The Allure of the Short Film: Door County Mini Movie Night

A still from “Outside of This House” by Melissa Lawrence.

As someone with an almost geeky amount of film knowledge and love for my small community, I have always contended that Door County could be just as big a film festival hotspot as Park City, Utah or Telluride, Colorado.

Since I graduated from college and returned home to Door County to live, I’ve been very excited whenever there’s been a small bit of filmmaking interest on the peninsula. In recent years, several film series have popped up all over the county; we’ve had a feature film, Feed the Fish, shot in our backyard; and a few filmmakers actually call Door County their home.

So of course, when I heard there would be a Mini Movie Night held at Sister Bay’s Base Camp Coffee Bar on Saturday, January 9, I was more than interested to speak with Chris Opper, a local filmmaker who is coordinating the Movie Night along with Base Camp owner Joel Kersebet. Opper recently moved to the county as a year-round resident after working in Green Bay for several years – and his goal is simple: to get Door County residents and visitors interested in short films.

“I had seen a film showing at Base Camp last year that the Peninsula School of Art had put on, and I knew that Door County could be a great place for some short film exposure,” he says.

When asked how he became interested in film, Opper is quick to say that it wasn’t something he thought about initially.

A still from “Duh” by Chris Opper.

“I wasn’t at all sure of what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school,” Opper says. “My last semester of high school, I took a senior seminar, which was all about figuring out what criteria was important to you in a job. Based on these criteria, you’d get a mock interview with a company. My guidance counselor asked me what I liked to do, what I was interested in. I told him that I loved movies, loved television, and loved music – and he got me an interview at Taco Bell. I still don’t know if he was trying to tell me something, but I tried not to pay any attention to it.”

Opper decided to go into the Army National Guard, where he obtained the G.I. Bill and attended UW-Fox Valley, finding himself taking a few television classes. Eventually, he became the news director of his college television station, which led to a job at Fox 11 News. He stayed at Fox 11 for a bit before he decided to attend film school in Nashville, Tennessee. He returned to the Green Bay area after school, taking an editing job at WFRV Channel 5, but he remained interested in editing short films.

“Feature-length films are what most moviegoers are used to, but they aren’t very lucrative for solo filmmakers or smaller film companies,” Opper says. “Also, with short films, there’s a better chance that they might make their way into a film festival. People who create short films often get more jobs as a result of their films.

“And,” Opper laughs, “it’s easier to hold people’s attention when the films are only five or 10 minutes long.”

A still from “Hank’s Relish” by Autumn Made Studios.

The films being screened at Base Camp’s Mini Movie Night are between three and 15 minutes long, with the only criteria being that the films need to be comedic and upbeat.

“It was very important to Joel that people just come out and have a good time,” Opper says. Filmmakers of all level of skill are invited to submit films, and the slate of films for Mini Movie Night are predominantly Wisconsin-based filmmakers or filmmakers with Wisconsin connections.

Some of the films being screened include Duh, a three-minute film by Opper himself. Outside of this House is a film by Melissa Lawrence and tells the story of a girl dealing with a big brother who is moving out of the house to attend college. The film Hank’s Relish was created by Green Bay-based Autumn Night Studios and is a great film for anyone who wants to know how relish is made. Taco Mary, a film written, directed and produced by Mary Novak of Chicago and edited by Melissa Lawrence, follows the plight of a man who finds the face of the Virgin Mary – in his taco.

Of his own film, Opper says ,“It speaks for itself once you see it…It’s basically a lesson in boredom.”

Another part of the evening will consist of a film that Opper helped students a Gibraltar High School create as part of the Exposure to Creativity program that is sponsored by Friends of Gibraltar, Gibraltar Schools, and the Hardy Gallery. Entitled Not Yet Titled, the film was made at Opper’s studio.

A still from “Taco Mary” by Melissa Lawrence.

“I love teaching kids to make films, because at first they are so scared and shy about operating the camera, or figuring out an idea for a storyline,” Opper says. “By the end, they are as confident with a camera as I am, and it’s very cool to see.”

Opper hopes that this film event at Base Camp will be the first of many at the coffee shop and that the concept of the short film will appeal to the Door County community.

“Film is a visual art form, and all of the elements that it takes to put a short film together are pretty exciting,” he says. “There’s so many processes involved – and if you can see those, it makes you appreciate the medium so much more.”

Base Camp’s Mini Movie Night is scheduled for Saturday, January 9 from 6:30 – 8 pm. For more information or to submit a last-minute film for consideration, please call Base Camp at 920.854.7894 or visit Chris Opper’s Web site at