“Earlybird” is an independent comedy film that debuted at the Milwaukee Film Festival at the end of April. The movie tells the story of desperate theater owner trying to keep his business alive in the face of rent hikes and uninterested audiences. In a last-ditch attempt to keep his doors open, he gathers a rag-tag cast and crew and puts on increasingly outlandish plays.
If you caught the show, you might have been charmed by the character August – the shy theater manager who has been quietly holding the place together.
“She’s really hard working. She’s a shy character that doesn’t always speak up for herself or know how to advocate for herself. The theater is her entire life,” said Amanda Platt, who plays August in the film. “She lives and breathes it and puts her everything into keeping it alive.”
Platt has a lot in common with August: They’re both theater junkies. They’re both recovering wallflowers. And they both want to bring acting and art to the world at large.
Platt, who is currently in graduate school at Marquette University, is a UWM alumna who graduated in 2018 with a major in global studies. The major was a perfect fit; Platt is a self-described Army brat who moved around the world with her American father and Italian mother. Eventually, she settled in Illinois where Platt fell in love with high school theater.
“I would be in the cast and the crew, and I liked being on both sides of the stage,” she said. “It’s cringey when I think back on it. I was a total theater nerd.”
But when it came time for college, Platt made sure to keep her theater hobby as just that – a hobby.
“I made a decision when I graduated high school that I wanted to preserve that love for acting. I didn’t want to pursue it as a career,” she said. “I knew that for me, that would really take the fun out of it.”
So, she’s found different ways to keep her passion alive. While in school at UWM, she auditioned for and acted in several student films, and now that she’s in graduate school, she keeps an eye on casting calls on Facebook.
That’s how she landed on the set of “Earlybird.” Platt saw a call for actors to star in a local film and sent in an audition tape. Three months later, she was cast in the role of August by “Earlybird” director Martin Kaszubowski. The film was shot locally in Milwaukee and Racine – a saving grace for Platt, who was in school while she was shooting.
“There was the challenge and triumph of being in the middle of my spring semester, a full-time student in graduate school with an assistantship and filming this film,” she said. “There were a lot of times where I was sitting in the dressing room, switching between working on my lines and working on class assignments and papers.”
In spite of that, Platt loved working with the talented cast and crew of “Earlybird.” The atmosphere was fun, friendly, and supportive, and the actors were talented and dedicated. Platt laughed as she recalled some of the unique challenges of filming: There is a running gag where her character, August, pops up unexpectedly to the consternation of the theater owner. Platt recounted having to crawl on the floor beneath the camera to get into position so she could jump into frame.
Seeing her work on the big screen was surreal, she said.
“It doesn’t feel real. The Milwaukee Film Festival definitely has high standards for the films that they take,” Platt said. “It feels like a big accomplishment to be accepted.” “Earlybird” was also accepted into the Independent Film Festival of Boston.
But now it’s back to classes for Platt. She is working toward her Master’s in Student Affairs of Higher Education in hopes of going into academic advising or student success programs, focusing on equity and access for underrepresented students. Ideally, she said, she’ll find a way to tie the arts into her work.
“I want to show other people that you don’t have to choose between a job and a passion. You can do both,” she said.
If you didn’t catch “Earlybird” at the Milwaukee Film Festival, don’t worry – Platt anticipates the film will be available for streaming after it completes the festival circuit.
By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science