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From Fliers to Film
With the 89th Academy Awards just weeks away, writer Martin Hintz checks in with the local film scene, chatting with “Christopher Darling” co-producer and UWM grad Martin Kaszubowski.


February 2017

Scott Cary

Take a boozing, misanthropic, skirt-chasing lead singer of a popular rock band, and you have grist for a dark comedy. As such, the wacky, self-sabotaging lead character in “Christopher Darling,” a film written and produced by Milwaukeeans Scott Cary and Martin Kaszubowski, met audiences for the first time at the 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival. Following its October debut, “Darling” then received acclaim at the Boise (Idaho) and Great Lakes film festivals. More such bookings are pending, much to the excitement of the movie’s two producers.

The genesis of “Christopher Darling” was always an extended work-in-progress. “Throughout college, I knew that I wanted to make a feature right out of school — something with a lower budget that had a genre hook to it,” explains Kaszubowski. He read Charles Bukowski’s 1978 semiautobiographical “Women” and knew he wanted to make something similar. Bukowski’s hedonistic hero has little attachment to things or people, as does Darling.  Also impacting Kaszubowski’s filmic vision were such movies as “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Black Moon,” a bizarre work directed by Louis Malle.

The summer before graduating from UW-Milwaukee, Cary and Kaszubowski worked for The Rave/Eagles Club, distributing fliers for the iconic Wisconsin Avenue music venue, and their jaunts around town spurred a plethora of brainstorming sessions. Dreams subsequently evolved into reality, and a film featuring a touring entertainer was born. From their first exploration of themes onward, the duo started hammering away at the computer keyboard, Kaszubowski recalls.

Martin Kaszubowksi

Anti-hero Darling is not modeled after anyone Kaszubowski knows personally, but the writer asserts there is definitely influence from famous musicians with volatile personalities, such as The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas and English guerrilla guitarist/poet Pete Doherty. As far as his own instrumental background goes, Kaszubowski playfully admits that he played the saxophone — albeit terribly — in middle school. Cary currently fronts the post-punk band Brat Sounds and wrote Darling’s score.

Scripting took about eight months, Kas-zubowski says. The first five were spent developing the basic plot outline, followed by a month of writing together almost every evening to produce the full script. Additional months of refinement followed — a long process because both Kaszubowski and Cary were finishing college coursework and senior thesis films.

For the writing, the two lobbed scenes, characters and dialogue to each other. “Basically, Scott focused on the details while I focused on the big picture, though every line of action and dialogue, as well as the ending, was argued over many, many times,” says Kaszubowski. “We just trusted each other to be making the best artistic choices for the film, and not to take anything personally.”

They counted on friends and colleagues from UWM’s film program to fill out the crew, as well as tapping actors they worked with previously. “This town has so many people who are creative and passionate about independent film, and everyone is willing to pitch in to make it happen here,” Kaszubowski adds. The biggest challenges were maintaining a low budget and short schedule, he says. 

UWM theater grad John Glowacki stars in the title role. The film was primarily shot at noted Milwaukee area musical hot spots, including funky Shank Hall, Acme Records, Mad Planet, Frank’s Power Plant and the always-popular Bremen Café. 

Even as “Darling” gains traction, Cary is working on a new album, and Kaszubowski is writing a feature film and is in preproduction on several shorts. For the latter of the two, creating is everything. “We use art and stories to help give our lives meaning, fulfillment and entertainment. And I genuinely believe that film is the ultimate art form,” Kaszubowski says.

This story ran in the February 2017 issue of: