Film.

"The Waiting Room" was written by local high-school student Emily Downes, directed by Tate Bunker, produced by Mark Metcalf and funded by The Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation. Downes beat out 150 high school students in an area-wide contest for her film.

"Crossing the Line," produced by Matt Batta, will also premiere at The Milwaukee Show. The 10-minute documentary is about 200 factory workers who went on strike for 11 months in Jefferson County, Wis., from Tyson Foods, protesting wage freezes and wage tiers in 2003.

The film showcases a nonviolent protest in small town America, complete with footage from the picket line as well as retrospective interviews. In a small town like Jefferson, the conflict involved neighbor against neighbor — factory workers versus police, workers versus Tyson consumers.

"There were a lot of bad feelings and tension," said Batta, whose mother and father were both on strike from Tyson.

This is his first documentary — he originally shot footage of the strike for a class and the made a film of it in a college course at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I didn't really know what I was doing at the time," Batta said.

He said he completed the project for various reasons. It was creative outlet and a chance to raise awareness about events occurring in small town America as well as a simple opportunity to capture a unique incident.

Short films are challenging, Batta said. There is little time for superfluous images or messages. The producer has to get to the core message of the film and strip the content down to bare essentials.

"You are basically shooting 20 minutes for every one minute you show," Batta said. "Documentary is exhausting."

Following "The Milwaukee Show" guests are invited to join Milwaukee Film staff and supporters at Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Dr., to meet the filmmakers.