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Short Film Shot in E.C., Altoona Wins Award at Wis. Film Fest

‘February’ is the second of a planned 12-part series set in Wisconsin

Sawyer Hoff |

REELIN' THEM IN, WISCO STYLE. Nathan Deming's film, February, is the second in a 12-part short film series set in Wisconsin.
REELIN' THEM IN, WISCO STYLE. Nathan Deming's film, February, is the second in a 12-part short film series set in Wisconsin. (Submitted images)

Those who aren’t from Wisconsin may not be privy to what we actually get up to in the Cheese State, and filmmaker Nathan Deming wanted to showcase life in Wisconsin through a 12-part short film series. Each film in the “Year Project” is named after – and set in – a different month, with stories set in Deming’s hometown of Tomah. February, the series’ second film, premiered at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison on Sunday, April 7, and won the “Golden Badger” award.

The 45-minute film follows Miguel, a young Mexican immigrant who recently moved to Tomah and is having trouble connecting with anyone around him, including his sister and brother-in-law with whom he lives. After discovering ice fishing, Miguel spends a night on the ice with Carl, an eccentric ice-fishing expert in town who agrees to show him the ropes.

Though the film is set in Tomah, over half of it was filmed in Eau Claire and on a frozen Lake Altoona in February 2023. Since Deming’s parents live in Eau Claire, it was a convenient setting for the film.

The main cast included David Ezekiel Duran (Miguel), Nayeli Hernandez (Rosa), and Erick Inestroza (Louie), who are based out of Los Angeles. Richie Gordon (Carl the ice fisherman) is from New Auburn and learned about this project through an unlikely place: a Craigslist ad.

“For this role, we wanted somebody very authentic and Wisconsin,” Deming said. “I just thought it would be bad for somebody to do a caricature and miss the mark because then it becomes a weak point in the movie, and it really all builds to their night together. I thought it’d be really fun to have a non-actor and then after trying to cast the role, we desperately threw up the Craigslist ad.”

miguel
David Ezekiel Duran as Miguel and Richie Gordan as Carl.

The ad simply stated, “Looking for a crazy ice fisherman willing to be in a film.” To which Gordon’s wife responded, “LOL, this is my husband.” The rest, as they say, is history. Even though this was Gordon’s first time acting, his authenticity shined through and provided a realness to the character that is both endearing and humorous.

February was created with a small crew, including Deming (writer/director), Adam Stunkle (producer), Leo Purman (director of photography), Mark Arditi (assistant director), Maria Medrano-Miranda (production designer), and Joel Schaeffer (camera operator).

Deming and Stunkle met at the London Film School, where the school’s president at the time was Mike Leigh, who Deming called the “master of British kitchen sink realism,” a style of storytelling that shows a “slice of life” of ordinary people living their lives. This style of film inspired both Deming and Stunkle in many of their projects, including the “Year Project.”

“I think Nathan and I are both really committed and interested in telling stories about the places where we grew up,” Stunkle explained. “I grew up in a small town in Virginia and I like telling stories from those worlds. That’s one of the main things that I really connected on with Nathan is telling stories that reflect how we grew up.”

The first film in Deming’s series, January, was released at the Wisconsin Film Festival in 2022. January follows an older church volunteer in Tomah who must help organize a last-minute shotgun wedding – the exterior shots of the church are of the Lake Street United Methodist Church in Eau Claire. Deming says the script for March is already written, though a firm timeline has not been set for production yet.

Viewers can watch January online now, and will be able to watch February in the near future – likely next February – as Deming and Stunkle continue to submit it to other film festivals.


Learn more about February and watch the trailer at februaryfilm.com.