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Calling Nella Citino’s latest project a labor of love might be an understatement.
Citino, the producer/editor/partner with Madison-based Frozen Stage Films, has been an independent filmmaker for more than seven years. Before that she had a 15-year, award-winning run at Wisconsin Public Television. That she continues to ply her craft in Wisconsin, a state that offers nothing in the way of financial incentives for filmmakers (a modest tax credit program was cut from the state budget in 2013), tells you just about everything you need to know about her dedication to the craft.
“Passion,” deadpans Citino. “It will propel you. It can kill you.”
The state’s independent film community remains robust and diverse but tends to focus on short films. “Delight in the Mountain” is Frozen Stage’s first feature-length movie, shot late last year in the Sauk City-Prairie du Sac area, Cambridge, Stoughton and Madison on what Citino calls a “balls-to-the-wall” four-week schedule that included some 10- to 12-hour days.
The plot concerns Anna Maria, a mob lawyer (played by Chicago actor Kara Zediker) who reconnects with her estranged, weed-growing mom (played by Waukesha native Deborah Clifton) when her career hits a speed bump. Anna Maria’s employers take her mom hostage and force her to try one last case for them. Did we mention it’s a comedy?
The film’s cast includes famous Wisconsin natives: Richard “Office Space” Riehle of Menomonee Falls, who cameos as a judge, and Tom “Dukes of Hazzard” Wopat originally of Lodi, who stars as a mob boss named Guido.
“What we have here in Wisconsin is special. We have talent here,” Citino says. “I wanted to at least show what was here in the community.”
The film is currently in post-production, with a rough cut scheduled to be polished and ready to submit to film festivals by the end of the year. Citino says there’s no question she’ll soldier on to other film projects.
“I don’t know how to do anything else,” she says. “I’ve done this for 30 years, and I’m certainly not going to stop doing it now.”
The shoot took only four weeks, but Kara Zediker, the Chicago-based actress who stars in “Delight in the Mountain,” accumulated plenty of fun memories during the project—several of them involving the livestock on the set.
“Sometimes the chickens, it was like they were acting with us,” says Zediker, who compared her experience on “Delight” to working on a network TV show. (Zediker’s resume includes stints on “24” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.”) A piglet on the set is featured prominently in a courtroom scene late in the movie.
“Every time I stood up, he would start snorting,” she says. “Then, when I started to walk away, he would snuffle and grunt. I could never tell whether he wanted me to stay or to leave.”
The cast also endured one of those four-seasons-in-one-day Wisconsin weather scenarios in October, where the day began with sun and took a turn into heavy sleet before becoming warm again.
Aaron R. Conklin covers the Madison-area theater scene for madisonmagazine.com.
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