This Milwaukee Filmmaker is Making Big Splashes with Small Movies

Carol Brandt is a local filmmaker you should know about.

Carol Brandt doesn’t have the luxury of indulgent budgets, and that’s OK with her. The director has found a way to get movies made in a lean and nimble fashion.“I love working with smaller crews,” Brandt says. For her, the main advantage of more funding is that it “would allow me to pay my smaller crews more, which would be amazing.”

The 27-year-old directed and wrote her first movie as a film student at UW-Milwaukee in 2013. Four years later, Brandt’s third movie, Dear Coward on the Moon, premiered at the MKE Film Festival.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The Milwaukee Film Festival, which has screened Brandt’s films in years past, returns Oct. 17-31. Expect to see Hollywood A-listers sharing the spotlight with local directors, actors and writers – both on the screen and in person, at audience talkbacks. For more information, visit

The actors in her most recent fillm – Pet Names, a relationship drama written by and starring Chicagoan Meredith Johnston – didn’t get a paycheck until Amazon purchased the film after its premiere at South by Southwest in March 2018. Among other accolades, Pet Names won the Cream City Cinema Jury Award at the 2018 MKE Film Festival.

Most of Pet Names’ roughly $15,000 budget went to necessities, like gas and food during the three-week
shoot in Lone Rock, 45 miles west of Madison, near where Brandt grew up. Most of the equipment was borrowed, the crew largely comprised of people Brandt met during film school.

“We wanted to make the biggest splash that we could, because we’re nobodies and we’re coming from a town that people don’t really equate with filmmaking,” Brandt says.

To pay her bills, Brandt edits other people’s documentaries or commercials. Brandt plans to collaborate with Johnston for her fifth film, Pink Moon, centered around a queer couple whose car breaks down in rural Kansas. “Pet Names was kind of like our toe in the door, so hopefully this film will be like our foot in the door.”

“Artist to Watch” appears in the October 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning October 1, or buy a copy at

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Adam is a journalist who recently returned to his Wisconsin home after graduating from Drake University in December 2017. He interned with MilMag in the summer of 2015 and has been a continual contributor ever since. Follow him on social media @Could_Be_Rogan