East Grad Worked Behind the Scenes at the Milwaukee Film Festival

Twenty short film collections are included in this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival

By Samantha Dietel, Editor in Chief

Moviegoers may have a West Bend graduate to thank for the forthcoming Milwaukee Film Festival’s setlist of short films.

Mary Greuel, a 2015 graduate of West Bend East High School, served as the shorts programming intern for Milwaukee Film from March to early August. For that time, her primary focus was to help create the lineup of short films to be showcased at the upcoming festival, which runs Thursday through Oct. 31.

At the start of her internship, Greuel had to log the films showcased at other festivals held around the world, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, France’s Cannes Film Festival and many more. Once a number of films were logged, she had to reach out to those filmmakers and distributors to see if they would like to submit their short to MFF. Many of them were interested, Greuel noticed.

“You would be like, ‘That’s so cool, thank you so much, here’s the timeline for everything,’” Greuel said. “And then I would upload their prescreener to our database and organize the prescreening materials for the (shorts) committee to review.”

Greuel says that because there were so many submissions, this year’s festival has a greater number of shorts programs than in the past. Typically, there have been 13 to 14 different programs, but there are 20 set for this year. Greuel also noted one new addition to the lineup: GenreQueer, a grouping that features documentary and fiction short films that explore LGBTQ+ issues.

Since Greuel also helped to create the program book, life as a MFF intern was especially busy.

“It was very, very nonstop,” Greuel said. “I remember a lot of times prescreening the feature films was a whole group effort, regardless of what position you were in. So I’d go into work and I’d be spending 10 to 12 hours a week just prescreening short films every single week, and then I would go home and I would prescreen six to eight feature-length films in my free time for the festival and then put in raters on that too.”

From her internship experience, Greuel learned more about the processes of a large-scale film festival and their global networks. She also discovered that she loves the festival world and now hopes to become more involved in larger festivals. Doing so may require her to eventually move from her home in Milwaukee, since Chicago is the only other nearby city with an international film festival.

“Moonwalk with Me” will screen at the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival as part of the “Shorts: Out of This World” program. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Film.

Because she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a minor in French, Greuel is considering a French-speaking country as her next destination, but she generally hopes that Europe is in the cards. Still, she plans to stay away from the United Kingdom.

“I feel like (the UK) is so similar to the United States and I want something a little different,” she said, citing the similar cultural values and social norms.

Greuel was drawn to interning with the Milwaukee Film Festival as she finished up her bachelor’s degree at UW-Milwaukee this spring with majors in film studies and English. However, she fell in love with the festival long before her college years. It all started back at East High, where she was taught by English teacher Eric Beltmann. For Greuel’s sophomore English class, Beltmann allowed students to earn extra credit by going to the MFF and create a project based on their experience at the festival.

Greuel took advantage of that opportunity and has made sure to attend the festival every year since. She also went on to take Beltmann’s film class her junior year, which only deepened her passion for movies.

“That’s kind of where I had my epiphany moment,” Greuel said. “I didn’t know reading into films was something that is actually what you’re supposed to do when you watch films. I never considered that before, so that definitely opened my eyes up to the world of film and viewing it in that sort of way.”

Greuel decided to select film as one of her college majors after a professor encouraged her to do so. She was originally interested in political science, social studies and education, but she found that making or interpreting films might be a better route for her to impact a person’s life.

“Film influences so many people,” Greuel said. “Instead of going out there and making social change through the regular routes of justice and law and politics, you’re going through that in the film end. People are more willing to listen to different sorts of ideas (by) watching a film, opposed to hearing a politician tell a story. It has a higher chance to change peoples’ minds or open up peoples’ worldviews a little bit, just because it’s through a medium that people don’t necessarily always think right away is trying to change their mind or trying to sell something.”

Going forward, Greuel plans to save up money so that she can attend graduate school and continue her education in film.

(Top photo: Mary Greuel, a 2015 graduate of West Bend East High School, served as a Milwaukee Film intern during 2019. Photo courtesy of Greuel.)

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