Who is Ken Schmidtke?

by Anthony Kaufman
April 2, 2007 1:33 AM
1 Comment
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Over at Reid Rosefelt's Zoom In blog, the veteran publicist looks as if he may be onto a new ultra-indie wave in Madison, Wisconsin, embodied by one Ken Schmidtke. The D.I.Y. filmmaker has already made three features, "Michigan Sunset" (a semi-autobiographical portrait about an alcoholic cheese-maker), "Winnequah Trail" (dealing with Ken's part-Indian heritage), "Beer, Brats & Baseball" (an antic comedy) and a fourth, "Beloit Highway" is already on the way. Could he be the Joe Swanberg of Wisconsin?

Ken already has one reluctant fan in Professor David Bordwell of the University of Wisconsin, who has watched all of the films. "I just couldn't turn my eyes away from the screen. And when the first two films were over, I put on 'Michigan Sunset' and watched it straight through," Bordwell told Rosefelt.

I sent an email to Reid to see whether he could send me copies of the films. And after talking to Schmidtke, who apparently is pretty reclusive and overprotective of his work, he promised to send me a package of the finished trilogy. "Ken told me he's willing to do interviews, but he's shy and would prefer to do them by email," Rosefelt told me. In the meantime, anyone hear of Schmidtke or see any of his movies? Apparently, he's a bit of a local legend in his hometown of Racine, where he's shown his films for friends in his garage/theater.

To think that there's a guy out there making truly indie and interesting movies and doesn't care about the festival circuit sounds either beautifully naive or totally ignorant. If "Michigan Sunset's" long-take cheese-making scenes are as "eerily meditative, even hallucinatory" as Rosefelt says, likening them to the coffee cup shot in Godard's "Two or Three Things I Know About Her," he is a filmmaker that deserves to find an audience.

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1 Comment

  • Sujewa | April 2, 2007 7:33 AMReply

    there are lots of truly indie filmmakers out there who make good stuff & also generally stay away from the fest circuit. well, at least a handful :) fests are not essential for real indie film.
    in fact, relying too heavily or at all on fests for support can get in the way of DIY distribution - as it would not push you to think beyond fests & other distributors for getting your film out. also, only a few, often self-appointed, people choose what films get played at fests - too much like Hollywood. indie rockers don't need fests, they set up shows wherever possible, advertise/publicize & charge $s & put on the show, a good model for DIY filmmakers/self-distributors.
    also real indie filmmakers should not rely too heavily on other people's press outlets for publicity, and instead should write their own blogs & zines & spend a lot of time publicizing their films, as punk/indie rockers did/do with zines.

    back to the topic at hand, Ken's stuff sounds interesting, will check it out.

    - sujewa

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