Special Assignment

Hollywood in Milwaukee

CREATED Aug. 27, 2013 - UPDATED: Aug. 27, 2013

  • Print

MILWAUKEE - The bright lights of Hollywood are shining right here in Milwaukee. A major motion picture is being shot in our own backyard! 

When it comes to the entertainment industry, Milwaukee is often overshadowed by that city 90 miles to the south.  Not this time!  Lights, camera, action.  From the Milwaukee lakefront to a Bayside neighborhood, Hollywood has invaded Milwaukee!
 
The independent feature film "The Surface" is in production right now.  It's been a labor of love for local writer/producer Jeff Gendelman, "this has been an 18 year dream come true."  Gendelman grew up in Milwaukee, but lived in L.A. for years, where he worked on several films.  He decided to move his family back to Milwaukee seven years ago and make the film of his dreams.  "I wanted the world to see the beauty we see, so it'll show Milwaukee very positively. The lakefront, the wonderful diverse community." 
 
"The Surface" is the story of two strangers, both at the end of their rope, who suddenly meet in the middle of the unpredictable waters of Lake Michigan.  Jeff comments, "Lake Michigan is a co-star. So we want the fickleness, we want the tempestuousness."  
 
The film features Hollywood veterans Sean Astin and Chris Mulkey, who likes to unwind with his guitar in between takes, "you can do crossword puzzles, but what's that gonna get ya?" 
 
He grew up in the Twin Cities and loves coming back to the midwest. "My writing partner calls it the decency belt, the midwest, and I think it's true.  People are really nice, and it's great, and I've met so many great people in town." 
 
Actress Mimi Rogers plays Mulkey's wife in the film and says she likes the simplicity of the script, "she's just a real woman.  She's strong, she has a family, works at a nature center, just seems to be a very rounded character."  
 
The crew is mostly local.  Milwaukee filmmaker and cinematographer Jimmy Sammarco is director of photography and a co-producer, and costume designer Bethany Michaels lives in Riverwest. Michaels points out, "one thing I've noticed is that those of us who are hired here in Milwaukee have quicker connections for local resources like, 'who do you know with an extra boat?'  'Where's the nearest grocery store to grab these bars of soap we need on set today?'" 
 
Michaels hopes to see more filmmakers hire Milwaukee crews, "when you hire locally I really believe you can maximize your budget more and get more bang for your buck."    
 
To keep costs down she works right out of her S.U.V. "when people see the film on screen, nobody's gonna know there wasn't a full wardrobe trailer!"   
 
For Jeff the sleep deprivation and 16-hour days are worth it, and he couldn't be more proud of his cast and crew "it's a very positive, nurturing, entertaining, inspiring piece, and as a result the crew and the cast are giving their 100%."
 
"The Surface" is scheduled to be released next year.  That could range from festivals like Sundance to a wide theatrical release.  We'll of course keep you posted on the movie's progress.