By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Mar 21, 2009 at 4:40 PM

Two years ago, in a somewhat surprising pairing of professional, performative dance and punchy pop music, William Shatner's album "Has Ben," collaboration he did with Ben Folds and various guests, struck a chord with as famed choreographer Margo Sappington.

The result was "Common People," an acclaimed ballet Sappington created specifically for the Milwaukee Ballet, inspired by Shatner's 2004 release. Shatner came to Milwaukee for the ballet's premiere in February 2007 and had the performance filmed.

This was the impetus for the project's ever-evolving new incarnation: "William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet," a feature documentary chronicling Sappington's work with Shatner and the Milwaukee Ballet, including interviews with artists -- Ben Folds, Henry Rollins, Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann and Brad Paisley -- who contributed to "Has Been."

Milwaukee filmmakers Andrew Swant and Bobby Ciraldo, who are perhaps best known for the video they did for Samwell's "What What (In the Butt), worked as co-directors on the project in conjunction with directors Pat Buckley and Kevin Lane. Swant and Ciraldo's production company, Special Entertainment, co-produced it with Melis Productions and Big Screen Entertainment Group.

Swant calls the film fun and a little unusual.

"It's not a comedy, but it is lighthearted," he says of the movie, which took over a year to complete. "There are serious moments, but for the most part it's just documentation of this fun, weird project."

The film was chosen to debut this April 17 at the Nashville Film Festival, which runs April 16-23 and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Swant and Ciraldo are soon heading down to Nashville to meet up with Shatner, Ben Folds, Sappington and others for the premiere.

Watch a clip from the film here.

Following the film festival, "Common People" returns to Milwaukee for a repeat performance May 14-17 during the Ballet's production of "Live and Kicking: International Choreographers Series." Tickets for "Live and Kicking" are available at or by calling (414) 902-2103.

Swant and Ciraldo are keeping themselves busy as well, as they work to complete "Hamlet A.D.D.", a feature film that re-imagines Shakespeare's timeless play as a bizarre and comical tour through the ages.

The all-start quirky cast includes Dustin Diamond, Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Neil Hamburger and Tay Zonday.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”