Milwaukee filmmakers have an explosive idea
The puns really just write themselves for this one.
Milwaukee is a hotbed of talent. The city has explosive potential. The creative community here is a raging inferno.
But the folks at Flipeleven Creative are all about less talk, more action. They want the world to know that Milwaukee is a major player when it comes to creative talent.
And they're blowing up a car to prove it.
Okay, that's not really the whole point. The exploding car is going to be a scene in their new movie "The Nugget,' which will be shot using a RED camera that the Flipeleven crew won when they took Best Film and Best Director in the Milwaukee 48 Hour Film Project for their horror flick "Until Death."
"One of the prizes was a day with a RED camera," said Lisa England, screenwriter for "The Nugget" and storyteller/strategist with Flipeleven. "It's a pretty standard camera they use in Hollywood to film action – they filmed 'Spiderman' with it, 'The Hobbit.'
"We were thinking – 'Okay, what do we want to shoot? We want to shoot something that looks really sweet on a RED camera, which does slow motion really well.'"
And what better to film in slow motion than a fireball exiting a car in the middle of downtown Milwaukee?
"At first when they started talking about this and I walked into that conversation, in my head I had us finding some farmland out in the country, I'd get some gasoline, I'd throw the match, I'd maybe wear something fireproof," said Chad Halvorsen, video editor at Flipeleven and producer of "The Nugget." "And they're like, 'No, we're blowing it up downtown.'"
"In a perfect world, it's going to happen Oct. 26 on the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge," said the film's director, Kyle Buckley, co-owner of Flipeleven. "We're in the midst of working on permits but nothing's set in stone, so we have a few locations picked out downtown."
Ultimately, the team behind "The Nugget" feels that this is so much more than a stunt for a film or even a marketing ploy. They see it as an opportunity to show the world that, despite the gutting of the state's film incentive program, the film community in Milwaukee is as robust as ever. Tax break or no tax break, the Cream City is a great place for movies to be made.
"This idea was born to kind of make film publicly as opposed to hidden and private and tucked in a corner," said Buckley. "We thought what if we did something public, right in the face of the world, and just said, 'There is a film industry here, it's great, it's really strong'? Well, if we blow up a car in downtown Milwaukee, it's got a hook to say something to the rest of the community that they can rally around."
Buckley created a Kickstarter page for the project entitled 'Love MKE. Blow Up a Car.' The page will help raise funds for the pyrotechnics experts and offers rewards for various financial pledges. Give $10 or more and you'll see your name in the credits of the film. A donation of $5,000 makes you an executive producer. If you pay for the whole project by giving $10,000, you get to pull the trigger on the explosives – and the Flipeleven team will even send you a framed photograph of yourself doing so.
If this all sounds a little dangerous, have no fear. Flipeleven is employing the expertise of pyrotechnics guru Mira LeCous of Hollywood Pyrotechnics in Egan, Minnesota.
"She's blown up so many things and shot so many fireworks in her career that she's, like, comedically semi-bored by this," said Buckley.
It's all part of an effort to get the public on board with the film, and also with the idea of Milwaukee as a filmmaking hub.
After all, in the movies, it's all about perception.
"We really get to shout about this now," said England. "We've been talking about this but have we been yelling? Have we been screaming? Have we been jumping up and down? Our little tagline has been: 'We need something more explosive to get attention.'"
"There's definitely a ton of talent here," said Buckley. "I don't know if the world knows about it yet. With filmmakers, once you get good enough, people start telling you to go to Los Angeles. Those who have gotten to a national level tend to leave Milwaukee. It's like if you're a hell of a painter, you end up in Paris or New York."
"That's just with art in general," Halvorsen agreed. "If you get really good, you'll leave and you'll never come back. And I think Milwaukee has earned this."
England used to work with Film Wisconsin, a non-profit organization that lobbied for the original tax incentive legislation in 2008. She was encouraged by the "burgeoning" of the film business during the period of the incentive program and disappointed to see that potential lost. But she wants people to know that the incentives don't make all the difference.
"We're still here. We're still amazing," she said of Milwaukee. "If you come here you're going to get an amazing production for way cheaper than you're going to get on either of the coasts."
The plot of "The Nugget" was developed by Buckley and England and centers on what she called "a romance that's gone wildly awry over a disputed treasure." Told from the point of view of three different characters who all witness the same explosion, the movie includes nods to different genres and is slated to begin production on Oct. 26. The team hopes to have it ready for premier by the end of 2012.
"It's one film in four parts that tells one story that we can roll out and share through social media," said Buckley.
At first glance, this may have the scent of a gimmick. After all, there are pyrotechnics involved. But in reality, this is a labor of love carried out by young Milwaukeeans who are passionate about their craft and passionate about their city. Holverson hails from Kenosha; though not born and raised here, England considers Milwaukee home. Buckley is from Whitefish Bay and lived for some time in Los Angeles but returned to Wisconsin to start Flipeleven with business partner Justin Schnor.
Staying in this city to pursue their filmmaking careers was a conscious choice each one of them made, and it's a choice they are all proud of.
England traveled back and forth to Los Angeles frequently over the past few years while participating in a continuing education program for filmmakers.
"The expectation (in LA) is always, 'When are you moving here?'" she said. "Everyone in my program did and I'm the only person who said, 'I'm not leaving Milwaukee.' And people always get a little startled by it. They seem to think it's not going to 'happen' for me until I go to LA. Like if I go out there, I'm going to have something that I don't have here. And I always want to tell them that it's really all here."
Hopefully, that will be apparent on Oct. 26. Flipeleven has a staff of 14 people and only half of them are filmmakers, so they are relying heavily on solid working relationships with other filmmakers to get this job done.
"It's a calling-in-all-favors type of thing," said Halvorsen. "As long as you share the same passion and want to work."
"If the pie's bigger, we all benefit," agreed Buckley. "The point isn't that we (at Flipeleven) benefit. The point is that someone here in Milwaukee benefits.
"We still have the ability to make $20 million Michael Bay explosions for $10,000 in Milwaukee. It's not just because of tax incentives that you should come here to create something on a national scale. Ideally, in a perfect world, this project will get someone outside of Milwaukee to look at us and go, 'I'm gonna give 'em a shot.'"
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