cast and crew: Brendan Marshall-Rashid, Andy Gillies, Cindy
Pinzon, Alex Walzak and Joe Haas.
If anybody can
spell "Oconomowoc," it has to be Andy Gillies and Joe Haas,
two rising young Wisconsin filmmakers. The reason why their spelling
is on target is obvious. Their most recent production is a comedy of
the same name as the Waukesha County community. The venerable resort
town was once tagged "the Newport of the West" for its
pristine landscape; it was regularly visited by vacationing United
So what’s this
about a film featuring a city that the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk nations
initially called "Coo-no-mo-wauk," or "Where the waters
to make a comedy about inflated self-image," says writer/director
Gillies, who initially produced a short story about three idealistic
lowlifes who were self-proclaimed professional sledders.
"Needless to say, that idea was horrible, so I transitioned to a
comedy about practical delusion, inflexible identity and my hesitance
for adulthood," he laughs.
In the final
version, the film tells of a confused adult who moves back in with his
mother and reluctantly signs on with his friend’s mishandled T-shirt
business, hoping to find some direction in life.
So what does the
title mean? Several things, according to Gillies. "Few people can
actually pronounce the city. It’s a weird word and we thought it
played into the ambiguity of the film. Additionally, we liked naming
it after a city because we felt on some level it reminded us of any
other city we’d been to — where people are just trying to make
sense of shit gone wrong the best they can."
Haas says the
name was chosen because of its unique characteristics and sound —
and because they felt it was intriguing. "The film is in no way a
portrayal of the city itself or any residents thereof. Any similarity
is purely coincidental," Haas says. He’s the one who can
actually rapidly say "Oconomowoc" more than four times
without tripping up.
Gillies met Haas
through a mutual friend while they were both still in school and
living in Oconomowoc. "We have a similar sense of humor, which
makes working together quite easy," he says.
director of photography, editor and co-producer, agrees it was an
instant click. "Andy and I have worked on several short films and
sketches together in the past several years. They were all comedic,
minus a couple of corporate pieces," he says.
itself was revised over several years. "Once we decided to move
forward with shooting the film, we had to make additional revisions
due to budgetary and scheduling restraints, in order to successfully
pull off this ever-changing escapade," Gillies says.
Total time from
the start of production to final cut was about six-plus months,
pulling off the principal photography in 14 days. Post-production took
substantially longer, he explains. They’d all try to hit the hay by
11 p.m. to be fresh for the next day’s grind. Yet there was still
substantial late-night garage pingponging, Haas points out.
After hours, the
partners also admit to indulging in "some quaffable elation from
time to time." Yet Gillies clarifies, "Perhaps it was due to
exhaustion and madness. Either way, it did the trick. We had to keep
an unpaid cast and crew happy somehow. Thankfully, we were dealing
with the highest crop of professionals. No, we had fun, unfortunately
never too much," he says. They worked with a crew of 40 with no
assistants in 12 different locations and throughout mixed weather —
a volatile combination always making for challenges. Yet everything
generally went smoothly.
All the final
techie work was done at Joe Haas Media, a national level high-grade
video production and photography businesses. The sound design was done
in Oconomowoc by Matt Trifilo, with audio by Alex Walzak. The film’s
score is original, performed by either Haas, Brendan Marshall-Rashid
As with many
indies, the film’s budget was always a dicey issue. "Credit
cards," Gillies says, adding that, fortunately, they raised
supplementary funding through donations.
also stepped in and offered support, from securing shooting sites, to
providing food and offering backup hands. After hours, many of the
group crashed in a friend’s loaned house. "We could not have
pulled the project off the way we did without the community’s
help," Gillies adds.
the last scene, Gillies admits it was strangely unsettling. "Like
drones, we stood on the porch in silence, exchanged a few hugs and
high-fives, then went to bed," he recalls. In the end, "we
got to make a really funny movie. And we were able to see words and
ideas take on a completely new form. The experience of multitiered
collaboration is where it’s at," he says.
The film has
been submitted to a long list of festivals and the producers are
eagerly awaiting a positive word for showings. Keep an anticipatory
eye out for updates at Facebook.com/oconomowocthefilm.
To view the
movie’s trailer, scan here: