We Are Wisconsin : The Critically Acclaimed Documentary
This was the official website of the critically acclaimed documentary about the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising and its aftermath, We Are Wisconsin.
Content is from the site's 2013 -2018 archived pages as well as other outside sources.
The new owner of the domain has chosen to keep as much of the site's content intact so it does not disappear from the WWW. The message is important to remember.
At its heart, this is a story about average Americans who hold very precious their rights as Americans, and how they discover just how critical their role in protecting these rights is. As UW-Madison graduate student leader Peter Rickman put it:
“We proved that democracy is alive and well; the fight for social, economic and political democracy goes on stronger and more vibrant than ever. What happened in Wisconsin will be understood as a pulse of the people on where we all are. Do we countenance attacks on workers rights and unions? Do we accept austerity and a declining standard of living for all?”
We Are Wisconsin introduces the viewer to six not-so-ordinary citizens who protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol and spend the ensuing 26 days building a movement that challenges Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, which threatens to do away with benefits and collective bargaining rights for most public workers. Their efforts led to the first gubernatorial recall on a ballot for only the third time in U.S. history.
This is the trailer for the feature documentary film, WE ARE WISCONSIN, Directed by Amie Williams and Produced by Doug Pray and Kathryn Takis.
When a Republican Governor's bill threatens to wipe away worker rights and lock out public debate, six ordinary citizens force their way into the Wisconsin State Capitol, joining thousands of protesters who spend the next twenty-six days launching a popular uprising that not only challenges the bill, but the soul of a nation. "We Are Wisconsin" offers an inside view of Madison's labor uproar.
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Directed By: Amie Williams
Runtime: 105 minutes
WE ARE WISCONSIN is a feature documentary film that follows the day-to-day unfolding of public outcry against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill, focusing on the human story behind a remarkable popular uprising forged on the floor of the Madison Capitol. The film asks the question “Why should we care about what’s going on in Wisconsin?” on multiple levels, through an in-depth profile of six leading individuals central to the story: a UW- Madison student leader, a state-employee social worker, a nurse, a high school teacher, a police officer and an unemployed electrician who come out to protest what they saw as a direct attack on their livelihood. They all meet inside the capitol over the course of what became an historic twenty-six days, February-March, 2011.
The film also amplifies why Wisconsin has become ground zero for so many disparate groups, awakening a sleeping giant of collective voices, alarmed and angry at the new Corporate-funded, hyper-conservative wave of local government sweeping the country. The Wisconsin spirit of peaceful resistance spread powerfully in waves from the Capitol Rotunda to the streets outside and beyond, winning hearts and minds and sparking what is now known as the Occupy Movement, led by the 99%.
Kylie Christianson is a 21-year old UW-Madison senior from Wausau, Wisconsin. She’s a history major, who skipped classes in order to witness firsthand contemporary labor history, in the making.
Kylie’s own words:
“I’m from a family in which almost every member is an employee of a union factory, which has contributed to my academic and personal interest in the labor movement.
Because of the protests, I was offered (and accepted) a position as a community organizer for a hospitality workers’ union in Indianapolis. Over a period of 2 months, I worked on a project that drew political and community attention to the plight of hotel workers in the city and got over 700 people to sign pledges to “adopt” a worker and take on the cause as their own. Of those 700, over 500 community members (not associated with hospitality industry in any way) showed up to a city council meeting to protest the mistreatment of the workers and demand change.
Being involved in the protests was a monumental experience for me as an individual. It contributed to my understanding of the labor movement and the political process, while simultaneously challenging the way that I identified myself and my place in society. “
Mark Roughen is an IBEW electrician who used his contacts inside the Capitol building to jerry-rig a live web stream of events. Mark was one of several electricians who rewired the Capitol several years ago, so he knew the wiring system intimately. He was able to get a permit in the early days of the protest to set up a live “Ustream” inside, but was later shut down by the Capitol Press. He literally fought for his right to “electrical power” seeing it as a metaphor for political power.
Laura Glass is a high school teacher from Madison, who joined her co-workers every day after teaching, marching around the Capitol. A single woman, she would sit beneath the “Miss Forward” bronze monument to the Suffragist Movement of Wisconsin, a statue that symbolized for her the gender-specific attack Walker’s proposed bill would have…how countless nurses, teachers, social workers, and secretary’s, mostly women, would be impacted.
The reasons I was at the capitol and remain politically active are many. First and foremost, was the attack on teachers and the institution of education. I felt in my heart that it was my duty to stand up for the values I hold dear, and they are education, fairness, honesty, integrity and respect.
In my life to date, I have lived through the feminist movement, title nine, the civil rights movement, and ten sitting presidents. I have watched others participate and put their lives on the line to affect change and to continue to make this the greatest country in the world.
