Even though my adjustment to civilian life has been a struggle, due to being consumed in today’s society by so many political opinions, and truths being revealed… it certainly has been a hard pill to swallow…
While most people gather, illegally and legally, I’ve kept my distance and silence, as well as decompress my mind, to gather my thoughts over this weekend as it reminds me of two things…. 1) my best friend at the time being KIA on June 3, 2007 (three days before my 21st), and the fact that tomorrow is legitimately my fifth year anniversary from being medically retired from the military.
Yet, there is still a pride in me for serving this country for the purpose of the bigger picture and not for myself, but for ALL the people in this country who chooses not to or simply can’t for medical purposes…
I continue to look at the positive things of serving like having the opportunity to embrace and experience so many various cultures and individuals through the battle buddies I’ve met over the years and the various global contractors and local people that I had the opportunity to befriend and worked with while in Iraq.
Also, without serving, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today nor accomplish the things I’ve accomplished over my adult life…
While the mass crowd defines us a basic stereotype of typical sheep and murderers, I will not let those voices define me nor the good-hearted people I have come to serve and meet, who take the call to risk their lives for their own beliefs of serving…
What comes down to my reality vs. their reality, is that we all have a story, we all have educational value to share through our livelihoods and experiences, and we all can learn from one another… we just need to be able to have an open mind to learn from those who haven’t experienced a similar life than our own and that’s where empathy comes in…
Unfortunately, the majority of us, as humans, struggle with having empathy for the rest of the world, if not, our own country and that’s why we are in the “Divided States of America” we are currently in.
The relief of today was fulfilled with distractions and productivity while distancing myself from the crowds and social media, while I regain my attentiveness and confidence with my purpose and knowledge in the world during my five-day weekend and I’m only half way through.
Also, what helped me through today is having one of my battle buddies that I relate to reaching out to me today with his music playlist and amazing descriptive reflection of his day, because he knows how much music and storytelling gets me through difficult things.
I head back to Madison, Wisconsin for this Q&A to catch up with the producers of Madison’s 48 Hour Film Project. I met these two talented and hardworking individuals last year, when I came on to the RGBeasts team for the very first time.
An unforgettable experience, to say the least, but thanks to this particular opportunity, I have an expectation of how the film life works for future projects. Now I get to sit down with the masterminds that are working towards bringing Wisconsin on the competitive map for the film industry.
Let’s open this interview with a story. How did you two come together as business partners? How long have you two been business partners?
Michael Keeney: Ooh, pick me!
Kat leans backward in her chair, clearly giving Keeney the floor.
MK: I’d been hired to launch and operate a boutique film festival for a convention that was coming to Madison. I knew I could get films and filmmakers involved, but I also knew I didn’t know a darn thing about scheduling … anything. I’d met Kat at a different convention, where she was the Director of Operations, overseeing a five-day event with 1,500 attendees, more than 70 scheduled panel discussions and other timed events that completely took over one of the largest hotels and conference centers in town.
And so I asked for a meeting. To be honest, I was hoping to make my pitch, and she’d suggest one of her interns who might be willing to take on my little two-day, 20-film, one-room event.
We met, and I explained what I thought would be the upsides and the challenges. About half way through her questions and answers, Kat used the word ‘we.’ As in, ‘Well, we could go through Brown Paper Tickets for ticketing ….’
I did my best to look calm and cool while I quietly picked my jaw up off the floor. Again, I was hoping for the name of an intern.
At this point Kat rolls her eyes and leans forward again.
Katherine Thompson: I had been looking for a new challenge, and his timeline happened to fit with an opening I had between shows and it sounded like fun.
MK: That was … seven? years ago?
MK: I immediately began utilizing her skill sets more and more for Key Media Entertainment projects, and before too long, Key Media Narratives became an official thing — Key Media Entertainment had been working in film and commercials for a number of years before that. We did more in the first 18 months as Narratives than I had in the five years before on my own as Entertainment.
How long have you two been producing the 48-Hour Film Project in Madison,WI?
KT: This will be our third year at the helm as Producers. We competed successfully as a team off and on for a few years before that.
For prizes, you open opportunities up not just on a local level, but the winner gets a spot in the film festival, Filmapalooza, to compete against other 48-Hour short films. You both were just there supporting last year’s winners for Madison, The Porchetta Paradox. How was the experience for you both?
MK: It was pretty great. Filma is a combination film festival-slash-competition- awards ceremony. There were approximately 150 City Winners from around the world that were screened. In addition to that Festival aspect, there are a number of mixer and networking events, as well as classes on filmmaking and programming specifically for us as City Producers. The chance to find common ground and discuss common challenges with other filmmakers and producers was tremendous.
