Milwaukee Film Festival Roundup: Alumni and Student Edition

A still from Public Surfaces by Gillian Waldo

The 2024 Milwaukee Film Festival is underway, and Peck School of the Arts has a lot to be proud of. Nineteen alumni and a current MFA candidate will have their work screened across 15 unique works, including shorts, features, and music videos. The PSOA community of artists is excited to highlight the incredible work.

Public Surfaces

Public Surfaces, a short film directed by MFA candidate Gillian Waldo, tackles the One Percent for Art program and the mysterious disappearance of sculptures placed in Baltimore public schools under the program. 

Waldo completed the film during her second year in graduate school at UWM and was supported by the department in the creation of her short, especially by thesis advisor and Associate Professor Mike Gibisser. The film was a solo endeavor from Waldo, as she handled all creative aspects of the filmmaking process. 

When discussing the film and its upcoming feature at Milwaukee Film Festival’s short film showcase The Milwaukee Picture Show, Waldo said her hope is for audiences to reconsider their thoughts on public art. 

“I hope that audiences think more critically about what public art can be, how it can manifest in public schools, and how we steward public infrastructure, so it actually supports the communities we say it’s supposed to,” said Waldo. 

Following the Milwaukee Film Festival, Public Surfaces will be screening at the Open City Documentary Festival in London. 


Cody LaPlant (BFA 2015, Film) served as co-director, cinematographer, and editor for ASPIRE. The short is described as a celebration of creative endeavors, reflecting an artist’s desire to constantly improve their craft. ASPIRE will feature in one of festival’s hottest tickets, The Milwaukee Show I


Directed by Johnathon Olsen and co-written by Olsen and fellow alum Martin Kaszubowski (BFA 2014, Film), Corridor promises big laughs. The feature-length film follows an incompetent security guard unraveling what he believes to be his own crime thriller. 

Healing Hens 

Healing Hens is a documentary short from co-director Andrew Natvig (BFA 2018, Film), following the story of a local woman and her decision to raise baby chicks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film’s subject and co-director Jodi Wilterdink went on to touch the lives of hundreds of seniors in her community by offering “Chicken Therapy.” The film will be featured in The Milwaukee Show I. 

The Inhabitants 

Brent Budsberg (BFA 2000, Art-Sculpture) co-directed and co-wrote The Inhabitants, a fictional short following ancestral immigrants exploring their shared past. Set in 19th century America, the no-dialogue short features highly cinematic imagery, reflecting how the two main characters are so similar, yet so different. Screening during The Milwaukee Show II,  Budsberg will attend alongside their co-director and co-writer Tate Bunker (Teaching Faculty I, Film, Video, Animation & New Genres). 

Last Truths from a Dying Star 

An experimental essay film written and directed by Dontay Konkel (BFA 2023, Film), Last Truths uses collaged imagery and non-traditional storytelling to wrestle with the confusion of existence. Konkel utilizes the film as an opportunity to reflect on the uncertainties of the past, present, and future. The short will precede a screening of Decoupling 脱钩 by director Yinan Wang (Lecturer, Film, Video, Animation & New Genres). 

Letter to the Captain 

Letter to the Captain is an intimate short film from Philippe Melo (BFA 2022, Film), following a child and his granduncle through a collection of memories that spawn a personal exploration. The piece will screen during The Milwaukee Show I.

Fuzzysurf – “Liberty” (Music Video)

Tommy Simms (BFA 2011, Film) co-directed a “fanciful history lesson” of a music video for the song “Liberty” by Fuzzysurf. Declaring “the people’s right to rock ‘n’ roll,” the work is screening during The Milwaukee Music Video Show.

Night Collections #1 

Another short screening in The Milwaukee Show I is Night Collections #1 by Britany Gunderson (BFA 2020, Film). One of the showcase’s more elusive works, Gunderson’s film is an intimate archive of collected images. 

ONGOSF: Derivative Bullshit 

Ryan Nels Pontillo directed, co-wrote, and co-produced his short film ONGOSF: Derivative Bullshit. It will screen during The Milwaukee Picture Show

Once a Mormon 

A dramedy TV series written and directed by Ryan Allsop (BFA 2012, Film), Once a Mormon follows two Mormon missionaries trying to convert a lonely country man. Throughout their summer-long adventure, it becomes less clear who is converting whom. An excerpt from the series will screen during The Milwaukee Show I

Overhand – “Beneath the Flowers” (Music Video) 

Jake Whalen (BFA 2021, Film) brought the crunchy guitar riffs and soaring choruses of Milwaukee-indie band Overhand to life in the music video for their song “Beneath the Flowers.” Whalen is one of several PSOA alums screening original music videos during The Milwaukee Music Video Show

Peter the Painter 

Director Chris James Thompson (BFA 2014, Music) and producer Andrew Swant tell the story of local painter Peter Barrickman and his piece “Sleeping Dogs” in Peter the Painter. The selected work is showcased as part of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s 2024 Exhibition “50 Paintings.” Thompson and Sant’s short will be featured in The Milwaukee Picture Show: Visual Arts Near and Far

Resurrectionist – “Blue Henry” (Music Video) 

Resurrectionist’s blues song “Blue Henry” was brought to life by TW Hansen for a surrealist, black-and-white music video. A departure from typical performance-based videos, “Blue Henry” follows a narrative you must see to believe. Hansen’s video will screen during The Milwaukee Music Video Show

Rose of the West – “Feast or Famine” (Music Video) 

Aliza Baran (BFA 2008, Inter-Arts) directed a rather psychedelic and moody music video for Rose of the West’s dreamy single “Feast or Famine”. Experimenting with deep shadows and unique aspect ratios, the short is going to soar on the big screen. Screening during The Milwaukee Music Video Show

Wherever You Are, There You Go 

Carol Brandt (BFA 2014, Film), Harper Robison, and Dana Shihadah’s (BFA 2016, Film) Wherever You Are, There You Go tells the story of Baby, a recovering alcoholic who takes a cross-country journey to right the wrongs she has made. Brandt co-directed, co-produced, and edited the film, Shihadah co-directed and served as cinematographer, and Robinson was a co-writer. 

Bonus: Watch a tiny mic interview with Brandt and Robison as they reflect on their time at UWM PSOA on Milwaukee Film’s Facebook.

Why My Dad Loves 

Why My Dad Loves by filmmaker Nkaujoua Xiong (BFA 2022, Film) tells the tale of her father coming to America at a young age in search of a better life. The short takes viewers through the experiences that have come to define how Xiong’s father expresses and understands love. Xiong’s film will be screened during The Milwaukee Show II

Story by Jason McCullum ’25

EDITOR’S NOTE: This list is accurate and as comprehensive as possible at the time of publication. If we missed a PSOA alum or current student, please accept our sincere apologies! Contact us and we’ll gladly update the article.