I believe a country is only as great as its weakest and most vulnerable citizens. We still live in an age where women earn eighty cents on the dollar to our male counter parts, children continue to be exploited, and our young girls are often objectified. These voices have and continue to be marginalized. The gap between the rich and poor is the widest it has ever been in our nation’s history. The middle class is the backbone of this nation, and we are not being HEARD! Instead, we have become the scapegoat for the egregious acts of the financial and investment institutions. The Walker agenda, and others across this country, are extreme and aid corporations not its people. I am active, so I can give an ongoing voice to change the direction of Wisconsin. I believe we can and we will move Wisconsin forward in a progressive direction, which is why I will forever remain politically active.
The reason I am part of this film stems from my upbringing. My father used to say, ” Fight your own battles kids, no one else is going to fight them for you. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in”. He fought and nearly died for this country. Although his wounds were not visible, they were present each and every day. My father worked in a union auto factory and raised six children on a single income. Members of my grandmother’s family were abolitionists, and they gave their lives fighting for slaves to be free. When my grandfather “Curly” began working in an auto factory there was no union. He worked 12-14 hour shifts, manually pulling each car from station to station.
I met Amy as I was sitting on the Capitol steps tying my shoes, getting ready for my daily round of laps around the Capitol. Those walks always included the familiar chants of, “This is what democracy looks like! Recall Walker! Whose house? OUR HOUSE!” Amy approached me, and she asked if I was a teacher? I told her I was, and we began to talk. I asked her if she was a Tea Party supporter? She said she was not, and she explained that she was an independent filmmaker from California. She told me when she heard what was going on in Wisconsin she jumped on a plane. She wanted to witness the events first hand and document them on film. I was very impressed with Amy’s passion, and her desire to tell the stories of those who do not have a voice. After looking at her work I was convinced she would tell Wisconsin’s truth!! And, so our conversations began.
The passion I feel towards education, the great state of Wisconsin and knowing our progressive history is at stake, helped me to overcome my fears. Well, that and a tall stein of liquid Spotted Cow”. I understand a little better all those people who have come before us and have fought to preserve our nation and the freedoms we now enjoy. I can honestly say I now know what it feels like to stand up and fight for something you care deeply about. It is a life changing experience. One I will never forget and continue to fight. Although we have made progress from my ancestor’s time, we can never be asleep at the wheel of our democracy. We must all participate regardless of our political leanings. Our freedoms are not free! Our voices are!!
Thanks Amie for giving Wisconsin a voice.
Rachel Friedman isa 44 year-old social worker who supports people with cognitive, psychiatric and physical disabilities. Both her grandfathers were active union members. One was a union plumber in Cleveland, Ohio and his house was firebombed in 1938 during a series of attacks on union member households. Rachel has been an an activist for social justice since coming to Madison in 1985. She felt compelled to protest based on what her grandparents fought for and for her clients. Many of whom are not able to understand the devastating effects the budget cuts will have on their lives. Rachel’s personal and professional passion is, “speaking out for those who can’t.” Her partner, Mitch ,and his ten-year old daughter Sydney, are her daily inspiration to “do the next right thing”. Rachel took Sydney with her to Capitol on many occasions, using events as living lessons in history, politics and civil rights.
Brian Austin is a Madison police officer who became involved very early in the protests in response to what he viewed as an assault on the rights of the people he had taken an oath to protect. As founders of the “Cops For Labor” brigade, Brian and his coworkers worked long shifts on-duty around the Capital, and would return to protest as soon as their shifts ended. Brian slept overnight inside the Capital when it appeared the Walker administration was going to forcibly clear the building and cut off access to the “Peoples’ House.” Brian felt it was extremely important for the police, given their unique role in society, to speak out against the destructive agenda of the Walker administration and the wealthy special interests fueling this attack on labor. Brian and his fellow “Cops for Labor” found that their presence provided a sense of comfort and safety to the other protesters at the Capital. Brian’s wife Melissa was also an extremely active participant in the protests and the “Cops for Labor” movement.
In Brian’s own words: ”The first time we marched into the Capital rotunda with our “Cops for Labor” t-shirts and signs, we were overwhelmed by the emotional response we received from our fellow citizens who were there speak out against what was happening to their state. I realized at that moment that we, as off-duty police officers, had an extremely powerful and important voice in this debate. This was due, in part, to the fact that we are often viewed as part of the establishment and power structure, and part of it came from the fact that police unions were actuallyexempt from the provisions of this terrible legislation. Our vocal opposition to this bill, and to the horrifying budget the Republicans passed soon after, added credibility to the protests and a dimension that forced people to really critically examine what was happening in this state and across the country. This has been a life-changing event for me, and I am grateful Amie was there to capture it in such an incredible way.”