KT: The ability to watch award-winning films, made by filmmakers just like us, with the same challenges we face was a wonderful opportunity. You learn something about different cultures around the world, and how they use the medium. You would think that with everyone having the same rules and the same restrictions, the films would have the same feel. But they really didn’t. Yes, there was much they had in common, but it was very interesting to see how different cultures use film differently.
It was was very rewarding to see ‘The Only Logical Conclusion,’ which is The Porchetta Paradox’s City-winning 2018 film, really reach a genuinely international audience.
MK: In fact, David and Matthew were one of the few teams chosen to be interviewed afterward. They held their own, and the humor of ‘Conclusion’ holds up. We were proud, and Madison should be proud.
It was also an amazing chance to see what it takes to make it to Cannes. I really think we have teams right now that have a shot at making it all the way.
Let’s open the picture up a bit for those wondering the role of a producer requires. Can y’all describe your days working together or separately and what comes with organizing these types of events?
MK: Lots and lots of Tylenol.
KT: Far more goes on behind the scenes than on the screen. We are responsible for every aspect of producing the Madison event from planning to covering the costs. We negotiate with the theaters and any local sponsors we recruit. We set up any meet- and-greets and educational seminars. Most of the correspondence with filmmakers comes through us. The 48’s international team does provide us with some templates, but almost everything you see leading up to Kick-Off and through our Awards Ceremony is our responsibility. All those graphics you see on our Facebook page, for example, Michael does those. The trivia contest we had last year, that was all him.
MK: It’s really a team effort. Kat let’s me play. She does all the work. I get to focus on doing one thing, knowing she’s got the pulse of everything. Then I do the next thing she says needs to be done. I don’t need to worry if we have an e-mail scheduled. She knows. I may write or edit it, but she makes sure everything is actually going out. If you think about the 48 as a railway, I get to be the cool engine and blow steam and smoke and it might look like I’m the one getting the passengers and cargo down the track, but really, there’s whole lot more to it than that. Who makes sure there are passengers and cargo? Kat. Who makes sure there’s a staff working the train station? Kat. Who makes sure I don’t just steaming off down the tracks and run into another train? Kat. And while she’s doing all that, she’s also still very involved with the theater scene, so she’s networking with actors and stage directors and crew, letting them know about this opportunity. I just do one thing.
I am sure you guys provide work in the film industry past the 48-Hour Film Project. Can you give us an insight on the tasks and other projects y’all do when the 48-Hour Film Project is not going on?
KT: Key Media Narratives is in Pre-Production on a short that I’m really excited about. As usual, Michael wrote a wonderful script. And we’ve had a feature we’re slowly assembling for a while now. Again, Michael wrote that. I think he’s got five or six stories in his head at any time.
MK: I’ve got a desk drawer with 13 treatments in it right now, waiting for the stars to align.
MK: Stories are not a problem. But those are the passion projects that we do, because we love them. We also work on a couple of commercials and significant films every year. You’ve seen our work, whether you realize it or not.
We’ve been a part of commercials for the Wisconsin Lottery, Johnsonville Sausage, ESPN, Kwik Trip and more. We worked on the Christopher Nolan ‘Batman’ series; spent the summer on ‘Public Enemies,’ traveling all over. We did Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut ‘Lost River’ with Matt Smith and Christina Hendricks. We just wrapped up ‘Deliver Me’ in Chicago — actually most of our paid work is in Chicago in film or television, sometimes Detroit.
We also do a handful of local commercials and industrials. We’re in talks right now with a scientific instrumentation company with offices on six continents and instruments and employees on all seven. I work as a writer and script consultant on other people’s stories as well.”
KT: I’m on the Board of Directors for the Madison Theater Guild, and I continue to stage manage a handful of live theater.
MK: She’s also a fitness instructor and mother of three, all of whom have been and are very active in the Performing Arts. So, really, she has three full-time jobs.
A lot of other awards, opportunities, and experiences can come with participating in the 48-Hour Film Project. Can y’all share what could possibly go right for an inspiring filmmaker, even if you don’t win Best Picture and head to Filmapalooza?
MK: It can literally launch your career. The truth is that that no, most films do not go on to critical acclaim, and most filmmakers are doing this purely for the love of the Cinematic Arts. But it does happen! Eight years before becoming the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Gareth Edwards made his first film in a 48.
KT: Last year one of the 48 films at Cannes was offered and signed a distribution deal, and one of them from this year is negotiating to be a television series in Europe.
