Kim Jong Un, shootouts and puppy chow~

The UWM Office Of Undergraduate Research Office has a fantastic program where incoming freshman stay in the dorms for a month, make new friends, and have a great time getting adjusted to college life while they are also getting paid to work in a research setting. We were fortunate this past summer to have two students, James Kuckkan and Sydney McBee, interning at doc|UWM through this program. Please read this expressive reflection from James about his experience:

I saw a documentary once.  It was about a team of filmmakers who subverted North Korean security by posing as medical documentarians so they could examine the inner workings of the ironclad country and expose what really goes on in the land North of the 38th Parallel.

So, when I received a letter from the Office of Undergraduate Research offering me an opportunity to work as an Intern at doc|UWM, my expectations were slightly distorted.  What kind of  hard-hitting, jaw-dropping exposes would I bear witness to while a part of the doc|UWM team?  Would we expose the twisted vines of corruption snaking through local, and possibly even state governmental offices? Would we find ourselves in the middle of a firefight while doing a piece on a turf-war between rival gangs and the socio-economic impact of that turf-war on the community? If so, how would I survive? Would I need snacks?  Maybe some juice?   

This is not what I found at doc|UWM. Instead, I stumbled upon a hidden gem tucked away in the warrens of Milwaukee. An enclave of filmmakers, artists, collaborators, and most importantly, good people who were and are willing to teach me and others the ins and outs of film as I take my first tentative steps along the collegiate path.     

I have learned so much in only three weeks, not only about my craft and its intricacies, but about what it means to be a facet of a group such as doc|UWM.  Whether I was transcribing interviews—a necessary evil that turned my brain to cold oatmeal, in the best possible way–or practicing cinematographic techniques with the students who call the program home, or even out on an actual shoot, operating the camera and interacting with the wonderful subjects of doc|UWM’s most recent project, I was doing something I had never done at any job before–I was having fun. Never before have I encountered a group of people, professionals, who are not only incredibly personable, but also incredibly willing to take time from their daily tasks to help me with my own work. It’s an oddity that I am thankful for in a world that needs more like it.     

Though I may not be infiltrating North Korea, pummeling Senatorial perpetrators, or munching on puppy chow during a gunfight, my time at doc|UWM has been worth tenfold of the aforementioned activities. The experiences I’ve had, the knowledge I’ve accrued, and the confidence I’ve been able to muster–with a lot of help from my friends–is invaluable.  It’s worth all the Kim Jong Uns and shootouts and puppy chow in the world.     

Because through it all I’ve made friends.   And I’d be a fool not to be thankful for that.

-James Kuckkan 

Beloit International Film Festival


Today  is the start of the Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) which run through Sunday February 17, 2013. BIFF celebrates its eighth year of promoting the power of film and this year two doc|UWM films are showing at the festival. My Way Home and Passing the Baton will be playing multiple times throughout the weekend so do not miss your chance to see both of these films as well as the many other great films. Plus, My Way Home has even been nominated for a “BIFFY” award. So, keep your fingers crossed.

My Way Home

Thursday(Feb.14):  10:00 pm –  Rotary Center  BUY
Saturday(Feb.16): 11:00 am – Rock County Historical Society  BUY
Saturday(Feb.16): 1:30 pm – Cheese People/ Nikki’s Café  BUY

Passing the Baton

Thursday(Feb.14): 10:00 pm  –  Eclipse Center  BUY
Saturday(Feb.16): 1:30 pm – La Casa Grande  BUY

If you find yourself in Beloit we hope you catch both of these great films!

DVDs for Sale

doc|UWM is now selling two of our feature length documentary projects via

Amazon DVD

Passing the Baton presents a multi-faceted view of a small organization that made a big impact on its community. The Milwaukee Striders Track Club was started to provide Milwaukee boys and girls an opportunity to build their track, academic, and civic skills through participation in a community characterized by hard work and love. For over 30 years, the Striders ran on the dedication of its founder Joe Sims and what little charitable handouts he could gather from the community. Often, he used his own money to keep the club running and to give African-American youth in Milwaukee something productive to do during their summer months. In 2009 Joe Sims passed away, but not before passing the baton to a new era of coaches and volunteers who are working hard to carry on the values and principles that helped Joe Sims turn the Striders into a premiere track club.

