Preview: Wisconsin Film Festival 2017

The Wisconsin Film Festival is the state’s premier cinema event, featuring local filmmakers anmovies shot in the state, as well as a diverse range of national and international films. Celebrating its 18th year in 2017, it takes place in Madison from March 30 to April 6.

In this year’s Director’s Cut special episode Wisconsin Film Festival 2017, host Pete Schwaba sits down with the Jim Healy, the festival’s director of programming, to preview this year’s selection of films from a variety of categories. From American visionaries to films by new female directors and even pre-teen filmmakers, Healy’s selections on the program particularly showcase movies made right here in Wisconsin.

“We program thinking about the audience,” Healy says. “We’ve picked the best films from festivals around the world, and films that have been submitted to us in our Wisconsin zone section, to make a festival of festivals.”

With a look at five films screening at the festival, Schwaba and Healy are joined by:

Director Andrew SwantSilently Steal Away: The film explores the story behind the Jack Raymond Show, which has aired on an eccentric Chippewa Falls radio station. But who is Jack Raymond?

Director Mark Davis and subject Jan JensenThe Bear and the Owl: This short documentary film explores the story of an ailing young girl and the kindness of a stranger.

Director, producer and screenwriter Katherine AcostaDivided We Fall: This documentary looks back at the massive 2011 protests inside the Wisconsin State Capitol against Act 10. The investigation revisits many issues that remain relevant in a post-2016 election America.

Co-directors Wesley Morgan & Kate FeldtFake Jewels: This nostalgic and comedic movie explores a long-lost friendship as two women attempt to find a time capsule buried a decade ago.

Editor Luke Bassuener and fifth graders Jaeana Sabally and Jalen Baumback (directors, cast, writers)Daedalus and Icarus: Students in the 4th grade classes of Madison’s Crestwood Elementary School animate the classic Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, using block-print and paper-cuts. This film has been awarded one of only three 2017 Golden Badger Awards as a top Wisconsin’s Own honoreee.

Director’s Cut airs Monday, March 27 at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.

Wisconsin Public Television is a proud sponsor of Wisconsin’s Own, hosting a brunch each year for the festival’s film industry guests. This year, more than 150 people submitted films to be considered for Wisconsin’s Own.

The Journey to Overture Stage

For the finalists of the prestigious Bolz Young Artist competition, the journey to Overture stage is a long one that often takes years of determination, hard work and hundreds of hours of practice to achieve.

In the first stage of the competition a pool of 30-40 contestants perform in a preliminary round of auditions for a panel of three judges. Students are separated into three areas for the audition, Strings, Piano and Brass/Woodwinds/Percussion/Harp. Approximately eight students are selected at the end of the day to move on to the semi-final round two weeks later. The stakes are higher than ever in this round of auditions as it is open to the public and recorded by Wisconsin Public Television. A new panel of judges, including Madison Symphony Orchestra Maestro John DeMain preside over the semi-final round. The four lucky finalists are announced immediately after the second round of auditions to the anxiously awaiting contestants and their families.

Then it is a long two-month wait until the final round. Finalists continue to diligently practice their piece over and over again in anticipation for the big day.

Each finalist meets with Maestro DeMain in the weeks leading up to the final competition to review his or her performance piece together. Then the week of the final competition arrives. Monday brings a rehearsal with the full orchestra and Maestro DeMain for each finalist. This rehearsal gives each student a chance to hear their performance with the full orchestra playing when previously they may only have had a chance to perform with a pianist. The Maestro and each finalist rehearse the pieces, stopping to adjust tempos, dynamics of the orchestra and coordinating the end of cadenzas. Then Tuesday night is a full dress rehearsal, followed by Wednesday, the culmination of months, sometimes years of hard work for these young performers.

No matter the result the journey is a rewarding one. Robert Rockman, the winner of last year’s Final Forte, had this to say of the experience:

“This has been the best experience of my musical career, and for me, this was never about winning the competition but enjoying every second of this amazing process and opportunity. Not winning, but learning, giving, performing, and enjoying music. Not winning, but touching people and making them feel something. So let us all go support, play, and enjoy music.”

This year’s finalists are harpist Naomi Sutherland, a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Pianist, Michael Wu, a 9th grader at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.

Violinist Yao Yao Chen, a senior at Xavier High School.

And finally, violinist Julian Rhee, a junior at Brookfield East High School. If he looks familiar that’s because he was the winner of the 2015 Final Forte competition!

The Final Forte will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Television at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29th. Tune in on television or watch the live stream at wpt.org.

Project-Based Media Literacy With Student Reporting Labs

Eighty percent of middle schoolers can’t tell the difference between sponsored content and objective journalism, according to a recent Stanford University study on youth media literacy. In light of the ongoing conversation about the impact of misinformation and propaganda in our politics, teachers in Wisconsin and around the nation face steep challenges and high stakes as they work to help students think critically about the media they consume.

Luckily, PBS NewsHour offers the Student Reporting Labs (SRL) initiative— a framework of curricula, project ideas and mentoring relationships with local PBS stations that puts students behind the camera to get them thinking – and working – like professional journalists. SRL students learn about sourcing, bias, fact-checking, and the nuts-and-bolts of videography and editing. And they do it all as creators rather than consumers. Continue reading Project-Based Media Literacy With Student Reporting Labs

Victorious Blog, Episode 7: Season Finale


“Who is the greatest chicken killer in Shakespeare?” “Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.”

