For Film Fest Juror, Kara Mulrooney, 
‘Shorter Is Better’

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Milwaukeean Kara Mulrooney first got involved with the Milwaukee Film Festival as the assistant art director for the Collaborative Cinema film, The Waiting Room, directed by her now-husband Tate Bunker. "I credit Milwaukee Film with helping me get back into filmmaking, which is now both my profession and my passion," she said enthusiastically. This year she and Tate Bunker had the opportunity to produce the Sponsor Trailer, admittedly her long-awaited pleasure.

"I've been to a lot of other film festivals, domestic and international. I think the biggest difference between the Milwaukee Film Festival and all the rest is community support and enthusiasm. Just thinking about being in the sold out Oriental Theater, whether to see a film I made or worked on, or one of the featured films, makes me emotional and also proud. There's an excitement and a warmth I haven't experienced anywhere else," she said.

At the 2015 fest, she’ll be watching all of the festival shorts on her own, meeting on Oct. 3 with Fraser Munden and Nicole Triche, the two other jurors for the "Shorter is Better" category. They’ll duke it out all day over the eight themed shorts programs, consisting of more than 50 films.

As a filmmaker, she admits feeling a bit traitorous judging other filmmakers' work. "I know somebody's got to do it, and I'm honored to have been asked, but I don't anticipate it a pleasurable experience," she said.

That said, for Mulrooney, being a part of a judging panel helps make judging easier, perhaps because another film might have won over her favorite when a second judge really loved something particular about a film and strongly advocated for it.

In Mulrooney’s mind, what makes a great short is getting viewers to engage with a character, subject, or world in a brief amount of time. "That’s extremely extremely challenging . It's tough in longer formats, as well. But to get an audience to care and to have an experience in three, 13 or 30 minutes is a special achievement," she added. 

This autumn, Mulrooney will perform her first principal role in a feature film, one by husband Tate Bunker. The piece is a sci-fi/suspense film being shot in Manitowoc, Wis., with an all-Wisconsin crew, and mostly state cast. She’s also working on several short documentaries.

"I love collaborating, probably because I've had the great fortune of working with a lot of incredible and kind artists and technicians. Shoot days can be extremely long and filled with challenges, and if you're stuck with crew who don't support the vision and don't support each other, it is unfortunately very un-fun," she warned.

According to Mulrooney, Milwaukee is a marvelous city for shorts makers and filmmakers of all kinds. Whether an experimental or narrative filmmaker, there is a nourishing community to exchange ideas and make work with.

"The city is becoming a great place for lady filmmakers, too," she said. "For example, there's a group of women who work behind camera called the Film Furies, getting together to talk about our projects, see how we can help each other and celebrate being a part of a gang of filmmaking gals." This year, seven of these women are screening in the Milwaukee Film Festival and many more contributed to festival films. 

"I only ever wanted to work in the visual arts, but it wasn't until visiting UW-Milwaukee's Department of Film that I realized it was something I could do. I'd never had any contact with anyone who made films or worked in the industry, so it didn't seem feasible. Ha!," she laughed.

Mulrooney loves everything about filmmaking except for raising money, which she mostly avoids by making short docs that she shoots and edits myself. "But if I had to get specific, I'd say I love the communal nature of filmmaking and viewing - of all the artistic disciplines, it's the one that brings people together in every phase," she explained.

"Getting rejected from festivals is discouraging, and sometimes even screening in festivals can be discouraging, as when there's only a handful of attendees and most of them are volunteers for the fest. But I think that real filmmakers make movies because they have to, and if they find their audience it's kind of miraculous. At times, the barriers to finding one's audience seem great and many," Mulrooney lamented. 

Her Mulrooney clan hails from Co. Sligo and she’s been to Ireland twice, most recently with Bunker, where they made a short film called The Gathering. It premiered at their wedding and will soon be shared through festivals or online. 

"Making a short experimental narrative in Ireland was a truly amazing experience. We thought that people in Wisconsin were generous in lending their time and spaces to out-of-the-blue filmic adventures, but the kindness and enthusiasm we met in Ireland were absolutely unmatched," Mulrooney recalled.

"There was one gentlemen in Shannonbridge who stole our hearts: John, the owner of Luker's Pub, gave us (total strangers!) full run of his historic establishment and ran around all day fetching props and dressing sets. He was unbelievable," she said.

Most recently, Mulrooney’s favorite Irish performer is Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders. "He's simply brilliant!"

"I won't pretend to be an expert in Irish cinema but I can tell you what I love about Irish film, and that's the bold honesty, heart, and uniquely Irish humor," she asserted. 

Mulrooney expects to continue working with the Milwaukee Film Festival, although she admitted she’d rather screen than judge. "So, here's hoping we make the right choice on this year's Shorter Is Better jury award! I guess you'll have to see them all to know for certain," she chuckled. 


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