Film and animation students heavily featured at Nō Studios Filmmaker Showcase

Two students pose in front of a No Studios banner at the Filmmaker Showcase.

More than 10 film and animation students screened their work at Nō Studios’ inaugural Filmmaker Showcase in Spring 2024, highlighting the wide breadth of work being produced in Milwaukee.  

Across five nights, the showcase featured a range of genres including horror, experimental, documentary, music video, anime, and more. Unsurprisingly, some of the best and most memorable shorts came from PSOA students. 

An organic partnership 

Nō Studios was founded by Oscar winner and Milwaukee native John Ridley following his Best Adapted Screenplay win for 12 Years a Slave. Ridley, who serves as CEO, and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Caesar sought ways to create a socially responsible coworking and event space to leverage the platform of the modern film industry. 

UWM and Nō Studios have been excellent partners since its inception, with the Filmmaker Showcase being the most recent connection among the two. 

“The partnership in this instance was very organic,” said Caesar. “We very deliberately reached out to Peck School to find ways to work together.” 

Class projects on the big screen 

Many students screened films they made for class projects, giving filmgoers a glimpse into what students have been creating in the classroom throughout the school year.  

A standout came from senior filmmaker Paige Streveler, who screened her short film Dream’s Death, an experimental horror short that wrestles with the fear of death.  

The piece was made as a part of the course Dreams: Yours, Mine, Ours under the instruction of PSOA lecturer Neil Gravender. This course allows students to execute pieces centered on content and structures contained in dreams. 

Streveler described her experience in the class and her subsequent creation of her film as an important moment that made her feel seen as an artist. 

“Peck School of the Arts is really independent artist-driven, they really see filmmakers as artists,” said Streveler. Interacting with experimental film throughout the course inspired much of Death’s Dream

Riley Killian, a junior, also showcased a class project during the showcase. His short film, The Small Things, was shot on black and white film for one of UWM’s 16mm classes, a popular offering for film students.  

Killian expressed his gratitude and love for getting the opportunity to work with film.  

“Shooting on film is such an intimate process,” said Killian. “You don’t even know what you are shooting half the time until you develop it.” 

The PSOA community

Another student who screened an original work was sophomore film major Collin Chesak. His short experimental film, Cosmic Inertia, utilized static on a television screen to make the viewer ponder over existential questions. 

Chesak highlighted the on-campus screening events and the strong communal aspect of PSOA as inspirational in his work as a filmmaker.  

“Union Cinema is really unique,” said Chesak. “There are always interesting screenings, like Experimental Tuesdays. It’s cool to have screenings that you normally wouldn’t get to see in theaters while also showing old stuff.” 

Another student who has felt positively impacted by PSOA’s strong film community is Dominic Sauve. After screening his autobiographical documentary, The Life of Dominic Sauve, Sauve took the time to praise all that PSOA has given him and how he feels his education thus far means big things for his future. 

“The world-class professors I’ve been blessed to be taught by and the high-tech equipment I have access to use. Without all those things, I would not be the filmmaker I am today,” said Sauve. “Being at UWM has molded me to be able to be the best filmmaker I can be.” 

Read more about Nō Studios and their upcoming events on their website

Story by Jason McCullum ’25