RDI Stages brings Hollywood to St. Francis

January 30, 2009

By Matthew Sliker

Hundreds gathered for the RDI Stages gala Jan. 8 inside Stage 1, 2525 E. Crawford Ave. in St. Francis. Dignitaries included Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, St.<br /> Francis Mayor Al Richards, state Representatives Jon Richards and Chris Sinicki, state Senator Jeff Plale, Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, and Wisconsin native<br /> actor Tony Shalhoub. Oysters and Rehorst premium liquor defined the event as something novel for quaint St. Francis.   ~photo Michael Timm St. Francis got a taste of Hollywood Jan. 8, at the grand opening of RDI Stages, Wisconsin’s largest independent movie studio complex, 2525 E. Crawford Ave.

The gala was packed—between 800 and 1,000 people passed through the stage doors, according to an RDI Stages estimate. The crowd was composed of local residents, directors, producers, entertainment industry executives, politicians, and actors alike—including Tony Shalhoub, perhaps best known as the phobia-plagued detective from TV’s Monk.

Shalhoub was in town to help Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton cut the ceremonial ribbon and announce that he’ll be filming an independent movie, Feed the Fish, in Door County throughout February.

Scott Robbe, executive director of Film Wisconsin, said that RDI Stages will fortify Wisconsin’s budding entertainment production industry. “This building actually represents the last piece of the puzzle for truly building a dynamic and vital film and television production community in Wisconsin because now we can do interior scenes of movies as well as shoot on location,” Robbe said. »Read more

A different kind of theatre

January 30, 2009

By Sheila Julson

Erica Case tends the Alchemist Theatre and Lounge’s bar. ~ photo courtesy Alchemist Theatre One year after its opening, Alchemist Theatre has grown into a humble nucleus of independent and up-and-coming artists, actors, and comedians. The local experiment in theater-for-rent enters its second year with added momentum from its accompanying lounge, which is open even when the theater is not.

A surly Santa Claus, a snowman in police custody, and a mentally challenged prospector mushing a team of plush dogs were just some of the characters in Rudolph the Pissed-off Reindeer, a vision that actor/comedian Patrick Schmitz was able to bring to the stage with support from the Alchemist Theatre.

The quirky satire of the 1960s Rankin/Bass animated Christmas special sold out every performance of its three-weekend run and exemplifies the diverse entertainment at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which opened January 2008.  »Read more

Ahoy! February 2009

January 30, 2009

By Katherine Keller

This must be what it feels like when the sky is falling. If not the sky, then when one is in freefall. I’m talking about the feathers-in-the-solar-plexus sensation, as when one descends precipitously, on a swing or a rollercoaster or in turbulence 35,000 feet up.

Yesterday the Labor Department released its unemployment claims numbers. In the week that ended Jan. 17, there were 4.776 million active unemployment benefits claims, the highest number since 1967 when these data began to be collected.

Not too many months ago the White House and other optimists were loath to characterize our country’s economic state as a recession. The terminology was eschewed for a long time, long after, I thought, it was clear that the economy was in recession. Finally the White House said it considered recession a possibility, then abruptly, it seemed, President Bush was using the word in the present tense. Since then we have had varying assessments of the degree of its severity-not color-coded as were the post-9/11 security alerts, but parsed with adjectives that became grimmer and grimmer to the point, recently, when more and more news organizations and pundits are beginning to use the more dire term depression or depression-like.

Parallel to the alarming news about the deteriorating state of the U.S. financial state is the rate that newspapers and magazines are folding. Some have vanished, while others are cutting newsroom staff. Some are paring down hard copy or in many cases, completely abandoning their hard-copy editions.

The Compass is facing forward and trundling on with a distinct belief in the role of community journalism, buoyed by readers’ often passionate praise and compliments about our work, with an old-fangled commitment to hard copy, along with our web presence.

We print 15,000 issues of the Compass. Generally we have less than 600 copies left at the end of the month. I see people of diverse demographics reading the Compass in public venues that range from Laundromats to parks to cafes to the county bus and airport. That indicates we are playing a role in the community.

Recently a Bay View resident opined somewhat bitterly about those news organizations that make only part of their web content available for free. He said he disagreed with that and thought online content should be free. If only. If only web-hosting companies didn’t need or desire compensation; or city, county, state, and federal tax agencies; or publishers and their writers, photographers, editors, and web producers; or business and car insurance agents. (Millions of independent publishers, small business people, and freelancers can only dream about the possibility of being covered by health insurance.) Free of those pressing requirements, it would perhaps not be unreasonable to expect free online content from those who produce and publish it.

