The local independent film series' creator talks with us in the midst of its final season.
Filmgoers in the Madison area are getting ready to say goodbye to a small but important screening series. The Micro-Wave Cinema Series launched in the spring of 2014, and it focuses on filmmakers with very small budgets and a taste for experimentation. Brandon Colvin, a communication arts grad student at UW-Madison and a filmmaker himself, has been programming and hosting the series for the past four years.
Colvin announced in January that he'll be moving to Arkansas to take a new job as a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Micro-Wave has one more season left, and it's in progress now. The next screening is A Feast Of Man on Sunday, February 25 at Vilas Hall, and there are three more to come after that, including a farewell event on April 29 that will center around Sabbatical, a feature-length film Colvin directed in 2014.
Micro-Wave has often looked at self-taught and purely independent filmmakers from around the country—not just in New York or LA—who work with non-professional or up-and-coming actors, budgets smaller than what people normally think of as low-budget, and limited shooting schedules. Highlights over the years at Micro-Wave have included Caleb Johnson's bubbly struggling-artists feature Joy Kevin, Matthew Wade's hallucinatory sci-fi film How The Sky Will Melt, and Theo Anthony's multi-layered urban exploration Rat Film.
"I had sensed after I'd been a filmmaker and been on the festival circuit that there were a lot of great films that were being made, that were being shown at regional festivals, and then basically dying, in terms of having a public audience of having public screenings of any kind," Colvin says. So he decided to showcase such work, leveraging his relationships with film organizations like Simple Machine and NoBudge—and his access to a campus theater, the screening room in 4070 Vilas Hall (which also hosts most of UW Cinematheque's screenings) to try and showcase such work.
Of course, developing a local audience for the kinds of films Colvin is passionate about has often been a challenge. In a campus screening room, it's hard to create a loose, engaging setting that feels, as Colvin puts it "more like a night out and less like a movie."
"In terms of getting people to stuff, that is a riddle I haven't cracked," he says. "I think even with with people who are ostensibly interested in cinema, there's so much cinema available, especially here, and for free, that it's hard when you're vying for someone's time with, like, the esteemed classics that Cinematheque is showing or the recent well-known new releases that WUD Film is showing, and then there's these kind of weirdo movies off to the side that no one's heard about. That's a harder decision for people to make."
Programming the series over the past four years has still been a rewarding experience. Colvin particularly recalls an October 2015 screening of Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman's L For Leisure: "It was the kind of gleeful, hair-standing-on-the back of your neck high feeling from art that you can get, and I really got it from that, and I really got it from that Micro-Wave screening. There might have been like six people there but...I thought that was amazing."
Colvin sat down recently with Tone Madison contributor Grant Phipps to talk about the work that went into the series and what he's learned from it.
Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you're hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.