On any given Wednesday night at AJ’s Live musicians and artists young and old are tuning their guitars, warming up their vocal chords, cleaning their accordion, or just sharing ideas.
But it’s not a gathering of out-of-towners; rather it’s the vanguard of a thriving artistic community that’s grown organically here in the village.
Chip Cruz, who founded the Cruz Artist Collective, is hoping an event April 28 will shine a beacon and open the community’s collective eyes to the great things people are doing in their backyard.
“People have their idea of what’s in this community, but I know there is so much more. It’s about finding these people that grew up in this community that feel like they have to go out to a big city to showcase their talents and bring them together in their hometown,” Cruz said. “There’s so much going on in this community, and it’s about finding each other.”
A Gathering of Local Talent
Cruz is bringing myriad local personalities together to hold a "Halfoween" party starting at 3 p.m. April 28. The free event will feature more than 12 local musicians of all ages, artists, a Falls designer with his own clothing line, a portrait artist, and more. Of course, the theme will have a ghoulish flare to it.
Members from Fred Astaire will teach some moves from Thriller, Pink Lemonade will do zombie face painting, and a Falls artist will draw your zombie portrait. Again, the event is free.
“This could be the catalyst that opens peoples eyes, and bring out the best in each other,” said Matt Henry, who’s part of the Artist Collective. “The people are there, but the movement isn’t. That’s what the Cruz Artist Collective is.”
A Falls Premier of 'The Amateur Monster Movie'
The featured event of the evening is Falls’ Kyle Richards’ premier of his homegrown movie, “The Amateur Monster Movie.” Richards, at the age of 19, filmed the movie in Menomonee Falls and cast many characters from Falls. He finished it four years later, and premiered it in 2011 at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee in front of an audience of 700 people.
His movie has been shown in numerous film festivals and on the Internet. However, it’s never been shown in the village where it was made. (Watch a trailer of the video in the article. WARNING: Contains adult content).
“We want more people to just be aware of the film especially locally. A lot of people probably don’t know this happened in Falls,” Richards said. “There were so many local people involved with the film.”
The film also features an appearance from Mark Borchardt — who also knows a thing or two about making a movie in Menomonee Falls. In 1999, “American Movie” was released, which was a documentary following Borchardt and Mike Schank as they attempted to create their own horror film, “Coven.”
The movie has become a cult classic, and the same thing may be occurring some 15 years later.
“He was very enigmatic. American Movie was a totally accurate representation of who he is,” Richards said. “He’s just a cool guy who enjoyed helping out with the film. I’m sure he could remember trying to do the same thing 15 years earlier.”
The Amateur Monster features both zombies and a werewolf. After a wolf-like creature on Cadaverous Island mysteriously kills a group of boy scouts, Walter Romero, whose best friend was among the killed, sets out to find exactly what happened. Horror and intrigue ensue.
Richards also hopes April 28 marks a turning point in Menomonee Falls.
“I think a lot of people undervalue how good they are at what they do around here, because it probably feels undervalued. There’s not a lot of acknowledgement in the public eye,” Richards said. “This will be a great night for everyone, because you will see so many people enjoying the things you work so hard on.”
For more information on upcoming events, follow AJs Live, Cruz Art, and The Amateur Monster Movie on Facebook.