Quick -- if someone told you that you had two weeks to prepare an entry for the Wisconsin Film Festival and you hadn't even started, what would you do?
Ben Reiser threw a party. The director of the award-winning "The Grapes of Madison," described his unorthodox creative process in Isthmus last March.
I send out an email to a list of friends and neighbors inviting them to a Monday night brainstorming session at my house. Drinks and snacks will be provided.Starting with this anarchic beginning, Reiser and his friends pull together a satirical feature about the aftermath of being laid off, drawing on Reiser's own personal experience. He mails it off just in time. It ends up being one of the local hits of this year's film fest, and snagging a best actor award for one of the amateur actors.
I am surprised at the turnout. Basically everyone shows up, though I quickly realize that the prospect of free liquor on a Monday night is perhaps the primary motivator here. My next door neighbor Alberto suggests that I film the meeting, but I pooh-pooh the idea. I don't want to make a meta-movie about making a movie. Note to self: listen to Alberto from now on.
The session quickly and crazily devolves into a drunken shouting match among eight people. Fisticuffs almost break out over a disagreement about Marcel Duchamp. It's that kind of night. To my amazement, everyone has come with ideas for a movie, although style, subject matter and length vary wildly.
We basically have two weeks to write, shoot, and edit a movie that we hope will be good enough to get into the festival. No one is optimistic, everyone is loaded.
I was sorry we missed the premiere at the film festival. Now it looks as if we'll finally have a chance to see the movie. I came across this combination shrine and marquee at the Madison Public Library's Sequoya branch. It was promoting a free showing of "The Grapes of Madison" this Friday night, June 18, at 7:00 PM. Judging from the excerpt above, it's pretty funny. And it's free. Note: If there are too many people to accommodate in the first show, the library will have a second screening immediately afterward. Director Ben Reiser will be there to present the film.