Port . . . at a theater near you

Port Washington will be featured in a full-length film by a moviemaker who was raised here

Port Washington native Miles O’Neil (left), will be filming his movie “Intoxicated Rain” this fall in Port Washington, along with coordinating producer Maureen McCourt Boylan of Port and video editor Matthew Batta of Milwaukee. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH

Port Washington is going to be featured on the big screen thanks to one of its natives.

Miles O’Neil has written a script and hopes to begin shooting “Intoxicated Rain”  this fall.

This is O’Neil’s third film production but first feature-length script. At 136 pages long, the movie is slated to be over two hours long, his biggest project to date.

“It was kind of a labor of love,” O’Neil said.

The movie deals with race relations and some of the perceptions and misconceptions of life between Port and Milwaukee.

O’Neil, owner of the Wicked Hop, a bar and restaurant in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, based his story on parts of the life of his employee Dominic Reeder, who will play the lead character in the film.

That character is a biracial 20-something named Jaden, who works at the American Legion restaurant in Port. He lives in the city with his grandparents and reluctantly visits his mother in Milwaukee who is fighting addiction.

Different worlds — the film notes they are a 30-minute drive apart — blend and provide intriguing drama and characterization.

“I tried to make characters with negative vibes,” O’Neil said, and then added, “Maybe they’ve got some positive vibes too.”

O’Neil makes sure nothing is black and white the whole way through. He likes to surprise audiences.

“To make something that’s not going to bore people to death is pretty key, and something that’s going to challenge people,” O’Neil said. “I’m not into giving people a clear-cut ending or easy answers.”

O’Neil took time off from the Wicked Hop and spent all of March 2017 in a small office in Milwaukee to write the story. He tried to get through at least five pages per day.

O’Neil said he knew where the story was going to go but didn’t use any notes. He came up with the characters in his head and tied them together.

He got away from the script for two months before going back and editing. Among the readers to give feedback was his mother.

O’Neil, who said he wanted to come back to Port to do a movie, had approached then executive director of Port Washington Main Street Maureen McCourt Boylan last year about the idea of shooting his film in the city. She said she was a little apprehensive that the project would happen, but O’Neil later came back with a script.

Boylan read the story and could understand how the blending of two worlds play out.

“That’s one thing I really love and appreciate about the story. It’s very realistic,” she said.

She quickly got on board and will serve as the coordinating producer.

O’Neil has experienced life in both cities. He grew up in Port and moved to Milwaukee in fifth grade. He didn’t aspire to be a filmmaker, but he loved using his imagination.

“I just like creating my own stories. There’s something fun about that,” he said.

The famous match-lighting scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” gave O’Neil the film-making bug.

“I just kind of had an awakening of sorts,” he said.

O’Neil has an English and marketing degree from Marquette University, and he took an introduction to collaborative film making class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from Tate Bunker, who turned into O’Neil’s mentor.

Bunker and O’Neil worked together on the drama “Little Red” in 2012 and on “The Fields,” a paranormal science-fiction thriller shot in Manitowoc that is in post production.

“Little Red” received the best feature film award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2013. O’Neil and Bunker both attended and made connections with film professionals, including a sales agent.

O’Neil’s films have been shown at international film festivals in Portland, Milwaukee and at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

He said he hopes “Intoxicated Rain” could land at one of the widely known festivals.

Seeing his work on a big screen provides O’Neil with encouragement.

“There’s some pride involved with it, some validation. More than anything else, it’s a confidence builder,” he said.

“For me, the key to making a good film is to have it springboard onto bigger and better things.”

O’Neil said he likes to use a few known actors in his films. “Little Red” and “The Fields” has Mark Metcalf, known for roles in “Animal House” and “Seinfeld,” and “The Fields” also included Barry Bostwick, the mayor on “Spin City.”

Casting for “Intoxicated Rain” so far only includes Reeder, whom O’Neil said has good timing, the right facial expressions and a “presence.”

“Intoxicated Rain” is being made for less than $250,000, putting it in what the industry calls the ultra-low budget category.

O’Neil put in some of his own money and is still seeking funding for the film, especially corporate sponsors.

He is searching for a house in Port that will be used as the home of Rob and Liz Sobczak, Jaden’s grandparents.

The film is also seeking actors. Auditions for small parts and extras are still being determined. The film is expected to employe about 50 people with an even split between regulars and part-timers and extras.

“Hopefully, there’s going to be some interest in the community,” O’Neil said.

He also plans to work with high school students interested in filmmaking.

For more information, email O’Neil at producer@intoxicatedrain.com. His film company’s Facebook page is facebook.com/missingfingerfilms.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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