A pair of Baraboo-bred filmmakers have learned there’s a lot to see in Wisconsin if you look closely.
Zach Johnston and Matteo Roberts collaborated on “Forward,” a movie that will premiere Oct. 9 at Fermentation Fest near Reedsburg. The documentary-style film depicts everyday life in America’s Dairyland.
Despite being Wisconsin natives, Johnston and Roberts found themselves learning a lot about their home state. They hope audiences will, too.
“It gives a little bit of spotlight to the mundane, everyday activities,” Roberts said.
He and Johnston are members of the hit indie pop group PHOX. Last year they composed the soundtrack for “The Dam Keeper,” an Oscar-nominated short film.
Wormfarm Institute commissioned the duo to film “Forward” and premiere it at Fermentation Fest, an annual celebration of decomposition. Johnston and Roberts spent the summer recording daily Wisconsin life, images that are paired with their original instrumental soundtrack.
Their goal was to hold up a mirror to Wisconsin and create a collage of images and sounds that transcends the state’s cliché trademarks. “It would be easy to tell people Wisconsin is shirtless Packer fans and cheese and beer — which it partly is — but there’s also a lot more going on,” Roberts said.
The 45-minute film will be ready for its debut, but it doesn’t represent a finished work. Johnston said filming will continue this winter, when he’ll participate in his first deer hunt, and into the coming year to show how seasonal changes affect daily life here.
“We see this as a snapshot of what will be a much larger project,” he said.
“Forward” juxtaposes images, natural conversation, and original music to push audiences to re-examine familiar scenes with a new perspective. Johnson said he now finds himself noticing things — the design of a road sign, the varied colors of farm fields –--he previously took for granted. Next weekend he’ll find out whether audiences have the same reaction.
“It’s amazing the scenes you can become numb to,” Johnston said. “I hope that people will see beauty in the mundane.”