But even if their budgets no longer possess line items for hard-copy editions, publishers are required to pay bills to produce and publish web content.

Perhaps it is time for me, and other publishers like me, to start a conversation with you, readers and members of the Bay View and Milwaukee community, about community journalism’s role but also the role of its readers, who may have to begin to forego their expectation that our publications are free. The question many independent, small publishers here and across the country may pose is, Do you care and believe strongly enough about the role and service we provide to financially support our work and contribution?

This month’s contribution comes to you by way of the good work of the Compass talent. Sheila Julson reports about the evolution of Alchemist Theatre, a brightly faceted little gem on KK, and she also previews Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Ball at the Marian Center.

Bay View native and UWM journalism student Matthew Sliker makes his feature debut this month with his report about RDI Stages’ grand opening. (See News in Brief for information about Bay View Neighborhood Association’s annual meeting to be held at RDI.)

Kathy Mulvey, a former publisher and editor of a community newspaper, doppelgangs in this issue. She contributed a thoughtful editorial where she argues that the 84 acres adjacent to Seminary Woods should be protected. She provides an update about Bay View Historical Society’s successful fundraising last year. Their goal is to keep the Beulah Brinton House in the society’s possession and under its protection.

Jennifer Yauck introduces the aquaponics vision of Jon Bales and Leon Todd, and experiments that could be the beginning of transformative green technologies that enable cities to produce a great deal of food inside city limits. Popular columnist Anna Passante’s Historic Bay View topic is a brief chronicle of mass transit modes that once served Bay View. And Michael Timm reports about plans for a biodiesel plant in Milwaukee. He also updates the transformation of Broad Vocabulary bookstore to A Broader Vocabulary co-op.

On Jan. 1, we launched our online contest (bayviewcompass.com). January’s winner is Mary Groppi of St. Francis, who won a pair of tickets to Bay View Community Center’s wine and art event. This month the prizes are two photographs by local photographer Josh Bollé framed by Shelly Lalonde of South Shore Gallery & Framing. You can enter the contest once per day and the contest is open from Feb.1 through Feb. 20.

Before I close I direct you to the subject of this month’s Q10, Franklin Di Vilio, proprietor and chocolate maestro of Franklin’s Fine Chocolate, and a relatively new member of the Bay View business community. Valentine’s Day is just two weeks away.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Compass to you!

Katherine Keller

Hooves to gridlock: mass transit in Bay View

January 30, 2009

By Anna Passante

A horsecar. ~courtesy Milwaukee Public Library, from their Historic Photo collection If they don’t like my service, they don’t have to use it,” retorted Bay View omnibus driver Arthur Aldrich in response to complaints that he often left passengers stranded downtown when he left for Bay View earlier than the scheduled return. But since Aldrich Omnibus Lines was the only bus service in Bay View in the early 1870s, residents without family carriages or sleighs had no choice but to walk or put up with the unreliable service.

Drawn by horses, the omnibus resembled a small railroad car on wagon wheels. The exterior was elaborately painted, featuring gold and silver leaf lettering and polished brass fittings. The old omnibus resembled the present-day Milwaukee Trolley that serves the downtown area in the summertime.  »Read more

Magic Dann’s now open

January 30, 2009

Passersby on Kinnickinnic Avenue may have found menus thrust into their hands by a friendly Dann Danowski outside a recently renovated storefront, from which the sound of jazz drizzles like light rain.

Danowski and Jason Turay opened Magic Dann’s jazz and blues restaurant at 2691 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Dec. 20, 2008 and held a grand opening Jan. 17.

Danowski said the restaurant’s specialties are stuffed chicken breast and stuffed pork chop. They also have steaks.

“When people have been coming in they have been coming back,” Danowski said.  »Read more

Moss Floral Design School & Studio

January 30, 2009

By Michael Timm

Full-service classes on how to care for, process, select, and design with flowers begin Feb. 10 at Moss Floral Design School & Studio in Bay View. The first session lasts six weeks, with classes twice a week for three or four hours a day.

Last November, Miki (pronounced Mickey) Herman opened Moss Floral Design at 3391 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., the former location of Brad VandeVenter’s Bay View Fine Art gallery.

“My goal, especially with the economy doing whatever it’s doing, is to teach them [students] how to get a job in the floral industry,” Herman said.  »Read more

Schetter’s reopened

January 30, 2009

By Michael Timm

Schetter’s Automotive Repair, 401 E. Oklahoma Ave., reopened Jan. 5, after being officially closed since January 2007.

