By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Nov 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Milwaukee-born filmmaker George Tilllman Jr. considers himself a storyteller. And beyond the glitz and gunfire and car chases, there is a story in his latest film, "Faster," which hits theaters today.

"I always wanted to do an action movie," Tillman told me during a phone conversation last week. "It offered a good story, a really good story and really good characters at the same time."

But with Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as the Rock, starring, the accent is on action in what Tillman describes as a "throw-back to the 70s." Johnson plays an avenging angel, just released from prison, on a mission to kill those who killed his brother.

It's a lean, mean story with fast cars bullets flying and bodies falling and it's all accomplished without computer effects -- or very much dialogue from Johnson.

"What it really boils down to, is you have to think about how you can distinguish each scene from the previous scene," Tillman said. "It becomes a challenge, but it becomes exciting."

Also exciting to Tillman was crafting the story for $24 million, far below the budget of some similar action films. That's the reason for the lack of computer effects, and the tightly choreographed car chases.

He tried not to get bogged down in the action.

"At the end of the day, it's about a story, it’s about what you’re trying to say."

While revenge is the driving force in the action, Tillman sees it as a family story, familiar ground for him. Johnson's character is, after all, seeking the men who killed his beloved brother, the only person who ever cared for him.

While it's very different from Tillman's previous work, starting with his first film,"Soul Food," he says there's a common thread of family even in this loud, violent film.

Speaking of family, it's also the film debut of his 7-year-old son, Chase.

"He didn't believe that Dwayne was real," Tillman said. "We put him on the set and he had his first scene."

Chase Tillman's scene comes toward the end of the film, and his presence helps humanize Johnson's character.

With work done on "Faster," Tillman expects to take a few months to relax.

"I'm definitely going to take a break," he said.

He and his wife, Marcia Wright-Tillman, another Milwaukeean, will be home over the holidays, visiting the family.

Milwaukee is still an important part of Tillman's life and it still may prove the location for a future film.

"That’s always a possibility," he said. Tillman told me about meeting a young filmmaker in Minnesota. "He wrote this amazing script," said Tillman.

It's a script that Tillman says could end being shot here. Maybe.

Meanwhile, here's the trailer for "Faster":

On TV: Milwaukee is a test market for "The Fran Drescher Show," with Channel 58 airing the wannabe daytime talker at 9 a.m. this Friday. Starting Monday, it will air weekdays at 3 p.m. During the three-week test, "Doctor Oz" moves to Channel 58's sister channel WMLW (Channel 41 over the air, Channel 7 on Time Warner Cable, and Channel 8 on Charter.) Other test markets:  New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Orlando.

  • Fox is burning off the remaining episodes of "Running Wilde" on next month. Episodes will air at 6 p.m. Sunday on Dec. 12 and 19, and at 8:30 on Dec. 26. The final two episodes will air starting at 8 .m. Dec. 28.
  • Episode two of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" pulled in around 3 million viewers, down from the 5 million who watched the premiere, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers.
  • reports Michael J. Fox will be back on CBS' "The Good Wife" next season.
  • Chicago media guru Rob Feder is ending the blog he's been writing the past year for Chicago Public Media's Vocal blog network. The site was recently made part of the Web site of Chicago's Public radio station WBEZ-FM. "But let me assure you," he writes, "I won't be leaving the daily media beat. I expect to make an announcement about my new online home soon."

A great pick to host "SNL": "Sesame Street" veteran Cookie Monster is going the Betty White route and hosting "Saturday Night Live."

Here's his audition video:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.