Anne Reed: "Milwaukee Film offers a wide range of artistic and cultural experiences that promote collective expressions of joy"

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  •  Anne Reed, Interim CEO of Milwaukee Film.
    Anne Reed, Interim CEO of Milwaukee Film. Source: Anne Reed.

Founded in 2008 by Chris Abele and Bill and Carmen Haberman, Milwaukee Film (MKE Film) has blossomed into a cultural cornerstone with a dual mission: to host a world-class film festival and to invigorate the city's film industry.

What began as a modest endeavor has since evolved into a dynamic force, offering year-round programming, educational initiatives, and support for emerging filmmakers. From the annual Milwaukee Film Festival to groundbreaking diversity-focused programs like Black Lens and Cine Sin Fronteras, MKE Film continues to enrich the city's cultural landscape and foster inclusivity in cinema. Dive into the story of Milwaukee Film, its impact on the community, and how you can join the movement beyond the silver screen.

What inspired the creation of Milwaukee Film and what is its main mission?

MKE Film was founded in 2008 by Chris Abele and Bill and Carmen Haberman (the latter two of the Herzfeld Foundation) with the goal of putting on a world-class film festival to rival the world’s largest. But the team also had a vision of strengthening the film industry in Milwaukee. At the time, it wasn’t a city known for its film culture, but it had long had a vibrant film scene, including a small-but-mighty filmmaking industry, the now-defunct Milwaukee International Film Festival, UW-Milwaukee’s renowned film department, and many film fans.

What are some of the highlighted events organized by Milwaukee Film throughout the year?

The Milwaukee Film Festival launched in 2009, with about 100 films at three venues. In 2017, more than 300 festival-quality films were screened across five Milwaukee venues. Festival attendance has increased every year since its inception; in 2017, attendance reached around 84,000.

In addition to the annual Milwaukee Film Festival, MKE Film organizes year-round community programming, helps manage the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance, and operates the historic Oriental Theatre. We also produce a weekly film-related newsletter, host forums and other events, and touch thousands of young people with educational programs through and about the power of film.​

What opportunities does Milwaukee Film offer to emerging filmmakers and how can they participate in the programs?

Milwaukee Film is committed to supporting the local filmmaking community by offering formal and informal events for filmmakers throughout the year and providing direct support to the best and brightest filmmakers through competitive awards. 

As part of Milwaukee Film’s mission to elevate diverse voices in film, Focus Finder is a storytelling accelerator designed to build a small cohort of emerging local filmmakers from underrepresented communities. The program will combine the best parts of mentorship and fellowship to strengthen emerging voices in Milwaukee’s film industry pipeline.

Every year, the Forward Fund awards a pool of over $100,000 in cash as well as sponsor-donated production resources (camera rentals, lighting rentals, and post-production audio and visual services, etc.) to jury-selected recipients in packages that combine cash and services to suit the needs of the project.

Milwaukee Film’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program is an initiative designed to support local filmmakers and film projects that advance its organizational mission. Fiscally sponsored projects will be able to solicit funds from government, foundation, individual, and other philanthropic sources without needing to obtain their own 501(c)(3) status. Milwaukee Film will, in turn, provide financial-reporting support and more.

What role does Milwaukee Film play in promoting and celebrating diversity in the film industry?

Milwaukee Film offers a wide range of artistic and cultural experiences that promote collective expressions of joy, through year-round programming supporting inclusive artistic and cultural creativity.

In 2014, Black Lens was created to spotlight the work of filmmakers of African descent by bringing their films to the Milwaukee Film Festival. These filmmakers explore the stories, the topics and the histories that are deeply shared throughout the Black diaspora, while inviting diverse audiences to engage. Now celebrating its tenth year, the program has evolved beyond the Festival, offering year-round film programming at the Oriental Theatre. This extension promises even more unique cinematic experiences, honoring the rich legacy of Black film while championing the contemporary wave of Black filmmakers who are at the forefront of redefining our cinematic presence. 

Cine Sin Fronteras (Cinema Without Borders) presents screenings and events on a year-round basis that explore and unpack issues surrounding identity, culture, family, history, and modernity within the Latinx diaspora, including stories from the Chicanx, Latin American, Indigenous, and Afro-Latinx communities.

How does Milwaukee Film select films for its festivals and screenings?

Milwaukee Film puts out an annual call for entries for the Milwaukee Film Festival, and accepts short (under 40 minutes) and feature (40 minutes or longer) films of documentary, narrative, experimental, animated, and music varieties. 

What collaborations does Milwaukee Film have with other organizations within and outside the film industry?

As the operators of both Milwaukee's iconic Oriental Theatre and the Milwaukee Film Festival, Milwaukee Film is constantly able to connect with an ever-expanding and diverse local audience. Through sponsorship, our generous partners help ensure our nonprofit organization continually engages with as much of this great city as possible. And in our Community Partners program, we use our film expertise to pair local businesses, nonprofit organizations, community groups, and student groups with a film and/or related event whose subject matter or story aligns with their priorities

How can viewers support and participate in Milwaukee Film's initiatives beyond attending events and screenings?

Being a Member is an easy, affordable way to support our year-round mission while enjoying our Members-only benefits. As a Milwaukee Film Member, you’ll be a part of a growing family of film fans who are passionate about cinema and committed to supporting our nonprofit's mission to entertain, educate and engage our community through film. To further this connection, we offer a free monthly screening to all Members. 

Whether you're a film enthusiast, a supporter of the arts, or someone passionate about our community, your donation matters. Together, let's ensure that Milwaukee Film continues to shine as a beacon of creativity and inspiration.

Milwaukee Film is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to fueling a robust film culture and building community. Everything we do is only possible through the support of our partners, donors, and members. We hope you'll consider supporting our mission to entertain, educate, and engage our community through shared cinematic experiences.

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