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Milwaukee's Long-Running Short Film Festival Moves to Fox Bay

Sep. 5, 2017
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Roar, Directed by Carter Green

The Milwaukee Short Film Festival shifts venues once again. This year, the two-day event will be held at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill in Whitefish Bay. But if the setting has changed, the mission remains identical from the past year. MSFF’s programming continues to emphasize minority and women directors; it has a slight Milwaukee accent and a firm definition of short. Nothing in the festival runs longer than 15 minutes.

“ComedySportz was a little cramped,” says MSFF founder and co-director Ross Bigley. The festival needed a bigger space and he’s not worried about relocating to the North Shore. “It’s not Downtown, but then, we started in the ’90s at the Times [on the West Side]. The Fox Bay has generous parking, food, a bar—and they’re easy to work with.”

Minority directors are represented in the Voices Heard program. “There is a huge local multi-cultural filmmaker base in Milwaukee because of the Art Institute of Wisconsin,” Bigley says. The Third Ward for-profit college will close at the end of this year, but has already left its mark. “Ninety-nine percent of AI’s film students are multicultural. Ninety-nine percent of UW-Milwaukee’s film students are white,” he continues. “The AI students aren’t necessarily interested in experimental filmmaking but want to tell stories. As for women, we never got as many submissions from female filmmakers as we did this year.”

Bigley has often remarked that MSFF is better known around the world than in its hometown. This year’s festival includes shorts from the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and elsewhere. “The bulk of our submissions are still international,” he says, “but there has been a shift happening toward local film—especially because of our Voices Heard program. Maybe someday Voices Heard will be its own event.”

In earlier years, MSFF’s definition of short was more elastic, but Bigley has tightened the scope. “Shorter is better,” he insists. “If you try to build a plot and character arc, you’re setting yourself up for a feature film, but it’s hard to reach a satisfying conclusion in 20 minutes or half an hour. And besides, booking a 30-minute film means less screen time for other films.”

The Milwaukee Short Film Festival runs Sept. 8-9 at Fox Bay Cinema Grill. For more information, visit milwaukeeindependentfilmsociety.org.


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