‘Public Enemies’ filming, indie film fests

Filming of “Public Enemies” in Wisconsin has our attention because of the star power – leading actor Johnny Depp – but we also have a thick streak of independent movies coming through here.

Expect these choices to widen. The Milwaukee-based Marcus Corp. recently promised to show Wisconsin-made films on more than 600 of its screens. That means automatic distribution in six states, says Scott Robbe, executive director of the nonprofit Film Wisconsin, which works to reel in movie production.

“It will be a great help to independent filmmakers, who will be able to say ‘and I have guaranteed distribution’ of the finished product” as a producer or financing is sought, Scott says.

“Certainly no other state can offer this as a benefit for filming in their state.”

So “The Violinist,” about Arab-Israeli relationships, is being shot in Green Bay. Casting has begun for “Dust,” a sci-fi production in St. Francis studios. Scott expects the momentum to build as word gets around; the movies, of course, must be of acceptable quality to reach the Marcus screens.

Wisconsin already has a firm core of independent film festivals, which showcase short and full-length works by mavericks all over the world. Next up is the 10th Wisconsin Film Festival, April 3-6 at 11 venues in Madison. For more about the 220 movies to be shown: www.wifilmfest.org, 608-262-9009.

Some fans show up in costume. Directors, or others in the films, typically answer audience questions after a movie ends. The atmosphere is fun, laid-back, supportive – a place where filmmakers can feel surrounded by cheerleaders.

Other independent film festivals in Wisconsin include:

Milwaukee Short Film Festival, May 30 to June 1, Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vilet St., Milwaukee. What existed for years as an event for coffeeshops since 2004 has had enough impetus and attendance to move into a theater. For more: www.dirtyjobfilms.com.

Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, Sept. 4-14, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Union Theatre, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. The 20-year event places the spotlight on productions about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. For more: www.uwm.edu (search for “lgbt film”), 414-229-4758.

Milwaukee International Film Festival, Sept. 18-28, more than 140 films shown at various venues. Willem Dafoe attended, for a tribute, in 2007. Unusual components include the 12-state Midwest Filmmaker Competition, the 24-Hour Film Contest (based on a one-word theme) and the Student Screenwriting Competition (for high schoolers). For more: www.milwaukeefilmfest.org.

It Came From Lake Michigan! (ICFLM) film festival, October, at Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis, in 2007. Workshops and screenings are all about horror, fantasy and sci-fi themes. For more: www.itcamefromlakemichigan.com.

Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF), January 2009, featuring more than 100 films, representing at least two dozen nations, shown at restaurants to churches and associated with Beloit College. For more: www.beloitfilmfest.com, 608-313-1200.

For more about Film Wisconsin projects: www.filmwisconsin.net, 414-287-6235. The website includes word of auditions for casting.

Film Wisconsin’s work is in response to the Jan. 1 addition of tax credits and other incentives for filmmakers to do work in Wisconsin. Johnny Depp’s “Public Enemies” is expected to contain clips of Milwaukee, Madison, Oshkosh, Columbus and Darlington. Shooting also will occur in Indiana and Illinois.

Columbus was the first filming site, and the allure of this community of 4,500 revolves around a historic district of about 250 buildings, which earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

For more about the architecture and attractions: www.columbusmainstreet.org, 920-623-5325.