In 1999, on a blustery March afternoon, Nick Holle, Scott Brown, and Emery Skolfield dug their heals into the graveyard sod and shot the first Wut Wut Alma moving picture. It was for a production class Nick was taking, and the movie was Me & Cell P -- a tale of a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a cell phone. It was produced under the Wut Wut Alma Pictures moniker and starred all three.
Another infamous early production with a single copy in existence, Road Crew Rules, was shot the following winter. The nonsensical short, complete with full-frontal nudity and the climactic, famed Ott's Elbow, features Wut Wut Alma members Joe Ott, Paul Hogseth, Seth Hedrington, Scott, and Nick.
Meanwhile, another eventual Wut Wut Alma member, Sarah Rykal, began making movies in her college production classes. In 2000, her production company, Stanley Street Productions, created Mediocrity U.S.A., about three small-town women named Alice who are all vying for the same secret prize. And in 2001, she made Love Is A Battlefield, about a man's obsession with music. It starred Wut Wut Alma members Scott and Nick.
The fever for making movies was definitely gaining steam around this time when the members of Wut Wut Alma decided to go for it all and produce their first epic, feature-film production. The story was simply "Karate Kid...but with racquetball." It was called The Racquetball Youth. It did not work out. Spouses were added. Degree were earned. Mr. Miyagi got pregnant. We drifted apart. The project was never finished.
But in July of 2004, Scott wrote an impassioned letter to all the members of Wut Wut Alma, telling us that it was time to get the band back together. The gist was that we are all too creative and too funny to be wasting our energies away in a lab or an office. We're too good of friends to be so far apart, in distance, but more importantly, in spirit. It was time to stick our heads back together and do something we love. It was time to make a movie. And with that, the new incarnation of Wut Wut Alma Moving Pictures began, and Scott, Sarah, Seth, Paul, Joe, Emery, and Nick set out to make Joe Zopp.
Sarah took the directing reigns. Nick become the lead. Scott organized the production. Seth managed the business. Emery took on the media. Paul the marketing. Joe was the Interstate Highway System expert. Everyone criss-crossed roles, added extra duties, brainstormed, wrote, argued, and a couple of us devoted our whole lives to the production so we could come out the other side with a copy of Illegal Use of Joe Zopp in our hands.
The Wut Wut Alma crew originally had seven members, but that changed with the production of Illegal Use of Joe Zopp. The dozen people to the left joined by default (wives, parents), by preestablished friendship, or by just coming to us and asking to be a part of it. They took only free food, or, occassionally, no food at all and gave often unimaginable amounts of time and effort to help make our movie better. Honorary membership was the least we could give them, but here's the behind-the-scenes crew that made Zopp zoppier.
Colleen and Ian Lindl were the tag-team directors of photography. With Ian hawking the first two weeks and Colleen the final three and our reshoots, they made their way around the lights, sandbags, and Nick's shiny face with our Sony Z1 camera. They camped at the Holle residence, whethered our long days, and left an imprint on our production with their good-natured and indelible personalities.
Kate Murray originally came to our open auditions for actors, didn't get a part, renewed an interest in helping anyway, became a crew member, and got a small part anyway (as a getaway driver in the prologue). She supervised the script, making sure the actors hit their lines, making sure the same actions were used in all takes. She took a million pictures. She was a good man...and thorough. She wasn't there for our reshoots, which is why Nick's hair was parted the wrong way in several scenes. This bonehead play should not be blamed on Kate.
Jason Nelson is relentless. In his free time -- from his eight million other jobs -- he spent the winter of 2007-2008 editing every clip of sound for Zopp. That's thousands of clips. In an industry where "normal" movies recreate entire scenes of sound from scratch, he was tasked with salvaging all the original sound from the shoot. You'll never hear it, but it's better. WAY better. Not only that but he contributed several of his songs to the movie, as well as some original tracks written and recorded specifically for Zopp. It cannot be overstated how massively important to the improvement of the picture he was.
Brandon Knez and Danni Stephenson left the most tangibly recognizable mark on the movie from this list. Brandon, an animation expert, recreated signs, helping to turn Chippewa Falls into Purewater, Burly's Bar in Mel's House of Momentary Bliss, and an old spinster's gravestone into Joe Zopp's. He also made headlights disappear, archery appear, and he's the creator of Wut Wut Alma's new logo and company animation seen at the front of the trailer and the movie.
Danni and the Wut Wut crew go way back, to the dawn of it all. She starred in the very first Wut Wut Alma production, Nick's short Me & Cell P. She showed up on set a month before filming to help with artistic production and prop gathering. She was responsible for nearly all the drawings and notebooks of Young Zopp. She designed the most elaborate set of the movie, the Dingo Room. And the paintings in Zopp's bedroom (and featured in the closing credits)? Hers.
Besides opening their home as Zopp Central Command, Mary and Al Holle offered up the rest of their lives for the Zopp production as well. Mary spent the entire 35-day shoot coordinating our meals. Buying the food, taking orders, adapting to our schedule, communicating with guest caterers. Oh, and did we mention she prepared about eighty percent of those meals? No days off. She wasn't paid. She never stopped smiling. And she's unquestionably the movie's most die-hard fan.
Al, known to us as The Silent Assassin, quietly did all the little things. He spent the couple months prior to the shoot building film equipment: a dolly and tracks, a jib arm, light filter stands, a shoulder mount. He also served as the chief equipment manager, driving our things in his van to every set, every day, unloading and loading back up at the end. He shelled out advice, he captured wasps, he held the boom mic, he ran errands to Central Command whenever we forgot a prop or an adequate supply of sandbags for the light stands. He also did it without complaint and with incredible fervor, and on those occasions when he wasn't doing something, he was standing behind the camera giggling at all the best gags in the scenes we were shooting.
Derek Keyeski, another old friend of ours, came to set over five weekends during shooting and to our reshoots and was always the most experienced guy on set. He shelled advice on nearly everything and was an instrumental right hand to Colleen and Ian, doing such things as lighting a graveyard in the middle of the night and lending equipment and gusto to the production.
Besides playing one of the lead roles in Zopp, André Egli proved to be a steady contributor behind the camera too and after it stopped rolling. He pitched in with camera work and sound during the production and reshoots, and he edited about a third of the original cut of the movie. His band Off-Killter also has two songs in the movie as well.
Haley Hanson and Tara Hogseth also threw us some of their brains and muscle, logging shots, clapping clapboards, crackin' wise, and doing other assistant-ish type things.