Fall is here whether we like it or not, but with the Autumnal Equinox comes one of the highest regarded festivals that takes place in our dear city: MKE Film Fest. Growing larger and larger each year, the film fest has certainly picked up national recognition for its premieres, guests, and feature of local talent. Fairly new to the festival is the category of local artist music videos, where Jessica Farrell and Quinn Hester have had an integral part in helping to fortify that category.
After coming together at UWM's film program, the two film makers have already imprinted themselves in the local scene - doing projects for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and MKE band GGOOLLDD. But what makes them a little out of the ordinary, is their attitude toward making music videos. When they find a Milwaukee musician they enjoy, they reach out to them and offer their production services for free. They truly wish to help artists achieve their potential by giving them an everlasting, gorgeous production that the artist can be proud of and utilize for promotion and growth. It's that kind of attitude that the music and film industries needs to see a little more of.
Between them, they have two videos entered into the Music Video category at the festival. Jessica co-directed Devil Met Contention's "Used To Be" video (watch below); while Quinn directed a new Fabian James video that is premiering tonight at the showcase screening, at the Oriental Theater starting at 9:45pm.
Take a glimpse into Jessica and Quinn's inspirations and work, below.
MM: How are you guys doing outside of your film work? How is life going?
JF: Busy, busy, busy... Always keep busy! Along with staying active in the independent film community we also work on commercial productions which can involve frequent travel.
QH: I’m a freelancer that works on a per project-basis and Jessica works full-time producing for an advertising agency. Sometimes we can go weeks without seeing each other due to our travel schedules, but we somehow always manage to find balance between work, our passions, and relaxation."
MM: Give us a bit of a background on yourselves and how you came together in the film industry.
JF: I transferred to UW-Milwaukee to finish my degree in Film and Photography and met Quinn there. We were both in the film program and didn’t have classes together but collaborated on film projects together with our mutual friends.
QH: One project we worked on was part of a 72hr film festival and we were both editors for the project. Over that weekend, Jess and I took turns on who got to sleep and who kept the edit moving around the clock. It was a good lesson in teamwork and balancing a lot of projects at once, because we both also had classwork for UWM and jobs.
MM: You've started making awesome music videos, practically for free, for local artists. Can you explain your inspiration behind getting involved with these artists and what you hope these videos can achieve?
QH: I enjoy taking any of my free time to be creative. I love exploring new ideas, new shots, and trying to make an effective visual story. Music videos are great way to create visually, because with the music as the base, you really focus on developing a purely, visual story – audiences will get what is implied visually – it doesn’t have to be hard hitting.
JF: The Milwaukee music scene has had great momentum the last few years. It is awesome to see more musicians and filmmakers collaborating and pushing that momentum. I think the best collaborations between filmmakers and musicians come from the understanding of respecting each other’s talents and craft. Musicians have such passion and focus on the mix they are producing, and I think filmmakers also have that passion towards visuals and editing.
MM: Let's talk MKE Film Fest. The Milwaukee music video category is fairly new, and you have landed yourselves a couple of entries! (Congrats!!) Tell us about your two entries, and if you could, talk about what you believe is the importance of this category in the Film Festival.
QH: The festival is a great time and it is always nice to see your work on the big screen. I’m excited to have this music video premiere at the festival. I met Patrick (Fabian James) at an Apple store (great place to meet creative people, right?) and he was wanting to do a music video, so we stayed in touch and started game planning together. Patrick wanted to include some shuffling moves and breakdancing. I was interested in building a new camera rig to move the camera in complete full 360 movement and setting up that rig in the largest, most interesting location I could find.
JF: I met Ehson Rad from the band Devil Met Contention at the 88.9 Radio Milwaukee Music Award show the other year and we starting talking about a music video. We had a few different ideas to start with, whether we would do a visual story driven piece or more centered around performance, and we both narrowed down to showing the band, their style and vibe (suits, deep reds and dramatic lighting) and include dancing for more movement. I’m excited the festival has started this showcase and is it keeping each year now because music videos are a great way to share visual ideas and develop better and better craft for both filmmakers and musicians.
MM: Are there any projects both or either of you have worked on that caused some sort of, 'epiphany', or grand realization about your lives, and the work that you do? Perhaps a moment of inspiration that told you to keep on working in this field?
JF: For me, that would have to be premiering the feature documentary 30 Seconds Away: Breaking the Cycle last year at the Milwaukee Film Festival. The director and I worked on that project for over 5 years to document the stories and struggles of the chronically homeless in our Milwaukee community. When you work on a project for that long – you really need to keep an eye on the long game and stay motivated because you face so many challenges. The director and I knew no matter what though, we had to share these stories of the individuals we have followed for all this time. Their stories and perspectives were so important to share. Thankfully, we’ve enjoyed an amazing community outreach with the film. We sold out 3 screening at film festival last year, had Mayor Tom Barrett, and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn at the premiere, and even now still have screenings and screening requests. With the awareness the film brought to our community, the support to our local housing and shelter programs have had tremendous growth over the last year. Since the premiere of the film, the community outreach has been more than I could have ever imagined and it really brought me a lot of inspiration, hope, and motivation that film can have an impact.
QH: I wouldn't say there was one particular moment that inspired me to stay in this field. I think my choosing to remain in film and video production has more to do with my collective experience over the past number of years working on those types of project. Every production has its own set of challenges and rewards and you always get out of it what you put into it. I think the main reasons I choose to keep working in this field are closely associated with the creative relationships you develop on set with your fellow crew members, and the final result that is formed when everyone works together towards a common goal. It's extremely satisfying to create something fun, interesting, and meaningful along-side other creative minds, and that's something I'll always strive to do.
MM: Something you think the world should know.
QH: 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best science fiction film ever made.
JF: Watch films. They will leave a lasting impression on you and provide experiences you may not otherwise ever imagine.
MM: Favorite spot/thing to do in MKE?
JF: I love the Oriental Theatre. I take every guest I have visit me in Milwaukee to the Oriental Theatre and then we have to go to Purple Door Ice Cream!
QH: This is a pretty tough question to answer but I'd have to say Estabrook Park and Brady Street are definitely in my top 5.