Tag Archives: Pete Schwaba

Director’s Cut: Mac Smith and “Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood”

This week on Director’s Cut, it’s all about family, as director Mac Smith joins me to discuss Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood. It’s a solid film about a world I admit I knew very little about. Smith, a Hollywood sound professional, took on this passion project to tell a poignant, insightful and heartfelt story.

Poster for Scouts HonorThe full-length documentary looks at the competitive world of drum and bugle corps, where performers must be offered a contract in order to be part of the team.

Smith knows his topic well; he was a Scout himself. The experience was so enriching that, years later, he dedicated a couple years of his life to telling this story.

Continue reading Director’s Cut: Mac Smith and “Scouts Honor: Inside a Marching Brotherhood”

Director’s Cut: Writer-producer Erik Crary and “Uncle John”

Poster for the film Uncle JohnThis week on Director’s Cut, it’s a good old-fashioned eerie small town murder mystery: Uncle John.  I sat down with Erik Crary – half of the creative team – who co-wrote the script and produced the film. I love having writers as guests because they offer unique insight into the storytelling and movie-making process.  Continue reading Director’s Cut: Writer-producer Erik Crary and “Uncle John”

Director’s Cut: Mark Davis, Jan Jensen and “The Bear and the Owl”

Director’s Cut kicks off its 10th— that’s right — 10th season this Friday night on Wisconsin Public Television. We have somehow managed to outlast Cheers and Seinfeld, which were both on-air for only a measly nine seasons! And we have an excellent line-up of films coming your way this season.

Season 10 begins with a film called The Bear and the Owl, a documentary about a young girl with a rare illness and a stranger who becomes her pen pal – so to speak.

Continue reading Director’s Cut: Mark Davis, Jan Jensen and “The Bear and the Owl”

Director’s Cut: Roger Rapoport, Richard Riehle and “Pilot Error”

On this week’s Director’s Cut, it is my pleasure to welcome two very esteemed guests to discuss the film Pilot Error. The film’s producer, Roger Rapoport and renowned character actor, Richard Riehle, join me in studio. Rapoport is one of the most innovative producers I’ve met in the indie game when it comes to getting films made, from lining up financing all the way through post production. Riehle has appeared in over three hundred films and made countless television appearances. Two of his most notable credits include Office Space and Casino. Riehle is a native Wisconsinite, born and raised in Menomonee Falls.

Pilot Error is an ambitious project for an indie producer but Rapoport and his team were up for the challenge. When a film involves a plane crash, it’s hard not to think “big studio budget.” The film has a nice narrative about an investigative reporter who loses a friend in a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean, and loses her job to uncover the truth. The production value is excellent for an indie film. Emmy Award-winning composer Garth Neustadter scored the film.

Pilot Error has not only played in hundreds of theaters thanks to an ambitious self-distribution campaign, it has also helped change regulations in the airline industry and bring awareness to issues such as faulty equipment. Rapoport is as proud of the whistle blowing aspect of his film as he is of the film itself. Continue reading Director’s Cut: Roger Rapoport, Richard Riehle and “Pilot Error”

Director’s Cut: Michael Neelsen & “Last Day at Lambeau”

Look alive Packer fans! This week on Director’s Cut,  I had the pleasure of interviewing director Michael Neelsen about his documentary Last Day at Lambeau. This is a fascinating look at the last days of Brett Favre’s career with the Green Bay Packers. Although the bridge between Favre and the Packer organization has recently been rebuilt, Last Day takes us back to when the unthinkable happened: Favre left the Packers and to make things worse, eventually donned a Minnesota Vikings uniform! 

Continue reading Director’s Cut: Michael Neelsen & “Last Day at Lambeau”

Preview: 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival

Director’s Cut is back and we once again kick off our season with our annual Wisconsin Film Festival Episode 2016. After talking with Program Director Jim Healy, it’s obvious that the indie film scene is alive and well here in Wisconsin. Jim has been programming the Wisconsin Film Festival for almost a decade, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a bigger film enthusiast. His energy for the festival and film in general is infectious. 

Besides showing you wide variety of clips from domestic and international films at this year’s festival, I also had the privilege of interviewing some great local directors about their intriguing and outstanding films. Wendy Schneider discussed her film The Smart Studios Story. This is a great film about a recording studio based in Madison that produced some of the most influential music of the last 20 years, including albums by Garbage, Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. Wendy’s film has been sold out at the festival for at least two weeks, but maybe you can find a respectable scalper if you’re really dedicated! Continue reading Preview: 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival

A Solid Indie Film Produced in Wisconsin

This week, Director’s Cut welcomes David Nordstrom: writer, producer, director, editor and lead actor for the film Sawdust City. Everyone who makes an independent movie wears multiple hats. But with all the hats Nordstrom donned for this project, he could open his own millinery.

Sawdust City is the story of two brothers; one on leave from the Navy, the other a hometown husband and soon-to-be father. They are searching for their estranged father in the dive bars of Eau Claire.