This feature length documentary film looks back at Joe Sims’ legacy. It follows a new generation of Striders runners, coaches, and families as they attempt to carry on the values and principles that helped Joe Sims turn the Striders into a premiere track club. Assembled from over 250 hours off footage shot by first-time filmmakers Passing the Baton comes together to present a unique look at a few generous souls dedicated to improving the lives of the youth in their community through hard work and athleticism.

DVD include:

  • the feature length film
  • a short video portrait of the team
  • the trailer for the film
  • outtake scenes

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40% of each individual dvd sale goes directly back to the Joe Sims Milwaukee Striders Track Club!


My Way Home is a documentary film that chronicles a young Hmong – American woman’s journey to reconnect with her past. Born in the jungles of Laos but raised in the United States, twenty-two year old Hmong filmmaker Dao Chang wants to make films about her culture. The only problem is she doesn’t know much about it. Seeking information about the war that changed her family’s destiny and her mother who died in a refugee camp, Dao turns to her father, who protects her from the past. Desperate for answers, Dao travels to Laos in search of an aunt who stayed behind. What she finds is far from what she imagined.

My Way Home has played on Wisconsin Public Television, the Milwaukee Film Festival, and the Wisconsin Film Festival where it won the Golden Badger Award.

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Libraries or universities looking to purchase either of these titles should contact doc|UWM directly for institutional pricing.

“Spectacle! at The North End” brings together doc|UWM alumni

doc|UWM alumni Kurt Raether has produced Spectacle! at The North End, a film in six genres(Silent, Space, Noir, Fantasy, Musical, Independent). Written by Raether and W.C. Tank, the project was commissioned by the Mandel Group to Plaid Tuba and Honeycomb Productions for an installation at The North End.

Many other doc|UWM alumni are also involved with the project, including John Roberts, Carol Brandt, Quinn Hester, Becky Cofta, Maxwell Larsen, Ryan Reeve and David Busse. Congratulations to all the doc|UWM alum and all the other fine Milwaukee filmmakers who worked tirelessly to pull of this spectacle.

Silent directed by Andrew Swant

Space directed by WC Tank

Noir directed by Eric Ljung

Fantasy directed by John Roberts

Musical directed by Kurt Raether

Independent directed by Carol Brandt

The film will premiere tonight at The North End apartments on 1551 N. Water St from 6pm to 9pm.

Meet Matthew Dwyer

Matthew DwyerMatthew Dwyer first picked up a camera to document musical performances, and that desire to record is what keeps him working. He has been photographing and videotaping local bands in Milwaukee for over 5 years and loves it.  Matthew is proud to call Milwaukee home and hopes to use his talents to improve an already great city. When not at work with Cream City Soundcheck as the associate producer, Matthew works as a freelance animator and videographer in the greater Milwaukee area. He graduated from UW-Milwaukee in May 2012 with a BFA in Film.


Favorite Documentaries

-This American Life (TV Series)

-The Comedians of Comedy

-American Movie

-Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

-Indie Game: The Movie

-Bill Cunningham New York


Favorite Bands

-The Books



-Dan Deacon

-Los Campesinos!

-We All Have Hooks for Hands


Favorite Concert Experiences

-Kidcrash (Milwaukee, July 2007)

-Monotonix (8th Note Cafe 2007 & Bayview Legion, April 2010)

-Broken Social Scene (Pabst Theater, October 2010)

-The Books (Turner Hall, December 2009)

-Los Campesinos! & Titus Andronicus (Madison Union, February 2009)

-Bloc Party (Pabst Theatre, September 2007)


Favorite Milwaukee Places


-Collector’s Edge Comics

-Riverwest Public House

-Classic Slice (North Ave Location RIP)

-Comet Cafe

-Brewed Cafe


For more information about the Cream City Soundcheck project, visit

A Musical Engagement

The end of the semester is always a crazy time around the doc|UWM office. Students are frantically working on edits and it’s not uncommon for us to be running out on a last minute shoot. When the band Blessed Feathers said we could film their Tuesday night concert at Turner Hall we jumped at the chance.

