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Native Milwaukeean returns to shoot his first feature film
July 11th, 2003
A mother sends her 12-year-old son, Eric, on a small but important errand: to go to a pharmacy located outside the immediate neighborhood to obtain medicine for his sick grandmother.
This may not seem like much of a challenge. But to Aaron Greer, the Milwaukee-born and-raised assistant professor of film and video production at the University of Alabama, this little idea contains so much potential insight into the human condition that it is the basis for his first full-length feature film, Gettin Grown, which he began filming July 1 in his home town.
This may be the first time the responsibility is all on [Eric], Greer said in a recent interview at The Chronicle office. Therefore, this seemingly little errand actually represents the beginning of Erics journey from childhood to adulthood, and the film will show that Eric grows from the decisions he makes as he tries to accomplish his assigned task.
Moreover, while the characters are African Americans living in Milwaukees inner city, Greer said his own experiences as a Jew figure in the film, whose screenplay Greer wrote.
One of the inspirations was the experience I had with my grandfather [George Kaplan] in the last year of his life, Greer said. All that experience of dealing with his meds, spending time with him as an adult, talking with him about his life, living with him that colors this movie quite a bit.
In fact, the film is not only about a family; it also is in part a family project. One of the two co-producers is Greers mother, community activist/social worker/educator Fran Kaplan.
Moreover, she came with her son to The Chronicle; and she was quick to assert that Gettin Grown will reflect a universal experience and raise issues that almost all parents have to consider, like How much responsibility do you give a child? When is it appropriate to give certain tasks?
Greer, the son of an African American father, James Greer, and a Jewish mother, has lived through a wide range of experiences in his 29 years, including living in Tel Aviv from 1983-86.
He found his way to his profession indirectly. He majored in history at Washington University in St. Louis and taught high school social studies there for a time.
He also worked at the St. Louis Black Repertory Theater Company long enough to discover that theater is not for me. It is an actors medium, and I am not now and never was interested in acting.
During his undergraduate career, he interned one summer at the CBS Sunday Morning News and worked another summer as researcher for documentary producer Henry Hampton (Eyes on the Prize). Those experiences inspired him to take a class in filmmaking at a small St. Louis college, and that, in turn, made him decide to study it in graduate school.
He obtained his Master of Fine Arts degree in film and media arts from Temple University in Philadelphia and joined the staff of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa this past academic year. He has made seven short films documentary, narrative and experimental genres two of which have been shown in Wisconsin film festivals.
Gettin Grown will be his biggest project, with a budget of some $350,000 that he, his mother and co-producer Anthony Ferraro are still trying to raise. Greer said he is cutting costs every way he can, using donated equipment, volunteer caterers and Milwaukee-area actors that are working for little or nothing.
Greer plans to finish the filming on July 20 and to have the film in a viewable state by this autumn. He then will submit it to national and international film festivals, including the Sundance festival in Utah and the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison, in the hope that it will be accepted and shown and thereby catch the attention of a distributor. It may not be screened in Milwaukee until next spring, he said.
Meanwhile, he has ideas for future films, possibly including Jewish subjects, he said.
For more information, visit the films web site, www.gettingrown.com.