Are y’all working on any projects currently or is your focus merely on the film project event right now?
MK: Thirteen ….That I’ve told her about.
KT (Sighs): We’ve got a couple things in the works. We anticipate posting some cast and crew auditions soon. Schedule permitting.
Last year,you had an astounding 30 teams, plus a waiting-list for this year’s film project. What was the reaction and experience for that kind of turnout on your end? Are you expecting a similar turnout this year?
MK: More Tylenol. Actually, it was … very gratifying. When we came in the 48 was on a bit of a downward trend. There had been some concerns — which we knew, because we had them ourselves when we were competing. And we’ve worked extremely hard to address them.
KT: There is a huge difference, logistically, in 30 teams versus the 16 we’d had our first year. We have the best problem ever — we’d outgrown the spaces the 48 had been used to. So we literally began planning 2019 the day after the 2018 Premiere. By the time our Awards event rolled around, we’d had our new partnership with Marcus Point Theater virtually sewn up. We just couldn’t announce it yet. We’re not sure if 30 is our high-water mark, but we’re preparing to make things bigger and even better.
MK: We’re one of the smallest cities in the 48 community, and when other cities find out that we had 30 teams, they tend to want to give us advice, because they have 40 or 60 or so. And then I ask them how big their city is, and get, ‘Oh, Philadelphia is 1.5 million,’ or whatever, and then they ask how big Madison is and I get to say, ‘247,000.’ Suddenly they’re asking us for advice. We’re proud of our film community.
KT: I’m extremely proud. Madison is very engaged in the cinematic arts.
What has been the biggest highlight for Madison’s 48-Hour Film Project over the years?
MK: I’m going to go personal. For me, personally, the biggest highlight is a tie. Our first year as competitors, I was the team leader and producer, and I really didn’t know if we could do this thing. I’d worked my tail off and I was afraid it going to crash and burn all around me. And then we got to the Premiere, and I got to sit in a real theater with my friends who’d busted their butts with me and for me, and I got to see our film, a real film, that hadn’t even been an idea just a few days before, let alone a script, much less a complete film, on the big screen, and I got to watch all those people see their work, and be proud of their work and then see their names on the end crawl. To watch their faces when they saw their own names and heard the applause is just … transformative. To this day, whenever we’re screening one of our films for the first time, I stand quietly in a corner at the front of the room, so I can watch our people experiencing our film.
And it’s still a tie. Just as wonderful as that moment is, having someone type their own name in to IMDB and see their first listing, for the first time? It’s … just as good.
KT: The biggest highlight for the 48 is still to come. We’re going to have films in the Cannes Film Festival. One of our actors is going to get discovered. Someone is going to get a picture deal. And it’ll all have started right here.
MK: Okay… Yeah, that. Put me down for that, too. What has been the biggest highlight in your careers in the film industry, separately, or as a team?
MK: To the public, it’s probably my work as a stunt driver, with Oscar-winners lives literally in my hands. Or working on Oscar-nominated films.
If you’re asking me, not the public, there’s no replacing those firsts. Those firsts I’ve already mentioned. The first time I walked around on a set that had only existed in my imagination before we built it. The first time I had a script optioned, and getting to be there as the amazing talents I get to call my friends experience those firsts for themselves. It gets no better than getting to make those things happen with one of my best friends as my business partner.
KT: This is why he’s the writer.
What is the one thing you are looking forward to most with this up and coming film project here in Madison this year?
KT: Turning off the microphone after greeting the crowd, and sitting in a theater full of area film-makers and film fans and just being a film fan myself, watching the amazing productions that our community made, in just 48 hours.
MK: I was going to say, ‘Declaring registration closed, because we were full, but, I want to take her answer, again!
I heard there are a few changes for this year’s project. Can y’all reiterate the changes that are coming up this year that the incoming filmmakers should be enlightened about?
KT: The biggest changes should be ones that the teams and fans will barely notice —
MK:— But please do notice them!
KT: — and that’s that we’re in a new theater on a new day this year. Our premiere will be July 29th at Marcus Point Theater on their Ultra-Screen. The 29th is a Monday. The Ultra-Screen as a few more seats, but we often sell out, so it’s always a good idea to get your tickets through Brown Paper Tickets in advance.
We’ll have that information to you as soon as possible. In the mean time we have a brand new Join-A- Team program and a Talent Directory where would-be participants can post about themselves and what they would bring to a team, and Team Leaders, and would-be Team Leaders can post what they’re looking for to fill out their team.
Do any of you two have last minute tidbits of information to share with the readers and anyone interested in joining the 48 community?