Candice Owlie is a 67-year old nurse who drove in from Milwaukee, and provided much needed medical care to the people sleeping inside the Capitol and those marching outside, due to close quarters and inclement weather. She has a grandmotherly-like nature but is tough-as-nails, having watched public health care deteriorate over time. Her personal turning point came when, negotiating a contract several years ago that would increase pension plans for nurses, a hospital administrator told her that nurses should just “marry better.”
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION TEAM
AMIE WILLIAMS, Director, Cinematographer
Amie graduated from UCLA’s MFA program in Film Production in 1992. Her award-winning work has focused on giving voice to the margins, while pushing filmic conventions. From labor unions to African AIDS orphans, Amie’s work drives creative ideologies shaped for a world in constant flux. Her work has broadcast on PBS, Al Jazeera English, BBC, and CBC, winning numerous awards, including the IDA David Wolper, Paul Robeson, SONY/Streisand Award for emerging female filmmakers, and the MacArthur Foundation Peace Grant. She was selected to participate in the 2007 Film Independent’s Director’s Lab for her first fiction film “JUA KALI, HARSH SUN” which she wrote, about an AIDS orphan in Kenya. This script was a finalist in the Ultimate Filmmakers Competition, sponsored by Filmmaker’s Alliance. She is the co-founder of Global Girl Media, a non-profit that trains under-served teenage girls in new media journalism, which launched during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. www.balmaidenfilms.com and www.globalgirlmedia.org
MARGERY TABANKIN- Executive Producer
As principal of Margery Tabankin & Associates, Marge provides consulting services that assist high net worth individuals in creating and implementing a vision for their philanthropy. Her firm also provides consulting services with regard to local, state and national political issues and candidates.
Marge has directed hundreds of millions of dollars in support of such key issues as civic engagement, the environment, Democratic values, Jewish life, interfaith understanding and co-existence in regions of conflict.
Having begun her activist career at age 17, while a student at the University of Wisconsin, Marge was deeply involved in civil rights activities. Marge earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1969. Later, in 1997, she was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Farleigh Dickinson University.
After college, Marge went on to Washington, D.C. to work on the Youth Citizenship Fund’s campaign to pass a Constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18 and, not long after, became the first woman president of the National Student Association.
Marge served as Director of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) under President Carter from 1977-1981.
From 1981 to 1988, Marge was Executive Director of the ARCA Foundation in Washington, D.C., a fund dedicated to supporting policy issues related to economic equity, civil rights, the environment and human rights.
As Executive Director of the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee (1988 to 1994), Marge helped to build an extremely effective and powerful women’s political organization, raising millions of dollars for progressive causes and candidates.
Marge remains active on the Board of Directors of several philanthropic foundations and non-profit organizations including the ARCA Foundation, the Discount Foundation, People for the American Way, The Institute for America’s Future and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.
DOUG PRAY, Executive Producer
Director Doug Pray’s exuberant portraits of subcultures and maverick individuals have led him to three Sundance premieres, critical raves, numerous awards, and worldwide distribution. His feature documentaries include: “Art & Copy,” “Surfwise,” “Big Rig,” “Infamy,” “Scratch,” and “Hype!” Doug has also directed dozens of commissioned short films and documentary-style commercials for a wide range of major clients, including an AIDS awareness campaign which won him an Emmy. He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, has a BA in sociology from Colorado College, and an MFA from the UCLA School of Film and Television. He lives in Los Angeles where he is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, The Directors Guild of America, and has served on the jury of numerous film festivals including Sundance, SXSW, AFI, Big Sky, and Silverdocs.
KATHRYN TAKIS, Producer
Kathryn has worked in film and television for the past 15 years rising in the ranks from production management to Executive Producer. She was part of the original team that helped create the groundbreaking docusoap, “Laguna Beach”. Trading in the beautiful California sunshine for the cold prairie, Kathryn spent 11 months in Greensburg, KS as Executive Producer on “Greensburg”, the 13 part documentary series chartering the devastation of the town by a tornado to the rebuilding of a green, sustainable community. “Greensburg” was Discovery’s flagship series in partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio’s company Appian Way that helped launch it’s Planet Green channel in 2009. Kathryn has also been Co-Executive Producer on MTV’s “Taking the Stage” a real life looks at Cincinnati’s School for the Performing Arts. She’s currently developing a documentary about the female Lawrence of Arabia, Gertrude Bell. Kathryn is a graduate of USC, a member of the Producer’s Guild, Women in Film and a proud board member of Global Girl Media.
ARLENE NELSON, Cinematographer
Arlene Nelson is an Emmy nominated, award winning, film, television and commercial cinematographer best known for her work on the documentary-style comedies of Christopher Guest. She shot Guests’ A Mighty Wind and did additional photography on For Your Consideration.
This year, Nelson earned an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming for her cinematography on the PBS American Masters documentary Troubadours: Carole King, James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter.
