Milwaukee Film, UWM among tenants of new film industry incubator

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who serves on the board of Milwaukee Film, spoke at the launch of Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:12 pm

The newly-launched Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance, Milwaukee Film and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are among the first tenants to sign on to the new film industry incubator in The Brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee.

Set to open in March 2018, the hub at 1037 W. McKinley Ave. is designed to be a collaborative space for those working in the film industry and will include a coworking space, private offices, an event space and 50-seat screening room.  The effort is being spearheaded by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and John Ridley, a screenwriter and Milwaukee native. Both serve on the board of Milwaukee Film, which Abele founded.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who serves on the board of Milwaukee Film, spoke at the launch of Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Anchor tenants of the new film hub were announced at a party celebrating the launch of the new Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance. Tenants will include Milwaukee Film, the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance, UWM, 371 Productions and Custom Reality Services.

“This is a destination for artists and art lovers,” said Lisa Ceasar, Ridley’s sister and president of New York-based NGN Consultant.

The official name and branding of the new space, currently referred to as the “creative hub,” will be revealed early next year, Ceasar said.

Ridley, perhaps best known for the Academy Award-winning film “12 Years a Slave,” will draw on his professional network and leverage his celebrity status to connect Milwaukee’s film community with industry representatives, Ceasar said.

The MFA on Thursday also released an ICF International study examining the region’s film industry, which showed the film industry job market in southeastern Wisconsin has grown by 10 percent to include nearly 15,000 jobs over the past five years.

Film and media professionals celebrated the launch of the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

According to the study, the industry contributed more than $1.55 billion in annual sales and $530 million in labor income throughout southeastern Wisconsin in 2014. And the industry’s growth rate from 2010 to 2015 was double that of the overall Greater Milwaukee economy’s growth.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee is home to less than 1 percent of the 1.9 million workers in the film and TV industry nationally, the study found.

“The local film and media industry and economy are growing at incredible rates, but there remains limitless untapped potential,” said Suzanne Jurva, director of Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance. “The Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance plans to support and meet the needs of the region’s film and media industry by providing opportunities for filmmakers to promote their work and skills, network with other professionals, and hone their skills through education programs.”

According to the study, the area’s key challenges include limited opportunities for funding and investing in films, the need for more connectivity among professionals and resources in the industry and the need for greater external relationships and exposure.

Ceasar stressed that there is untapped potential in Milwaukee, particularly at a time when the film industry landscape is changing.

“We’re not trying to mimic Hollywood,” she said. “We’re leading what comes next.”

Rob Yeo, chair of UWM’s film, video, animation and new genres department, said the school will occupy nine rooms on the building’s third floor, with plans to move the UWM Film Professional Practice program, internship program and documentary media center, doc|UWM, from the Peck School of the Arts building at 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd. to the new hub.

“We’re really excited about it,” he said. “It’s a terrific resource for Milwaukee and a tremendous asset to the community.”

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