Playing With Fire

It’s been three years since the “Love MKE. Blow up a Car” Kickstarter campaign raised more than $10,000. When will the short film be released?

In September 2012, a local film production and marketing firm called Flipeleven launched a Kickstarter campaign to blow up a car in Milwaukee, just like in the movies. The Downtown firm had won a prize from the international 48-Hour Film Festival that included a day’s use of a special camera frequently used in big-budget action flicks, and the idea was to film a fireball that both spotlighted Milwaukee’s creative potential and could be incorporated into a short film titled, mysteriously, The Nugget. Calling the whole thing “Love MKE. Blow Up a Car,” Flipeleven raised $10,081 from 96 backers in about a month. It seemed that automotive carnage would have its day.

As promised, a 90s-era Ford Taurus exploded in an empty lot near the Sixth Street viaduct and the Iron Horse Hotel on a sunny day in October 2012. Flipeleven uploaded a snippet of the inferno to YouTube and joined with Newaukee to travel with other arts enthusiasts to Madison to lobby for arts funding and film incentives. The wintry excursion, carried out in March 2013, was dubbed the “Art Bomb WI.”

And then… silence. The fires stayed dark until May 2014, when an update appeared on the project’s Kickstarter page, administered by Kyle Buckley, Flipeleven’s director of media. Under their Kickstarter terms of use, if the project didn’t materialize, they had to refund their backers. But the update was reassuring. “It took an incredibly long time,” it says, to reach the current stage of production, “partly because of our lobbying efforts and partly because we can only work on it after-hours.” A team of volunteers was working on colorizing the film and creating its soundtrack – final touches before The Nugget’s release.

Still, several months went by with no film. When we contacted Flipeleven in mid-October of 2015 regarding The Nugget’s whereabouts, co-founder Justin Schnor said the DVDs had been printed, and they were “completing the logistics” of sending them to backers. Renamed Backfire, the 10-minute film depicts an unnamed Man and Woman (played by Milwaukee actors Chike Johnson and Malkia Stampley) who are attempting to flee a deranged Cop (Scotty Dickert) as he’s trying to abscond with the “Nugget” (a little girl played by Zaria Johnson). And yes, one of the important plot points involves Man and a certain exploding Ford Taurus.

Schnor chalks up the most recent delay to turnover. And because “Love MKE. Blow Up a Car” has taken so long, Flipeleven planned to send out special packages to all 96 backers. These thank-you packages will supposedly include an exploding-car T-shirt, a copy of Backfire and a full refund. When will they go out? In October, we were told, “in a month or so.”

‘Playing With Fire’ appears in the December 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the December issue on newsstands Nov. 30.

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Claire Hanan worked at the magazine as an editor from 2012-2017. She edited the Culture section and wrote stories about all sorts of topics, including the arts, fashion, politics and more. In 2016, she was a finalist for best profile writing at the City and Regional Magazine Awards for her story "In A Flash." In 2014, she won the the Milwaukee Press gold award for best public service story for editing "Handle With Care," a service package about aging in Milwaukee. Before all this, she attended the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and New York University's Summer Publishing Institute.