As the brothers immerse themselves in the Eau Claire tavern scene, they have trouble finding their dad. But they have no problem finding a cast of characters all too familiar in Wisconsin bar culture. My personal favorite is Gene. If you’ve seen that guy in the bar walking around with his empty glass looking for a fresh pitcher bought on someone else’s dime, then you know Gene. Sawdust City delivers solid writing and storytelling as the brothers reconnect, argue and bond amid the Eau Claire winter.

Nordstrom makes his home in L.A. now and is staying busy pursuing new projects. As a Wisconsin filmmaker myself, I have to tip my hat — yes, just the one — to David for getting his film done entirely in Wisconsin. I look forward to seeing his next effort.

Nordstrom gives a great interview, and Sawdust City is a solid indie film definitely worth checking out this Friday night starting at 9 p.m. on Director’s Cut. Hope to see you then on Wisconsin Public Television!

Official Sawdust City Trailer from Small Form Films on Vimeo.

An Inside Look at the Custom Van Scene

Vannin' DocumentaryThis week on Director’s Cut, I sit down with van enthusiasts and filmmakers Nick Nummerdor and Andrew Morgan to discuss their documentary Vannin. Nick and Andrew co-directed this feature about vans and the people who love them, people who take van customization very seriously. This directing tandem has really captured the culture and artistry of this hobby.

Vannin’ has no shortage of characters. The film is packed with freewheelers who are thrilled to talk about their hobby over a cold beer in the hot sun. Nick and Andrew have gotten hooked on the culture themselves. They have been to several rallies and vouch for how much fun they can be.

This is a nice little film about a fairly unknown American subculture that I had no idea existed. Nick and Eric are fun to interview, and the energetic young filmmakers have many other projects in the works. Vannin’ is a fun watch that might just put you in a vannin’ state of mind. Hope you can tune in to Director’s Cut this Friday night starting at 9:30 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.

An American Comeback Story Set in Wisconsin

This week on Director’s Cut, I sit down with Matt Sienkiewicz, producer and co-director of The Ragged Edge: An American Comeback Story. The Ragged Edge is a documentary set in the world of motorcycle racing. It tells the story of Erik Buell, founder of EBR (Erik Buell Racing) and the struggles he has faced as an engineer and businessman. This is a very well done and interesting film, even to those of you who may not know anything about motorcycle racing.

Poster for The Ragged Edge and American Comeback StoryMatt Sienkiewicz and co-director Joseph Sousa discovered Buell’s story while Matt was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is a bit of a departure for Sienkiewicz, a professor at Boston College who gives talks on making films about the Middle East and writes op-eds for countless periodicals. As worldly as he is, this didn’t stop Matt from recognizing a great story right here in Wisconsin.

Buell’s story is inspiring to anyone with a dream, especially a small business owner who has struggled to find funding or failed at some point. Buell’s first company was acquired by Harley Davidson, which seemed like a victory until Harley eventually shut them down, forcing Buell to start over with EBR. Buell is committed to his industry and providing jobs to the people of East Troy.

The Ragged Edge: An American Comeback Story is deftly told, well-paced and doesn’t disappoint on any level. Check it out this Friday night at 9:35 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.

An 'Unforgettable' New Season of Director's Cut

Director’s Cut kicks off its eighth season with the documentary “Unforgettable.” Director Eric Williams and his brother Brad — the subject of the film — join us to discuss the film, as well as Brad’s condition known as hyperthymesia. People afflicted with hyperthymesia have an unbelievable ability to not only remember specific events throughout their lives, but the actual dates on which they occurred. When given a random date, Brad can recite the day’s happenings — from the newsworthy to the mundane. Absolutely remarkable!

Brad Williams in a still from "Unforgettable"
Brad Williams in a still from “Unforgettable”

As a newscaster in La Crosse, Brad has read and reported on tons of stories throughout his career, further filling his brain with even more information. I think it’s a safe bet he’s using more than ten percent of his brain. The rest of us are such slackers!

Director Eric Williams has been a writer for years. His most notable writing credit at the studio level is the screenplay for the John Travolta-Dustin Hoffman film “Mad City.” Despite writing other narratives, Williams’ primary focus is documentaries, and “Unforgettable” is a story that has been with him his whole life. The brothers are soft spoken but enthusiastic and complement each other well while navigating an interview.

“Unforgettable” has many memorable (see what I did there?) moments, including Brad’s many appearances on national news shows, as well as his appearance on “Jeopardy”. In the film, there is a great scene where he and all-time “Jeopardy” champ Ken Jennings square off in a game of trivia. Wondering who wins? To be honest, I forgot (Bing! Did it again!). Sure I could tell you, but instead do yourself a favor and tune in Friday night at 9:35 p.m. to see for yourself. The full film airs right after my interview with Brad and Eric.

Get a head start on your viewing and watch the interview right here now.