Five Os land in title of movie

OHS grad creates ‘Oconomowoc (the film)’ with friends

Oconomowoc could go from being a name that is nearly unpronounceable to the name on everyone’s lips, if the dreams of two moviemakers come true.

Joe Haas, a 1999 Oconomowoc High School grad, teamed up with a Los Angeles-based friend who wrote a screenplay called “Oconomowoc” – acomedy that looks at a young man’s struggle to find himself.
The trailer for the movie was released publicly last week on Facebook under the page “Oconomowoc (the film)”, and has received a lot of attention, garnering 4,650 views in just under its first 72 hours on YouTube.
A private screening of the film is on April 28 at the Oconomowoc Arts Center for the cast and crew.
“I have known Andy Gillies for years,” Haas said.

“Four years ago we worked on Cookies and Lemonade,” a short on which the feature film is based.
“We’ve done sketch comedy, short things. Andy approached me with this full screen play,” he explained.
” ‘Oconomowoc’ is an absurd comedy that represents what a lot of 20-somethings go through as they try to figure out their lives,” said Haas.

The film centers on a man who moves in with his mother and reluctantly joins his former best friend’s mishandled T-shirt business, in hopes of finding direction for his life.
“It’s the story of his return home. I am sure it parallels the uncertainty a lot of people feel. That weird transition period of your life,” where you don’t have experience or perhaps, a direction, he said.
“You move in with your parents to save money. I think a lot of people have been there. It really represents an entire generation, but we think it will hit home with audiences regardless of age.

“The main reason we called it Oconomowoc was the uniqueness of the word and as an homage to the town. At the same time, you put yourself in the position because you think it is about it (Oconomowoc). It’s human nature to assume that, but all portrayals are completely fictional and any similarities are coincidental,” he said.
Haas said several years ago they had a seedling of an idea that they worked on in a shorter format.
“This is kind of like the long version of ‘Cookies and Lemonade,’ ” he said of the original production.
“For me that was more of an experiment. With six years of experience since then, it’s hard to look back and like it,” he says of the short.
“It’s a whole beast in itself,” he said of the full-length movie.
Haas served as the director of photography, editor and co-producer with Gillies.
“That basically means I shot the whole film,” he explained.
He, Gillies and another friend also wrote all the music for the film.
“Some was composed beforehand with intent to use it for the movie,” he explained.
Haas said he’s played various instruments for years, mostly guitar.
Gillies, who served as the director, writer, producer and schedule coordinator, is familiar with Oconomowoc.
“He spent a lot of time here because his ex-girlfriend was from here,” Haas explained.
“He was actually living at their house when he decided it (the movie) would be shot there,” he said of the residence located on lower Nashotah Lake.
“The place where it was shot was kind of where I grew up in a way. I was good friends with her brothers. There is a scene (in the movie) on the roof; we use to hang out there a lot,” he said.
Haas said the movie was shot in just 14 days.

“We took two days off for Thanksgiving and worked 12-14 hours a day. We ate together, laughed and cried together. It was a pretty cool bonding experience. It was a very tight crew,” he said.
Haas said he was somewhat familiar with what he termed “run and gun” type of shooting, a method he employs in the commercial media company he owns that develops short films, commercials and educational media for clients throughout the Midwest.

“It was a fast-paced production. There were never more than two takes, max, unless something crazy happened,” he added.

The 80-minute film will be released under Gillies’ production company, What Productions.
The plan moving forward, is to submit the movie film festivals.

“We are thrilled to be sharing this film with friends and family,” said Gillies. “The next step is to promote ‘Oconomowoc’ all over the country and enter it into film festivals such as Sundance and SXSW,” he added.
The screening, which is by invitation only, cannot be open to the public in accordance with festival application rules.

Information will soon be posted on the film’s Facebook site about an account that will be established that allows people to invest in the film to help defray the costs of film conversions, shipping, airfare, lodging and promotional materials.

Haas said it is special to him to be screening the film at his old high school, where he first honed his skills.
Video production classes and participation in Student Showcase at OHS served him well, he said.
The film will actually screen in the school’s Little Theater.

“It’s kind of cool that my first stage presence was there,” he mused.
“This was a real labor of love,” he said of the film. We put a lot of hard work into it and hope people will truly enjoy it,” Haas added.


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