Movie director Pete Schwaba was born and raised in Chicago, but don't hold that against him. While in junior high, his family moved to a small town in Wisconsin and he still lives in the state for a couple months each year.
Schwaba co-wrote "A Guy Thing," which was released in January '03, and "Dreamgirl," a Warner Brothers movie that is currently in development. But it is his 2004 effort, "Godfather of Green Bay," that is now garnering him some local attention. Hilarious and a bit of a self-portrait for Schwaba, "Godfather" screens as part of the Milwaukee International Film Festival on Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre.
He's opened for Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, and as he prepared for a trip from L.A. to Milwaukee last week Schwaba took some time to talk to OMC's Jeff Sherman.
OMC: The film looks like Wisconsin, but some of the movie was shot in Michigan, right? Why?
PS: It looks like Wisconsin because probably 60 to 70 percent of the film was shot in Wisconsin and the rest in the U.P. and L.A. and Vegas. I wanted and insisted on shooting in Wisconsin and more importantly a small town because that is where, as you know, the film is set. I am from Wisconsin and still spend about two months a year here and I love it and that is why I filmed it here.
OMC: The Packer fan characters in the film are dead on. Are you Bears fan? Fess up, where are your loyalties?
PS: I moved to northern Wisconsin from Chicago when I was eleven and, as a Bear fan, took more abuse than anyone has a right to! I'm still a Bear fan even though it's been hard to be for the last 10 years because they've been so bad. I actually tried out for the team last year and even though I never played in high school and ran the forty (yard dash) in 7.8, I was one of the last players cut.
OMC: How much of you is in Joe's character? Did you have a teacher as hot as Lauren Holly?
PS: Joe and I have a lot in common. I made my living at stand-up comedy for nine years and had affairs with most of my former teachers. I grew up in a Van Halen video. The truth is that I'm actually married to a hot teacher.
OMC: Speaking of Holly, how did you cast her for the part?
PS: Lauren read the script because one of her agents at Paradigm used to work at the Comedy Cafe when she was in college and remembered me from when I used to work there as a stand up. She read it and liked it and gave it to Lauren. Lauren and I met in person and she told me, "Your writing is sub-par at best but you are one handsome guy, Pete Schwaba." How could I not give her the part? The fact is we begged her, and were very lucky to get her!
OMC: The music really worked well. I'm a Bodeans "groupie," for the record. But how did you choose Kurt Neumann's songs?
PS: I've always been a BoDeans fan -- even before they were a band. After we finished shooting I contacted Kurt and he said he was interested so I sent him a rough cut of the movie. Since BoDeans music has been a big part of my life I was really hoping that he responded to it. He did an amazing job. Not only were we able to use some great songs of the band's, but we also have a couple of Kurt's solo tunes and he wrote a couple originals for the movie, as well. As great as the songs in the movie are, I was most impressed by the score he wrote. He really captured the feel of the film.
OMC: Bay View boy and Milwaukee Comedy Sportz veteran Eric Price was great. How'd you find him?
PS: Eric was on a tape that our casting director, Donna Brower, showed me. It was a soft-core porn movie but I liked the cut of his jib. Actually his role in 'Godfather' was written for a much older actor but Eric was just so damn funny and he left an envelope of cash with his headshot and said he was, "willing to do anything to get the part" and then he winked at me. The message came through loud and clear but I told him that I'm a married man and he was making me uncomfortable. He said, "I don't care. I really want to do this film." You have to respect that.
Eric was a favorite of everyone right away. He was hilarious and just a great guy. When we were all hanging out on non shooting days he would crack everybody up and actually do shtick, and it was obvious that it was shtick -- which is dangerous because there were a bunch of comics and they are a very tough crowd but he pulled it off. He had a comedically-jaded crowd laughing hysterically. That says a lot about how funny he is.
OMC: Next steps for the movie?
PS: Filming was the easy part compared to this. Getting people to care about a low budget film that doesn't win Sundance is really tough. We are just starting to get it out there and seen by as many people as possible and hoping to build by good word of mouth.
OMC: What's the next project for you?
PS: "Godfather of Green Bay Part Two - Electric Boogaloo!"
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.