MK: Registration for new teams will open on May 1st. Simply go to 48hourfilm.com and follow the prompts to find Madison. The best thing is to just jump in and do it. The Madison filmmaking community is on the rise, and that break- out star could be you!
None of this shit was said. I guess none of that matters when you are in a small time slot to brainstorm, write, shoot, and edit a five to seven minute short film in exactly 48 hours, tops. Final editing being the final phase with figuring out the perfect score, sound, and/or music in the perfect slot in the film. Sweat spewing down your face, with anxiety and adrenaline pacing your heartbeat to that of a crooked thug running from the cops in a crime scene. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but you get the picture… …er scene image printed within your mind.
I was a bit nervous regardless of the research I did prior to the event. I never did one before, so where the fuck do I start? People. I start with people. The trick was to get just the right amount of dedicated individuals who were willing to be locked in an empty wing of the school over a whole entire weekend, where instead of going out and socializing and drinking with family and/or friends. I mean, it is summer… …isn’t it?
So it’s obvious that recruiting was a challenge. When I reached out to friends about wanting to do a 48 hour with me, I got only a few people interested, but only one fully committed. I felt defeated when we couldn’t get people interested. Especially individuals that were interested in film in the first place.
Then one morning I woke up for just another work day, look at my phone and BAM! A message from one of my mentors stepping in to help recruit a team endorsed by our college program and I was included! Faith restored! However, it was a damn roller coaster trying to keep those interested again. Of course even until the day before the kick off event, people would back out. It is what it is.
Five members of our team would show up to the kick off event. It was as hot and humid as a Vietnam jungle. Dripping sweat, adult beverages, and a crowd packed in an event room like a pack of sardines. What the fuck was this? How big are these six other teams? We have seven. Fucking seven! Producer, Michael Keeney, was NOT joking when he pushed the advice to RECRUIT, RECRUIT, RECRUIT!
FRIDAY NIGHT: KICK OFF EVENT — …Shortly after I arrive, I was informed that the six teams we thought we were up against, simultaneously turn into 29 other teams!! Plus, producers’, Michael Keeney and Katherine Thompson, has a waiting list! Now that’s success in such a small city of less than a quarter a million. My question is… where the hell did these aspiring filmmakers come from and where have they been?!
Two genres, two characters, one prop, and one line later, we find ourselves at a local coffee shop, Collectivo, to start our brainstorming and the espresso inducing for the weekend.
(I am not going to get into the rules and run around on how the 48 hour film project works, so just check it out on their 48 Hour Film web site to learn more of this event. Especially for those who might be interested in doing one next year.) *smiling*
After we went our separate ways for the evening, I dove right into the Killer Tracks website to set the tone of the short film. Our two choices of genre were Spy/Espionage and Suspense/Thriller. There is nothing more soothing than to swing through sounds surrounding those genres on a Friday, the 13th evening. The irony, if I am even using it properly.
Let’s be real here, I thought irony was that of which came from Alanis Morissette’s song, “Ironic” growing up like majority of our population in North America.
SATURDAY: SHOOTING/EDITING – Day two was committed to shooting and rough editing. There’s not much to say, except that I did not expect to be a main character in this short film. In an odd sense, my anxiety decided to take a vacation that day. Not sure if it’s cause I was in such a familiar setting, or what, but I was in some kind of zen during the shoot. I can’t really explain it, other than it just felt right that I was there in the moment.
(I must note that the chemistry between the cast and crew was pretty epic. We had our fun, but we also kept the mission at hand; to get the shoot complete so we could get the rough edit done before Sunday.)
We were done shooting right around 8-830ish that evening. I was kind of daydreaming of being on NCIS, working late nights, ordering Chinese, while working to find other music to possibly use for the film. My mind goes to different places, to different scenes.
SUNDAY: EDITING/FINAL EDITS/SUBMIT – The final day was purely committed to editing, which I did not have a huge part in accept the title cards and the music choices. However, we did get our film turned in on time to be premiered this past Thursday.
As for my followers and supporters who actually read my blog, here it is! The web premiere for our short film, “Surprise Party!” I must also let you all in on that a winner for hour 48 hour film project has not been announced yet. The rest of the films all were done real well and props to any of the filmmakers that may pass through this blog post. The networking and connections has just begun! I definitely have found my calling when it comes to film. I am just not sure if I will continue the acting sector of the industry. We will just have to wait and see.
(One last note before we watch the film. My character has no manners at a dinner table, swears, and smokes like a chimney. Like she grew up with no direction in life, because… well, find out when you watch the film! I, as a human being, only relates to the swearing trait of my character.. Fucking military.)*smiling*