Michigan Producer’s Eye for Milwaukee Talent
A Conversation with Roger Rapoport
Michigan-based writer-producer Roger Rapoport is taking full advantage of Wisconsin scenery and Milwaukee talent for his independent films. In 2012, Rapoport released Waterwalk, a father-and-son coming-of-age drama filmed on some of Wisconsin’s rivers. It has since been shown in about 150 theaters nationwide and will soon be released to online streaming services. Rapoport is in the process of establishing a cohesive network of actors from across Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, a decision he describes as “perfect for utilizing the Midwest’s talent.”
Why not move to California?
I lived in California for many years. I don’t think my films could be shot in California—especially the nature scenes. We couldn’t have filmed Waterwalk there because studios are afraid of getting their equipment wet. Plus the Midwest has rivers. There is a greater cost for filming in California, too. Raising money in the Midwest is easier because we have a lot of backers here and a lot of people watch our movies here. We also have some of the best acting talent in the world here. We start many of our castings in Milwaukee. There are so many great actors, so we have a lot of choices.
What is the most difficult part of adapting a book like Waterwalk into a film?
It’s very hard. It’s a challenge because you want to respect the author’s intention but you can’t include everything. Finding the best actors is also a big challenge—finding the best representation of the characters in the book is difficult. Yes, casting is critical.
What project are you working on now?
Pilot Error is a fictional thriller about an airplane that takes off from South America to Paris and disappears for two years. It falls into the Atlantic and no one can find it. We are shooting this one in Michigan and Wisconsin primarily. We are also using actors from both states. We have begun bringing Milwaukee actors over to Michigan. And if we need to pull somebody else in, we can go down to Chicago. It’s the perfect mix. I am planning to release this film in the fall of 2014.
And in the longer run?
What I would like to do is establish a repertory film company for Michigan and Wisconsin. The two states perfectly compliment each other.
What qualities help make a movie great?
The script is a critical factor and so are character actors. The definition of a great artist: They are the only person who can do what they are doing.
How do you feel about streaming services like Netflix?
It makes it easier for independent studios to distribute. Theatrical is still great because you can see it on a big screen and organize special events where people can meet the actors, but a lot of people can’t make it to the theaters.