Even in this social media-entrenched age, some still have the mistaken impression that Milwaukee’s film scene is pretty much entirely comprised of screenings and events thrown either by the film department at UW-Milwaukee or the good folks behind the annual Milwaukee Film Festival. And that’s it, case closed.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case: the city’s film scene has a lot more to offer than some of you may have been led to believe.

Starting at 6 p.m. this Friday, February 1, The Mandel Group in with Plaid Tuba and Honeycomb Productions will present “Spectacle! At The North End.” It’s a cinematic installation at the hard-hat tour of Mandel Group’s two new buildings at The North End, located at 1551 N. Water St. in downtown Milwaukee.

The Mandel Group, a condominium and apartment developer, commissioned Plaid Tuba, a local company that connects artists to corporations, to create a unique film installation for the event. Serving as curator of the event, Plaid Tuba enlisted their resident filmmaker, Kurt Raether of Honeycomb Productions, to create a project for the opening night using the names of the two new buildings — Portrait and Silhouette — as inspiration.

Raether and local filmmaker and musician WC Tank wrote an 18-page script “that both complimented the culture of The North End and the excitement of Hollywood,” then reached out to four local filmmakers — Carol Brandt, Erik Ljung, John Roberts, and Andrew Swant — to bring the six-part, genre-switching “Spectacle!” to cinematic life.

The six film genres explored in “Spectacle! At The North End” include:

  • SILENCE (silent film), directed by Andrew Swant
  • SPACE (science fiction), directed by WC Tank
  • NOIR (film noir), directed by Erik Ljung
  • FANTASY, directed by John Roberts
  • MUSICAL, directed by Kurt Raether
  • INDEPENDENCE (indie cinema), directed by Carol Brandt

The complete film follows the story of “bumbling busboy Tilt (WC Tank), and debutante Ladybird Isabelle (Olivia Gonzales), as they struggle to escape a film world crafted by the dastardly Hugh Tinsley (Sean Kafer), billionaire scientist.”

Moviegoers recently spoke with Raether about the ambitious project, which he says came together fairly quickly and describes it as “akin to someone showing a painting at a gallery opening, except we’re doing a cinematic experience.”

More details below.

Moviegoers: Six different local filmmakers (including yourself) directed individual segments of “Spectacle!” utilizing six different genres. How did you recruit the other directors to come on board?

Kurt Raether: I’ve met each of the filmmakers at various events in town, and I wanted to use this project to connect and work with people I admire. I’ve worked with WC Tank and Carol Brandt before, but I’ve always looked up to John Roberts, Andrew Swant, and Erik Ljung. 

Moviegoers: Is the installation comprised of the same story told six different ways, or is it one continuous story told over six different genres with a beginning, middle and end?

Raether: The story has three characters that travel through the story as the genres switch up. So it’s one film, in six genres. The plot of the film justifies a lot of the switch ups. We had to use a few plot devices – namely a cryogenic time machine and magical hot air balloon – to move things along.

Moviegoers: Will the installation be made available in its entirety at some point online, or will it be shown in some capacity again after its official unveiling this Friday?

Raether: We are not sure what the plan is for “Spectacle!” after the installation. It is a film built specifically as an experience: you walk through each scene in different rooms, and each room has different props and costumes from the film. So it’s really something that you can’t experience by just watching it. I’m hoping we can find some money after it debuts to make some tweaks and turn it into a festival-worthy short film. The potential’s there.

Moviegoers: What do you hope audiences take away from “Spectacle!”?

Raether: I hope audiences can find the meaning of the film under all the glitz and glam, it’s really a fun exploration through old Hollywood, from silent film era to the ‘70s independent scene. We used a lot of allegory in the film, a lot of little cinematic winks. I’m hoping people have a fun time just soaking in the splendor of cinema.

“Spectacle! At The North End” kicks off at 6 p.m. this Friday, February 1, at The North End  (1551 N. Water St.), and concludes at 9 p.m. The cinematic installation will play out over six apartment homes on the 4th floor of the newest apartment community at The North End, each room representing the genre of the scene.

It’s free to the public, and parking is provided at The North End Garage.