The proprietor is Ken Schetter, son of Richard Schetter, owner. Ken said Richard owned the business at this location since 1973; before that Schetter’s was on 68th and Oklahoma and before that at Hawley Road and I-94.

Ken recently returned from Miami Beach, Fla. where he ran a marketing company, but remembers pumping gas as a teen in the ’70s when Schetter’s was a full-service gasoline station and auto repair center.

The shop had scaled back prior to its closing to general public, and had been up for sale, but Ken said from a business standpoint, it now made more sense to reopen a rehabbed shop than to sell. A new roof is installed and there are landscaping plans for this spring/summer.

Ken said Richard still around and retains his encyclopedic memory of their inventory, for example, identifying from his head a part for a ’47-’53 Studebaker.

Ken Schetter lives in Waukesha, but is looking for a home closer to the shop. He said Schetter’s had been known for its front-end alignment specialty. The full-service auto repair shop has discontinued towing service. It employs four and is open 8:30am-5:30pm. (414) 747-9920.

Biodiesel production facility in pipeline for Milwaukee

January 30, 2009

By Michael Timm

Milwaukee could produce 50 million gallons of biodiesel per year starting as early as 2010, if the preliminary plans of a joint venture between Innovation Fuels and Tanco come to fruition at 1626 S. Harbor Dr.

In December 2008, Syracuse, N.Y.-based Innovation Fuels assumed NuStar Energy L.P.’s lease with the Port of Milwaukee and acquired the assets at NuStar’s 10-acre terminal. NuStar, which refines and markets asphalt, is the second largest independent liquids terminal operator in the nation.

The acquisition positions Innovation Fuels, which has a 40-million-gallon biodiesel production facility in Newark, N.J., to not only distribute biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel but also produce biodiesel in Milwaukee.  »Read more

MPS announces local school basketball schedule changes

January 30, 2009

Millions to combat Milwaukee lead hazards

January 30, 2009

By Sarah Milnar

Bay View business a leader in proactive lead abatement training

The Milwaukee Health Department received $6.9 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants this October to eliminate lead hazards from Milwaukee homes.

Milwaukee’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program received the two grants to abate more than 1,100 homes over the next three years and promote lead education and awareness.

In Milwaukee’s north side, the grant’s target area, lead poisoning rates are 14.1 percent, or nine times higher than the national average, according to a city of Milwaukee Health Department press release.  »Read more

Q&A with filmmaker Michael Matzdorff

January 30, 2009

By Matthew Sliker

Filmmaker Michael MatzdorffLongtime film editor and Green Bay native Michael Matzdorff will return to Wisconsin in February to film Feed the Fish, a romantic comedy about a burned-out children’s book author who had a hit book a few years back and is now trying to get his career and life back in order.

Matzdorff has directed two short films, but Feed the Fish will be his first time directing a feature length film. He has a wide array of credits to his name, mostly as editor or assistant editor. Most recently he edited Code Name: The Cleaner, a comedy starring Cedric the Entertainer, Nicollette Sheridan, and Lucy Liu. Other films he has edited are From Within, Motel, and National Lampoon’s Pledge This!, starring Paris Hilton. He was also the editor of the second season of the TV show Monk.

Additionally, he worked in the editorial department of the films Fight Club, Analyze This, Black Sheep and Meet Joe Black.

At the time of our interview in mid-January, last minute casting decisions for Feed the Fish were still being made. But a few talented actors have already signed on for the project.

Tony Shalhoub, from the USA Network’s Monk, will play the town sheriff. Later this year, Shalhoub will tape the eighth and last season of Monk, for which he has won three Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe.

Veteran actor Seymour Cassel is set to play Axel, an inspirational mentor the main character meets while in Wisconsin. Cassel is an Academy Award nominee who has appeared in over 100 films and dozens of TV shows.

Actress Vanessa Branch is also on board. Branch’s film credits include the three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and roles on the TV shows CSI: Miami, Lost, Gilmore Girls, and Port Charles.

In mid-January, I spoke with Matzdorff – who was deep in the pre-production stage of the project. He filmed Jacksonport’s annual “polar bear plunge” on New Year’s Day and will return to Door County in February to film the rest of the movie.

Q: I know you’re no stranger to Wisconsin…

A: Well, I’m originally from Green Bay. Also lived down in the Milwaukee area, in Delafield. My parents moved west to California when I was 13 years old.

Q: Was that your main motivation for setting the story here?