Jaquelyn Beaupre and Donivan Berube of Blessed Feathers

Jaquelyn Beaupre and Donivan Berube of Blessed Feathers

After meeting the band and putting a wireless microphone on the band’s lead singer Donivan Berube the crew began following him around the venue, getting him used to the camera, and recording him as he mingled with family, friends, and fans. Most people, even performers, are not used to have a film crew following them. 

Jon Klett filming Donivan of Blessed Feathers and a fan.

Jon Klett filming Donivan of Blessed Feathers and a fan.

We’ve spent the entire semester documenting bands for our Cream City Soundcheck video series and at this point in the class I am confident enough with my student filmmakers that I feel I can give them a little more distance, hover a little less, and trust their instincts. While the crew was taking a break from filming I overheard Colin Perkins, a student from the class, say that he heard Donivan talking about being nervous and having a ring in his pocket. My ears perked up and I quickly began asking questions. Mistakenly, I thought Donivan and Jaquelyn Beaupre – the other half of the band – were already married, or at least engaged. I began to question my assumption and ran off in pursuit of an answer. 

Behind the scenes planning the shoot.

Behind the scenes planning the shoot.

Not wanting to ask Donivan directly, I inquired with others who knew the band. Luckily, local filmmaker Erik Ljung was also there documenting the band. Erik and I proceeded to have an interesting conversation where we each tried to figure out what the other knew. He finally realized that my students had discovered Donivan’s plans for the night. Erik then admitted that Donivan was indeed going to propose Jaquelyn after the fifth song in their set. Taking this information, I ran back to our crew and told everyone to be prepared for the proposal. While I am sure no one on our crew was as nervous as Donivan, I could sense that everyone on our team knew the uniqueness of this moment and the importance of capturing it with our cameras. 

Thomas Sorenson filming at the Blessed Feathers show.

Thomas Sorenson filming at the Blessed Feathers show.

So much of documentary is about being in the moment and capturing that moment. It’s a certain sort of excitement you don’t get from scripted filmmaking; that uncertainty and unpredictability of life happening before your eyes. doc|UWM has gotten to film a lot of magical moments, but this is certainly one for the ages. 

Donivan pops the question.

Donivan pops the question.

We wish Donivan and Jaquelyn the best and congratulate them on this new chapter in their lives. We also want to thank them for allowing us to share it with us and we can’t wait until next semester when get to take them on an adventure in Milwaukee. So, that leaves us one with one big question, “Where do we go from here?”

– Ryan Sarnowski, instructor/co-producer

Blessed Feathers – Proposal – Cream City Soundcheck Special Feature (by creamcitysoundcheck)

Meet Quoc Quan Le

Quoc Quan Le

Quoc Quan Le was born and raised in the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He graduated from Oshkosh North where he excelled in sports like football and track. Early exposure to photography and a close bond with friends helped him realize the beauty and joy in filmmaking which led him to UW-Milwaukee. He has interned for Food Network and Milwaukee Film.


Favorite Documentaries
-Being Elmo
-Jiro Dreams of Sushi
-Man on Wire


Favorite Bands
-The Killers
-Bon Iver
-The Script
-Taylor Swift


Favorite Concert Experiences
-The Killers
-Taylor Swift
-Brandon Flowers
-Spilled Canvas
-Lupe Fiasco


Favorite Milwaukee Places
-Pabst Theatre
-Rosebud Cinema
-Kopp’s Frozen Custard
-Whitnall Park
-Miller Brewing Company


For more information about the Cream City Soundcheck project, visit