An independent film with Wisconsin connections will be shown this month in Weyauwega.
“Feed the Fish” is slated for 7 p.m. Friday and at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17-18, at the George Gerold Opera House in Weyauwega.
Tickets are $8. They are available at the door and in advance at www.wegaarts.org and at the Coffee Klatsch in Weyauwega.
In separate phone interviews on Friday, Dec. 3, writer and director Michael Matzdorff and executive producer Tony Shalhoub, who portrays Sheriff Andersen in the film, talked about the project.
Matzdorff and Shalhoub, who is his uncle, were both born in Green Bay.
“I spent most of my summers of my life in Door County. I have Packers season tickets and I love sausage,” Matzdorff said.
He was 12 years old when his family moved to California, although they went back to Wisconsin every summer.
Matzdorff studied photography in college before switching into film.
“I’ve been working in the film industry about 20 years,” he said.
“Feed the Fish” is his first feature film.
Matzdorff, who lives in Los Angeles, said he had previously done a couple short films and started writing “Feed the Fish” in 2006.
“Feed the Fish” is the story of Joe Anderson, who writes books for children, and his decision to join his friend JP on a trip from California to Wisconsin.
JP will be training for the upcoming Polar Bear Plunge, and Joe could use a break and a place to write without distractions.
Of course, JP does not tell Joe just how cold it will be in Wisconsin.
Matzdorff said the story is somewhat on a personal level – it is of an individual who is kind of creatively frustrated.
Set in Wisconsin, “Feed the Fish” was filmed in Door County in February and March of 2009.
Many of the characters in the film are people that Matzdorff knew in Door County or are based on stories that he heard.
The Polar Bear Plunge shot was done at the Wagon Trail Resort.
“We filmed all together 22 days in Wisconsin and four in California,” he said.
The film was based on many locations that Matzdorff knew. Editing occurred over a period of six months, and the movie played at a number of film festivals over the summer, with screenings taking place throughout the state and at various other venues.
“Feed the Fish” will be available on DVD and on Netflix on Jan. 25. Matzdorff encourages people to visit the film’s website – feedthefishmovie.com – to learn about other upcoming screenings.
Shalhoub said Matzdorff asked him to read it after he wrote an early draft.
“Mike and I had worked together in the past,” Shalhoub said. “Early on, we did a table reading.”
Based on that reading, adjustments were made.
Matzdorff had told Shalhoub that he wrote the character of Sheriff Andersen with him in mind.
Shalhoub said he “liked the whole arena” that the story was in, as well as its comedic tone and sweetness.
Of the character he plays in “Feed the Fish,” Shalhoub said, “He’s the local sheriff. He’s protective of his territory and his daughter. He’s always a little bit suspicious of newcomers.”
For Shalhoub, who was born and raised in Green Bay, this was the first time he was part of a project that was actually filmed in Wisconsin.
“I’ve worked at a lot of places in the country but not in Wisconsin,” he said.
Like Matzdorff, he remembers summers spent in Door County. And, once Shalhoub hit his teen years, he got summer jobs there.
Several of his siblings still live in the state, and every summer, the family convenes in Door County and gets back in the water, he said.
For Shalhoub, who did a bit of acting as a high school student, acting was something he thought would be more of a hobby for him.
“I didn’t think it was viable as a career, but then, I did more and more in college,” he said.
During his senior year of college, he was accepted into the Yale School of Drama. “Once I got there, I started to specialize,” he said.
Shalhoub has been in California 20 years and lived in New York City and Boston before that. He and his wife, actress Brooke Adams, have two daughters.
Both Shalhoub and Matzdorff said that those who have seen “Feed the Fish” have responded well to it.
“I really like this movie. I think all of the people of Wisconsin will really relate to it,” Shalhoub said. “It’s kind of a love letter to Wisconsin, especially to Door County.”
He sees independent films as a nice alternative to blockbuster movies and as being refreshing with great characters.
They said the movie is family friendly.
“The most risque is a glimpse of a man’s naked butt,” Matzdorff said.
He said all of the producers and major stars are Wisconsin people and that many locals were used in the filming of the movie.
Among those with connections to the state are Nicholas Langholff, who is a producer, and Janine Rozina, an executive producer. They will be at the Dec. 17 screening in Weyauwega and will do a question and answer session following the screening.
While another member of the cast is not a Wisconsin native, moviegoers will certainly recognize him.
He is Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure) who portrays Axel Andersen in the film.
Matzdorff is currently writing some new material and said it was fun to come back and work in Wisconsin.
“It’s very fulfilling and gratifying when the audience responds well. Generally, that’s been the case,” Matzdorff said. “I’m proud of what we did.”