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Pace-setter Honorees​​



Portia Cobb joined the Film and Video faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1992 as an Assistant Professor and Artistic Director (1992-2009) of the school’s Community Media Project.


Currently she teaches both introductory upper level production and cross-disciplinary topical elective offerings in the department ranging from Radical Cinemas; Radical Black Film; Experimental Ethnography and a capstone course in film (Multicultural America).

She studied Film at San Francisco State University where the foundations of her continued explorations as an interdisciplinary artist creating in film, Digital Video, photography and Installation-were formed.

Focused on The Documentary, her experimental narratives explore the inner landscapes of identity, memory, history and place. Through her documentation of urban and rural communities in the Americas and West Africa she draws upon these themes as a means to confront forced forgetting and resettlement.

As a Call & Response Artist in Residence at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Brown Deer she has developed plein air performances and temporal works that include “Lizzie’s Legacy & Lizzie’s Garden” in which she has embodied the figure of her great aunt, Elizabeth Smashum, to share the history and memory of her family’s Gullah Geechee identity.

She is currently a principal researcher, leading the creative team for the UWM Gun Violence Project with Department of Communication professors Leslie Harris, Erin M. Parcell with Debra Gilispie (founder of Mothers against Gun Violence).




Casey T. Malone has been knocking around the film and TV world for over 20 years as both an award-winning filmmaker and former teacher of the video arts. His work is often described as a genre unto itself combining various elements and influences as eclectic as the history of cinema overall. His career began working in post-production on a variety of shows for Discovery Channel and PBS before, teaching, and eventually moving on to produce video and animations for various corporate clients. 


His short films have shown all over the world, and his recent short-form documentary “Dead Man’s Carnival: A Conversation with Pinkerton Xyloma,” about the Milwaukee-based artist and ringleader of the performance troupe Dead Man’s Carnival, premiered to a sold-out crowd at the Cream City’s celebrated Myramar Theatre before later embarking on a yearlong festival run ending at the Coney Island Film Festival where Pinkerton himself was invited to perform alongside the film at the historic Coney Island Sideshow. 


In April of 2018 his debut feature film “Lesser Beasts” made its world premiere at the infamous Chattanooga Film Festival. Along with producing, directing, and writing the film he also edited, composed the film’s score, and acted as cinematographer eventually leading to Film Threat magazine nominating his camera work for “Best Indie Cinematography” in their annual “Award This!” competition made up of films they believed were overlooked by the Academy. 


Never one to be still he is currently working on his second feature, “The Ringing Bell” along with a myriad of other smaller projects.




​The Milwaukee Independent Film Society (MIFS) established the Pace-setter Award ten years ago to bestow upon persons that are dedicated to advancing filmmaking in Wisconsin.


Eric Levin, a beloved Milwaukee fixture in the film world, has been managing movie theaters since the 1980's. It was at the Avalon Theater where most of us first met Eric. He became the owner/operator of the Avalon from 1987-1994, and then he bought the Times Cinema and ran it from 1993- 2007. From there Eric moved to the Oriental Theater and for 11 years ran and operated it until Milwaukee Film took it over this past July.

While owning and running those movie theaters in Milwaukee he became a favorite of the Milwaukee filmmaker community. He helped the Milwaukee Short Film Festival get off the ground in its early years when we were at the Times. He supported local filmmakers by giving them exposure and screening their films, and allowing them use his facilities to film their projects. He backed the local film scene any way that he could.



​​The festival organizers of the Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival are Stephen Milek and Christopher House. They have  provided a shot in the arm in the local film community, and far more importantly they uncovered and helped stop fraudulent festivals from scamming local filmmakers.


In 2012 Stephen Milek teamed up with Christopher House to start Milwaukee Movie Talk.

It became a place for film fans not only from Milwaukee but around the world to discuss films while also highlighting films, filmmakers, and events from Milwaukee.


After realizing there wasn’t a festival to cater to horror fans in Milwaukee Chris and Steve again teamed up to start the Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival in 2016.  




​The Milwaukee Independent Film Society (MIFS) established the Pace-setter Award eight years ago to bestow upon persons that are dedicated to advancing filmmaking in Wisconsin.


E. Kelly Fitzsimmons is an active advocate and supporter of the local independent film community.  She is a well-known entrepreneur who has founded, led and sold several technology startups. Recently, she launched Custom Reality Services, a virtual reality production company, with Jeff Fitzsimmons and Brad Lichtenstein. 



Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Jared is pleased to call Milwaukee home again. He has participated in the Milwaukee 48 Hour Film Project in 2008, 2009, and 2010 as a producer and director with his team Ideogram Films. In 2010 Ideogram Films took home 9 awards including Best Film in the Milwaukee 48 Hour Film Project. Jared has also participated in the same capacity in the 48 Hour Film Projects of Austin in 2010 and Chicago in 2012



Jared became the Milwaukee Producer of the 48 Hour Film Project, and since then the project has experience a resurgence with 2014 being the project's most successful outing having a record breaking number of film entries and screening attendees.




Jon Kline is a director, cinematographer, and photographer, raised in the Midwest. His years of experience stretch from feature films and shorts to no-budget viral web videos. In 2013, he founded Milwaukee's first DSLR rental house for filmmakers, MKE Production Rental, with the goal of empowering Milwaukee filmmakers to tell more compelling stories. He lives in Wauwatosa with his wife, Anna.



​Susan Kerns was the driving force behind Collaborative Cinema, a program that brought together filmmaking professionals and high school students.


Susan Kerns is an Assistant Professor of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago, and she is producing the documentary Last of the Lawsonians. She wrote the screenplay for Little Red and has produced or directed numerous short films. Previously she was Education Director at the Milwaukee Film Festival, where she ran the Collaborative Cinema program, and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is currently finishing her dissertation, Propagating Monsters: Conjoined Twins and Popular Culture, a portion of which can be found in the anthology Nip/Tuck: Television that Gets Under Your Skin.



​Dan Wilson co-founded The Milwaukee Independent Film Society as a way to help local filmmakers. Today he is also very active in the local filmmaking community lending a hand (or equipment) whenever called upon.


 Dan has lived in Milwaukee all his life, and has been making images as long as he can remember. Particularly interested in the interplay between motion and still, his work often explores the ways in which still and moving images inform a narrative flow. Dan has owned and operated a production company, photo studio and rental house since 1986, and has contributed his talents to countless projects across the country. He has consistently been involved in community building among Milwaukee’s filmmakers. His interests include kinetic sculpture involving light, sound and feedback loops, good espresso, the DIY aesthetic, and learning new things. He is currently raising funds for his next project



The Milwaukee Independent Film Society has chosen to honor Phil Koch. Phil co-founded The Firestarter Film Festival as a way for local filmmakers to share their work and network with others.


Plus, Phil is also very active in the local filmmaking community lending a hand (or equipment) whenever called upon. Phil is also an award winning filmmaker, a certified professional photographer since 1993, a published photographer and was named Best Local Filmmaker by the Shepard Express in 2009.


Wildwood Film Festival

​The Wildwood Film Festival located in Appleton Wisconsin. One that celebrates only Wisconsin talent. Whether it's the primary creative personnel (producer/director/writer), the actors or even the locations, all projects featured have direct ties to the state. That was their mission statement over ten years ago when they started the festival, and it remains so to this day.


The founders and operators of the Wildwood Film Festival are Jason Buss, Craig A. Knitt and Thomas Thorne. 


Dave Luhrssen

As a writer, Luhrssen has been part of the local music landscape since the late 1970s. But Luhrssen also holds degrees in history and has taught at the university level.

He was also the Executive Director & Co-Founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival, were he had programmed a successful 11-day event annual, screening 140 films from 40 nations in four venues each year. Where atendance was over 30,000.


Dave has also been supportive of local filmmakers, by covering them in the pages of the Shepherd Express



mark 2.jpg

​Mark Metcalf created, Collaborative Cinema  which is, literally, a collaboration between some of the best professional filmmakers in southeastern Wisconsin and area high school students. As an educational program of Milwaukee Film, Collaborative Cinema’s goal is to teach high school students the skills of screenwriting and filmmaking and help to support and grow the local film industry.


Mark is also an accomplished actor with many iconic roles to his credit. From Animal House to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Seinfeld.


Kathy Fisher

Kathy Fisher embodies the act of volunteerism, she's been a fixture at the Madison Kino and was the driving force behind the Milwaukee Mad March Music Mini-Movie Festival, an event that brought musicians and filmmaker together. Kathy is always there to help, and recently she spear headed MARN's filmmaker outreach program, MARN Kino. A version of the Madison Kino, which has since evolved into MARNMovies. ​

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