A: Yeah, it was actually. My family is up there every summer, as am I. We have some family property up there that we use, and a couple of them will be main [filming] locations. And I know just because my father and mother have been up there since the early 60’s, and my mother’s family has been up there since the 40’s and 50’s, that there’s a lot of people who know the name. That has sort of allowed us to get help and favors from people who know the name. I’ve met a lot of them over the years in passing, but they’re really better known by my mother, my father, my grandfather and other people who preceded me up there.

Q: What do you think about Wisconsin as a filmmaking destination?

A: Winter, of course, is an issue because it’s cold, it’s slippery, and the weather is a little unpredictable. But that being said, I think Wisconsin is a fantastic destination for filming. It’s got a ton of elements that are used in every story. It’s got big cities, it’s got open water like an ocean, it’s got hilly country, it’s got forests, it’s got farmland, and little towns in-between. And I think that its beautiful landscape and I don’t know why more productions don’t go there. And I’m hoping that with not only the tax incentives, but also places like RDI Stages in Milwaukee –and I’m sure that more of them will spring up– that it brings more business.

Q: You filmed the Polar Bear Plunge in Jacksonport on New Year’s Day. I heard you’ll be re-shooting that?

A: We’re gonna do a reenactment with our main actors. We’re gonna be looking for some spectators who are willing to come out and put themselves in the movie. Probably about 100 people. And we’re also gonna be looking for about 100 people who are willing to go in [the water] again. We’re gonna send in four groups of 25 or so, just so we don’t torture anybody too much. I think it’s going to be Feb. 21st. If anyone is interested, they should contact feedthefish@triplefinger.com. Just in case anybody wants to subject themselves to some pain.

Q: Where in Door County will you be shooting?

A: We’ll be in Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay, Ellison Bay, Gils Rock and Jacksonport. And a few points in between all of those.

Q: How many people do you expect to be working on the project in Wisconsin?

A: We are expecting probably between 25 and 35 crew members depending on the day and the need. I know we’re also looking for some local folks who can help us with some things. There are both paid and unpaid positions that we’re offering. Like intern-type positions.

Q: How have the communities up there responded to the project so far?

A: They’re extremely gracious and have been very generous with their time and their help. Really, we could not be doing this without so much local support, without question.

Q: You’ve directed two short films, No Regrets and The Belt. Can you tell me a little about those?

A: Well, I’ve always looked at short films as a great way to practice for a feature length film because generally you run into all the same problems and the same issues, the same needs. It’s very much sort of a miniature version of a feature film and it’s a great way to learn. And both of them have played festivals and won awards at festivals. And both of them were made for basically no money at all.

Q: Feed the Fish will be the first feature length film you’ve directed. Much of your work in the industry has been as an editor. How has editing helped prepare you for directing?

A: I think editing is a great place to learn about filmmaking because what you end up doing in editing is actually the last rewrite.  Story is very important, obviously, in filmmaking and storytelling in general. In editing, you take everything that’s been shot and figure out what’s required to convey the information on the screen. And because I wrote and will be directing and probably taking part in the editing of “Feed the Fish,” I’m hoping that I’ve guessed right with the writing and will do well with the directing. There’s been a lot of editing already done, in my opinion. And hopefully my opinion is the right one!

Q: When did you write the screenplay?

A: Started working on it in 2006 and I’m gonna be working on it this afternoon. (Laughs) It was basically to a state of completion, I would say, early last year. Storytelling, I think, is a really complicated thing and it’s hard to do well. It takes a great deal of time, at least for me, to make a good story. And I think that we have a great story here, but it hasn’t come without a lot of help and input and showing it to people, getting feedback. So it’s not a solitary process. Nothing about filmmaking is a solitary process.

Q: Will you premiere Feed the Fish in Wisconsin?

A: Yeah, the plan is once we are finished, I would like to run the film in Sturgeon Bay for everyone in Door County and everyone who helped us out.

Related Items

  • To read a report on RDI Stages’ grand opening, click here.
  • To visit the film’s official website, click here.
  • Contact Matthew Sliker at matt@bayviewcompass.com.

Franklin’s Fine Chocolate

January 30, 2009

Franklin Di Vilio stands by his handmade chocolate candies, sold by the pound. ~photo Michael Timm 1. Are your chocolates handmade?

Yes, our chocolates are handmade.

2. How many varieties of chocolates do you make?

Ten different creams, mint meltaways, caramels, English toffee, fairy food, raisins, coconut, six types of nuts, cordial cherries, dark cherry clusters, orange peel, truffles & snappies, pretzels, licorice.

3. How many chocolatiers make your chocolates?

All chocolates are made by Franklin and Sue Di Vilio.  »Read more

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