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De Pere ready for MLC Film Festival this week

By Ben Rodgers

DE PERE – Independent filmmakers from around the globe are coming to the MLC Film Festival Sept. 11 at Get Reel Cinema in De Pere, and the public is welcome.

Ann Myrna, a senior panelist and advisor for the festival, said the festival gives attendees the opportunity to view the type of cinema not typically shown on the big screen.

“Even if you take something like a western, that’s not my favorite genre to watch, but I so enjoyed the westerns in the festival this time,” Myrna, a festival judge, said. “It kind of opens your mind to things your mind was maybe a little closed to before.”

MLC stands for Mobsters, Latino/Latinx and Comedy, so all of the films shown will have a tie to those genres.

For example, a western can fall into the mobster category, films with directors or actors of Latin descent fall into another category and comedies are self-explanatory.

“Attendees have an opportunity for a very low cost to see an entire day’s worth of film on a wide, wide range of subjects,” Myrna said.

There will also be movie subgenres like horror, sports documentaries, science fiction, alternate reality, etc.

“It’s so amazing,” Myrna, who has a handful of acting credits, said. “There is so much creativity out there. I have no ideas compared to these people.”

Myrna said these independent filmmakers – who are typically self-funded and work with volunteers – need to master the art of storytelling, creating unique camera angles and generally doing more with less.

“With movies that you see in the movie theater, those are distributed based on an agreement between a filmmaker and a distribution channel, and there’s a lot of money involved with that,” she said. “A lot of people want to be noticed at that high level, of course, but it’s a long road to go from a guy with a creative idea to having your movie shown at all the AMC theaters across the nation.”

A movie for the birds

One of those local filmmakers with creative ideas is Freddy Moyano, who is also president of the film festival.

A typical day at work for Moyano is loading camera equipment into a canvas wagon, exploring nature, looking for patterns and oftentimes waiting.

“Storytelling is the core of why I go out there,” he said. “I like to showcase the beauty, but sometimes I actually give more priority to the action in the story.”

Moyano said he will often spend two or three hours a day outside, in all seasons, waiting for that perfect moment with birds or other wildlife.

This year in Green Bay, he captured two moments that are the focus of “It’s Snowy in the Bay,” a short film that will premiere at the MLC Film Festival.

Five months apart, in February and July of this year, Moyano captured a snowy owl and snowy egret with his lens in Green Bay city limits.

“I have seen (snowy owls), and I always see them in the farm fields,” he said. “You can spot some out in Oconto, but this one was in the Green Bay metro area right by the bay. It was so close, I had my phone up and equipment. I was doing two shots at the same time. I was doing a Facebook Live, and the owl flew from 30 feet away to a 10-foot range.”

Snowy owls are not easily visible in winter because they blend in with their surroundings extremely well.

Accomplished birders with keen eyes can spot them in wide-open fields outside of the city limits, but one up close and personal, especially in the city, is a rare sight.

“That was nirvana,” Moyano said. “That definitely was nirvana.”

Then, on July 20, during a typical outing along the Bay of Green Bay, he knew he spotted a snowy egret far outside its typical range, in a new place, for the first time.

“In 20 years of observing birds between the Green Bay point of the estuary all the way up to Marinette, observing birds in the area, I have never seen one of these,” Moyano said.

He said in the past decade, maybe seven snowy egrets have been spotted in Wisconsin.

“The main thing I try to post is #StopHabitatLoss,” he said. “The loss of habitat is huge. It’s a huge reason why there are so many special concerned statuses out there from the DNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). One of the biggest reasons why I do this is to spread awareness on habitat loss.”

Born and raised in Madrid, Moyano said natural habitats there have been so decimated that Spainards get easily excited at critters many Wisconsinites take for granted.

“There’s a lot of habitat loss in Spain – there’s been a lot of illegal hunting,” he said. “Like seeing a bunny out in the fields in Spain, or even a squirrel, everybody is like ‘Whoa, what is that?’ (Wildlife) is just not as abundant or frequent.”

He coupled his previous experience with sound editing from the university with a love of capturing animals and birds that make Greater Green Bay unique.

“It’s a passion beyond belief, this videography thing I do,” Moyano said. “Every day is different, every story is different. You just never know.”

Spinning home from New York

Another film showing at the MLC Film Festival stars De Pere native Travis Stroessenreuther.

Because Stroessenreuther is a bit long for the marquee, he goes by Travis Mitchell.

The 1992 De Pere High School graduate stars in “The Spinning Man” directed by Jordan Rosenbloom.

“‘The Spinning Man’ takes place in a post-apocalyptic world,” Mitchell said. “You come across Stan, who I play, the only character in the film, in a radio control tower assuming he’s the last guy around. But, to keep his sanity, he still does his hour-long jazz radio show, even though he’s broadcasting out to nobody. But the thrill comes when somebody answers.”

Mitchell is no stranger to stage and screen, having come through the area on two nationally touring shows, “Rock of Ages” at the Weidner Center and “Catch Me If You Can,” at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

“It’s super exciting that a small town like De Pere can have something like this,” he said. “When I was growing up, certainly I never heard of a film festival. It was either at Bay Park (Movie Theater), or it wasn’t.”

Mitchell said the movie was accepted for festivals in Seattle; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Dayton, Ohio, but the showing in his home town means the most.

“I thought ‘How cool would that be if I could get a screening at the theater where as a kid I saw all the movies,” he said. “I saw ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ all of that. It’s a dream come true, a feather in the cap if you will.”

Mitchell said the goal of the MLC Film Festival is to build relationships which hopefully lead to bigger things.

“There’s no corporate ladder, there’s no one way an actor gets to make a living at it, there’s a million different ways that can happen,” he said.

“With these short films, ideally somebody sees it at a festival and they pass it on to somebody they know at Netflix, or somebody who is making a film anywhere sees it and says ‘I got a film I’m putting together and you would be great for this role.’ It’s building blocks and relationships.”

“The Spinning Man” shows around 3:55 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.

For tickets, information about the festival and a lineup of films, CLICK HERE.

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