The WAIT is over

Local film ‘Waiting for Wiig’ available on DVD

MARQUETTE — Inspiration can come from unusual places sometimes.

The inspiration for “Waiting for Wiig” — referred to commonly as W4W — came from Sault Ste. Marie, in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Which makes it, really, an Upper Peninsula film to the nth degree.

People can see that for themselves as the locally produced short film is now available on DVD. It won the 2016 Audience Choice Award at that year’s Soo Film Festival.

The inspiration for all this came through two of his friends, said Negaunee native Steve Wiig — the person for whom everyone waits.

As Wiig shared, in 2015, Kyle Hulkonen and Aaron Yunker attended the Soo Film Festival with him, a former U.P. resident and current actor, when he flew in from San Francisco to promote two films that he was starring in that were being screened at the festival.

From left, Kyle Hulkonen, Aaron Yunker and Steven Wiig of “Waiting for Wiig.” (Courtesy photo)

The films both became festival award winners: “Dead Metaphors,” which earned the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Short, and “America Is Still The Place,” which captured the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature.

“While watching the festival’s films that weekend, Aaron and Kyle thought that making their own movie could be a lot of fun,” Wiig said. “At the closing party, they approached me with their idea and I challenged them to come up with a story and potentially enter it into the next year’s festival. I initially agreed to appear in the film and after reading Kyle’s script, signed on to direct the project.”

And that’s how the 30-minute film got started.

W4W was filmed over the course of about a week in the Ishpeming-Negaunee area with the three men serving as producers. The cast is entirely U.P. talent and the filming used U.P. businesses and resources.

It was the talk of the town when it was being filmed and with it now available for all to purchase, it’s bringing back excitement, especially for those involved in the production.

A DVD copy of the film is pictured. (Courtesy photo)

“I’d say winning that Soo Film Festival was kind of a big deal … I did a backflip off of the bridge into the river in Sault Saint Marie. Then immediately following the screening was the most beautiful double rainbow,” said Daniel Schetter, aka Surfer Dan, who appears in “Waiting For Wiig.”

“For myself, I’m proud to part of this experience. I got to meet and play with new friends,” Schetter said. “I got to see how much organization and work and trust and camaraderie goes into something like this. I feel too damn blessed that my dog Dozer and I got to be in a real movie, made in and by my homeland, Marquette County and the U.P.”

An actor familiar to local audiences for his many turns on the Vista stage also was thrilled to be part of W4W.

“I think for me the whole process has just been a great experience from beginning to now, starting out as just a tiny part to becoming the Emcee Mayor and getting to see how this set of filmmakers operates,” Erik Kuhnle said. “I’ve met some awesome people along the way, got to work with others I already know and admire, and have been excited to see this thing grow to where it is now! Shooting scenes at the Vista and Brogie’s was great fun, and going to the Soo for the film festival was really cool! Now that we’ve had this inaaaaauuuuugural film … now we’re just ‘Waiting For Sequel’!”

Eliisa Gladwell, another local theater veteran, said of the experience: “I have been acting since the age of 5. This experience was very insightful to me because acting onstage and acting in front of a camera are so very different. With movie acting you need to worry more about the details of your face, your hands, your voice. Acting onstage everything needs to be big and over the top. I struggled finding the balance between the two and learned quite a lot during this process.

A promotional shot of Steven Wiig from the filming process. (Courtesy photo)

“I also learned the reason I’m never cast in roles that require fighting — I was supposed to ‘hit’ Danzo (McCracken) with the boot during our fight scene and with all the adrenaline pumping, I accidentally hit him for real.”

Making the film was a family experience for Emmye Wiig, who works on Vista productions.

“I wouldn’t call it a children’s show but I’m glad that our son Emil was able to be in this movie. Emil has autism and we were just starting the long road of a diagnosis and therapy that same summer,” Emmye Wiig said. “We weren’t sure if he would be able to interact and stay calm during the filming but he did and we ended up with the cutest missed high five ever! There aren’t very many opportunities to be in a movie in Marquette County and we’re so grateful to be a part of this production.”

Steve Wiig, as director, offered this: “I really enjoyed working with the local talent and having the community become a part of the scenes. We worked closely with Kyle’s script but I love guerilla-style filmmaking and improvising and wanted to see what I could get out of people in-the-moment. I think it brings a certain level of authenticity to the performances often times. That came in handy because I had actually only met some of our actors for the very first time a few minutes before filming their first scenes.”

Producer and creator Yunker added: “My favorite thing about making this film was meeting a bunch of new people who I now consider friends. I also appreciate the sense of community pride that has gone along with making the movie. A lot of local businesses and venues stepped up and helped us get this project done.

“We are very thankful to the cities of Ishpeming and Negaunee as well as Brogie’s Tavern and the Vista Theater for providing us with shooting locations. Also, Jeremy Symons from Yooper Shirts was a tremendous help, he was a sponsor, he appeared in the film, and he also designed the poster and DVD art.

“On a sad note, it’s a pity to see The Country Village Cinema closing their doors. I will always remember the sold-out crowd we had for our first showing there,” Yunker said. “I also can’t forget to give a shout out to all the great pizza that we ate during the planning and making of the movie: Congress, Ralph’s, Tino’s, Pasquali’s, Mama Mia’s. Wahhhhhhhh!”

Steven Wiig currently appears in “Blindspotting” (which was filmed in Oakland and is now in theaters) starring and written by Daveed Diggs from the musical “Hamilton.” Wiig can be seen in several episodes of the Netflix drama “Thirteen Reasons Why,” which is currently filming it’s third season in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also starred in a Tostitos commercial for the NFL last year.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.