I met director and creator of "Wisconsin Foodie" Arthur Ircink several years ago and was fortunate enough to work with him in the first season of the show.
His approach to Wisconsin food, restaurants, farmers and local keepers of the "faith" was a completely fresh and new perspective. It's unique in the sense that the show is not funded by advertising dollars. Integrity and objectivity are paramount and that was obvious from the first episode.
I recently caught up with him to ask him about his ideas, inspirations and some recommendations.
OnMilwaukee.com: Compared to newspapers and radio, what is about films that interests you? And how did you get into films?
Arthur Ircink: It's hard to compare those different mediums; I grew up loving the movies and always wanted to be a part of that craft. Newspapers and radio are more objective. I like the subjectivity of film, letting the viewer interpret the story. To me, the best films are the ones that make you think and that is really the goal with Wisconsin Foodie, to make people think about their food choices. I don't look at Wisconsin Foodie as part of the "media;" in my mind each episode is a documentary film that explores a character's story relating to our culinary environment.
When I was a kid my father would take me to the movies every Friday. I found comfort in the theater. Growing up, movies became an escape for me, when the real world gave me a hard time I always knew I had an out. There was a point were I was exposed to different filmmakers like Herzog, the Maysles Brothers, Godard, Begman and Bunuel, [and] at that point I began to look at cinema as art and something I wanted to contribute to.
It can be very complicated to make a film – you need a crew, actors, money, a script, etc. In the early days it was a challenge for me to organize all of that, so I naturally turned to documentary filmmaking, which is something that can be done with a subject and a camera. In the end I am drawn to the storytelling aspect of film more than anything.
OMC: Why "Wisconsin Foodie?"
AI: In 2007 I was working at a marketing firm doing corporate videos for GE. My goal at the time was to change the concept of a "corporate video" and I challenged our company to try something different and inspired. In the corporate world that mentality isn't appreciated and I was laid off days before Christmas. I had hit rock bottom at the time but I was determined to prove myself and turn tragedy into success.
That Christmas, over drinks at a bar in Montreal called the Billy Kun (look it up; it's a cool bar), I had an idea: to make "local" television cool. At the time I was really into food shows and thought, "Why not a local show dealing with local food?" Instead of making the Guy Fieris and the Rachael Rays celebrities, why not make local chefs and farmers the celebrities? You can watch an episode of Bourdain and fantasize about traveling to a far-away country or you could watch our show and experience something later that day. For us it's all about the story, that's what makes your dinner more exciting, the food always tastes better when you know its story.
After the idea was penned on a bar napkin, things moved very quickly. I had this overwhelming feeling that wouldn't allow me to rest until this was accomplished. Without money, a host or a crew, I picked up the phone and started calling people. I was able to convince an old neighbor friend Kyle Cherek that he would be the perfect host (and he is) and he reluctantly agreed to participate. With the help of filmmaker Mark Escribano we shot a pilot of "Wisconsin Foodie," and the rest is history. We've kept shooting shows independently since that day.
The simple answer: Because there was nothing else like it and we had nothing better to do.
OMC: What do you want viewers to take away from your show?
AI: Hard work, passion and dedication.
OMC: Considering it has become really easy to publish videos on the internet, do you think this will help or hinder professional filmmakers such as yourself?
AI: The internet has opened endless possibilities for filmmakers. It has saved our industry, to a certain degree. With that said, nothing will ever replace sitting in a movie theater as the lights begin to go down.
OMC: Are there any particular films you would recommend? Or other filmmakers or artisans that inspire you?
AI: Mark Escribano, Brad Lichtenstein, Barry Poltermann and Chris Smith are all local filmmakers that inspire me and have had a major influence on my career.
OMC: What would you suggest to other young aspiring filmmakers in Wisconsin?
AI: Be passionate about what you do and always finish what you start.
Thank you Arthur and everyone from "Wisconsin Foodie" for your passion and dedication to all things Wisconsin.
Sort of a different version of the 'Always in good taste ' show that was existed prior to it coming on the air. The background music in the segs is often competing/ fighting against the visuals. Good show for a one man band production.
The concept for "Wisconsin Foodie" is a great one and the show is well produced.
Kyle Cherek is not a good host, though. He's too self-important and frankly, he just tries too hard.
Jessica Bell from MyWineSchool gets something like this right. Kyle Cherek gets it wrong.
Take note, Arthur Ircink.
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