In theory, yes. But the writers and producers of the upcoming independent film "Red Betsy" don't quite agree with that idea, at least not for their movie. For them a movie about Wisconsin needed to take place in the dairy state. Many lucky Wisconsin cities, including Milwaukee and Menomonee Falls, were selected for the shooting of this film, but this story about a 1940s Midwestern family was primarily brought to life in Delafield.
The screenplay, written by Chris Boebel, is an adaptation of a short story written by his father, Charles Boebel, a retired English professor in Indiana. The Boebel family has its roots in rustic Wisconsin and therefore found it necessary to film the movie in the state that holds their family's history.
Though the movie is due for its Wisconsin release tomorrow, the road to bringing this short story to the big screen was anything but straight and short. Boebel got past many roadblocks to present this story in movie theaters.
According to Andrew Lang, executive producer of the film, Boebel originally had a grant from Individual Television Service to present "Red Betsy" as an hour-long TV movie for the Public Broadcasting System. However, after Lang got a hold of the script he knew he had gold and that this story was simply too good to leave out of theater. Boebel, Lang and others involved in the film "ended up parting amicably with PBS," Boebel said.
The friendly separation gave Boebel and the film crew the leeway to expand the made-for-TV story to a 98-minute feature film. The story centers on the headstrong Emmit Rounds (Leo Burmester), his son Dale (Brent Crawford) and his wife, Winfred (Allison Elliot) and the dramatic changes their lives face when Dale is sent to fight in World War II.
Though the family and other community members endure their share of hardship and joy, the central theme is the sense of unity that the community members share. The film also features Chad Lowe as Orin Sanders, the man that tries to modernize the small town by bringing electricity.
"It's a universal story that is subtle and profound," Lang said. "At the same time it captures the human spirit but also captures the essence of the Wisconsin community."
The Wisconsin community, according to Lang, is a special one that "Red Betsy" attempts to relate to its audience.
"The main thing that it captures about the people is the warmth," Lang said. "People of Wisconsin are very friendly and caring of each other. They're also supportive of each other."
Perhaps that is why filming in Wisconsin wasn't even a question to the film crew. According to Lang, the movie's location was central to the reality of this story and no other place was even considered. Lang wanted to capture the "atmosphere and vibe of the community," which he said couldn't be done anywhere else.
"Filming Wisconsin in upstate New York wouldn't fly," Lang said.
Though New York didn't fly for Lang, Boebel and the cast and crew of "Red Betsy," the movie certainly did fly with one of Hollywood's best known composers, and his brother, one of Hollywood's best known actors — Michael and Kevin Bacon.
The Bacon Brothers have a song featured in the film. "When You Decided You've Stayed Too Long" will be played during the movie's closing credits and will also be released as a CD when the film is released. To promote both the song and the movie, The Bacon Brothers gave an outdoor concert yesterday at The Lang Campus in Delafield. The song was co-written by Michael Bacon, an Emmy-award-winning composer, and fellow composer Sheldon Mirowitz.
According to Lang, the brothers "loved the movie and wanted to work with it," and their song "embodies and captures what the movie is about."
Audiences in Wisconsin can find out what the movie is about tomorrow, though people interested in seeing the movie elsewhere will have to wait until the national release date is set.
Lang was adamant about releasing the movie in the state of its filming first because it's "where the director (Boebel) spent his childhood and where his father spent his childhood." Lang also said that he "doesn't like playing by the rules," stating that a movie doesn't have to have its initial release in a major city like New York or Los Angeles.
Though "Red Betsy" is technically an independent film because it was produced outside of a major studio, Lang hesitates to call it that because of the connotation that independent films "automatically conjure up what the film might be like." Call it what you will, Lang's goal is that audiences recognize the central themes in the movie such as "the importance of the people in our lives and the delicateness of those relationships," and "being able to progress in life when life throws curve balls."
"Red Betsy" is playing at the Landmark Downer Theatre (where some scenes from the movie were shot) , 2589 N. Downer Ave. It is rated PG.