This is the seventh post of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

Well, folks: It’s the end of an era. The glorious reign of Victoria on Masterpiece is over …  for now.

Our Sunday evenings will no longer include these lovable new pals – from Queen Victoria to Prince Ernest. Over the course of the season, even the characters we initially cursed under our breath warmed our hearts eventually (I’m looking at you, uncle Leopold!).

At this point, it feels like it’s been years since we gazed upon Lord M. Continue reading Victorious Blog, Episode 7: Season Finale

Polka! – Meet Mollie B.!

Polka! host Mollie B. poses with her squeezeboxWisconsin Public Television’s all-new film Polka!premiering 7 p.m. tonight, March 6! –  goes inside Wisconsin’s vibrant polka culture to see why so many people love this lively dance.

Who better to host this warm tribute than internationally known polka star Mollie Busta, also known as Mollie B.? Ahead of the premiere, WPT’s Erik Ernst caught up with Mollie to talk about how polka has shaped her life and why Wisconsin is such a great polka state.

Continue reading Polka! – Meet Mollie B.!

Quiz: Polka in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, polka is tied to our identity like beer, brats and cheese! But, how much do you actually know about the music and dance?

Test your knowledge with this 10-question quiz!

And tune in Monday at 7 p.m. for Polka! with musician and host Mollie Busta — better known as Mollie B. — as she explores the history and culture surrounding the often misunderstood dance, the memories it conjures, the people who enjoy it … and the fun it invokes across Wisconsin. Watch the preview and read our interview with Mollie B.

Ready to get out your dancing shoes? Find polka across Wisconsin by exploring this map that lists venues with weekly music and annual festivals.

Funding for Polka! is provided in part by the Stanley J. Cottrill Fund, International Polka Association, Wisconsin Dells Polka Fest, and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

Enter the Masterpiece 2017 Sweepstakes!

Do you dream of stepping into the worlds of Victoria and Downton Abbey? (I know I do!) Well, here’s your chance: Enter the 2017 Masterpiece Sweepstakes! The grand prize is incredible: A tour of Downton Abbey’s famous Highclere Castle, a visit to Sherlock filming locations in London, and a chance to explore Victoria sites in Yorkshire.

In addition to the amazing grand prize, you can also win awesome PBS merchandise. BUT, time is running out to enter: The deadline is March 15, 2017. Enter daily at pbs.org/sweepstakes

Masterpiece is offering even more chances to win through Twitter! It’s as easy as this: After you enter, click on the Twitter icon below the words “Invite Your Friends” on the “Thanks for your entry” page. Once you share the sweepstakes via Twitter, you will get another entry (up to 5 additional entries) in the Sweepstakes for each friend that enters. 

Details on the Grand Prize From Masterpiece

“With an itinerary arranged by VisitBritain, Great Britain’s national tourism agency, this trip features a visit to world-famous Highclere Castle, tours of historic estates in Yorkshire filmed for Victoria, and a private tour of the Tower of London, used in Sherlock.

The 7-day, 6-night trip includes economy class round-trip travel to London Heathrow Airport on British Airways from any British Airways operated U.S. gateway city at the time of travel, and includes a connecting one-way flight to Leeds Bradford Airport in Leeds. Accommodations are four-star, including The Royal York Hotel and London’s Edwardian Hotel.

The Grand Prize winner will also receive Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and Victoria merchandise, including the Downton Abbey Complete Limited Edition Collector’s Set DVD, Sherlock Seasons 1, 2, and 3 on DVD, a Sherlock action figure, and Victoria Season 1 on DVD, all from shopPBS.org.”

Video Games & Learning: Teachers & Developers Write the Future Together

When I taught high school English, I had a mailbox in the staff lounge in a wall full of identical little rectangular mailboxes. About twice a year, I would find something useful in my mailbox. But the other 178 school days, I only found mountains of junk mail — flyers for expensive digital subscription services or glossy magazines brimming with overpriced textbooks that would be obsolete before they arrived. Soon, the junk mail felt as identical as the rows of little rectangular mailboxes. Continue reading Video Games & Learning: Teachers & Developers Write the Future Together

Victorious Blog, Episode 6: “The Engine of Change”

“Don’t talk railway at me.” -Victoria

This is the sixth post of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

What’s more relaxing than enjoying a private concert with your closest companions and frenemies? Well, probably a lot of things, considering how uncomfortable those chairs looked. But that’s not Victoria’s world.

“The Engine of Change” follows Victoria through her early, nausea-filled stages of her pregnancy, explores Albert’s continued quest for independence, and generally showcases that the times are a-changin’ – and if the royals are going to keep up, they’re going to have to change, too.  Continue reading Victorious Blog, Episode 6: “The Engine of Change”

Victorious Blog, Episode 5: “The Queen’s Husband”

“Never mind, Duchess; not all of your arrows miss their target.” – Prince Ernest

This is the fifth post of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

Whew – what an episode! Notably, this was the first episode without Melbourne. (Why have you forsaken us, Lord M?!) But the storyline was solid, and I made it through the episode without too much heartache.

“The Queen’s Husband” covered Victoria and Albert’s blossoming relationship and Albert’s quest for a bit of independence. This was my second favorite episode so far – so much excitement packed into the hour. (Missed the episode? Watch online now.Continue reading Victorious Blog, Episode 5: “The Queen’s Husband”