Nelson recently finished co-lensing Re: Generation, a documentary about remix culture and DJing featuring musical acts such as The Doors, Erykha Baddu and Mos Def. Other upcoming documentaries include Sunset Strip, directed by Hans Fjellestad and featuring talents such as Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, Slash, Billy Corgan, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheri Currie, Tommy Lee and Perry Farrell among others. She also lensed Documentary of a Yogi, a hybrid narrative/documentary film with Academy Award nominated director Paola Di Florio and co-director Lisa Leeman.
Between film projects, Nelson continues to shoot commercials. Her recent spots include a spot for Konami with director Jason Zada as well as commercials for clients such as Sears, Walgreens and National Geographic.
Nelson has traveled and worked on every continent in the world includingAntarctica. She lives with her husband and daughter inLos Angeles, where she is represented by Dattner Dispoto and Associates.
WILLIAM HAUGSE, Editor
William Haugse has been nominated in editing categories for both an Oscar (“Hoop Dreams”) and an Emmy (“Last Days of Kennedy and King” TBS), and received the American Cinema Editors top award among other prizes. He has edited scores of documentary features, and network and cable documentaries, including “Stevie” (Lionsgate) and “Sunset Story” (ITVS/PBS). His credits also include sixty or so of shorter films as director and/or editor, including his own 60 minute feature “Breakfast in Bed” starring John Ritter, which received multiple festival awards. He worked with Orson Welles and John Cassavetes editing shorter films, including making trailers for their films “F For Fake” and “Opening Night.” Other editing work includes the Universal feature “Cattle Annie and Little Britches” featuring Rod Steiger and Diane Lane and “Paul’s Case” starring Eric Roberts. During the past year, he has worked on films about animal abuse, a miners’ strike in California, and, in New York City, a feature documentary about two young men seeking success in the world of magic. He just completed work on a heroine of 9/11 who turns out to be an imposter.
Haugse graduated from the UCLA Film School, after which he worked on short films and documentaries for Churchill Films, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and others; repeatedly winning festival recognition.
He has lived and worked in Los Angeles, Oregon, New York City and Chicago (where he engaged not only in filmmaking but also writing and directing in live theater). He has worked on films in Switzerland, Egypt, Bali and India. Upon the nomination of the editing for “Hoop Dreams” for an Academy Award, he returned to Los Angeles from Chicago, where he has remained.
Since 1996 he has been a member of the professional editors honorary ACE
GARRON CHANG, Composer
After finishing his studies at the renown Peabody Institute for Classical music andJohnsHopkinsUniversityfor audio engineering, Garron moved toLos Angelesto start his Masters degree in Classical guitar atUniversityofSouthern California. Soon afterwards, he was performing on live Classical radio and Classical venues such as LACMA and USC. He began composing for television commercials which led to scoring for television and film. Garron’s music has been played on KCRW and he has collaborated with various artists including Bruno Mars, Tricky, and DJ Z-Trip. He has garnered awards and recognitions including: AICP award, Addy award, New York Festival finalist award, Ad Critic, Adweek, and received 1st place standing in Shoot magazine’s top 10 music tracks for summer of 2007.
MELISSA AUSTIN, Associate Producer/Photographer
Melissa comes to this project directly from the front lines of the struggle for worker’s rights inWisconsin. Melissa has a diverse background, with experience in law enforcement, the private sector, and non-profit foundations. In addition to a labor and human rights activist, she is currently a professional photographer and social media expert. Melissa has also spent the last 10 years raising three wonderful children.
MATTHEW WISNIEWSKI, Additional Cinematography
Matthew Wisniewski is a 25-year-old award winning photographer, videographer and public employee in Madison, WI. Matt received a bachlor’s degree in Journalism while pursuing his love of photojournalism. After working for the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Magazine and the Janesville Gazette, Matt won the 2008 WNPA’s College Photographer of the Year award. He now works for the University of Wisconsin as a graphic designer, web designer, photographer and videographer.
AARON NEVILLE, Contributing Musician
Aaron is a well-known American, soul and R&B singer and musician. He made his debut in 1966 with the hit single “Tell It Like It Is,” a Number One hit on the Billboard R&B charts. In 1989, Neville collaborated with Linda Ronstadt and their album, “Cry Like A Rainstorm” reached Number One on the Adult Contemporary charts. Neville has released more than 20 singles, including three Number Ones on the Adult Contemporary format, and a fourth on the R&B format. Of mixed African American and Native American heritage, his music also features Cajun and Creole influences. Known for a member of the Neville Brothers, he is married to Sarah Friedman, the sister of a Wisconsin social worker, Rachel Friedman and has agreed to record signature songs for use in this film!
JOHN NICHOLS, Advisor
Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers. Nichols is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. He was featured in Robert Greenwald’s documentary, “Outfoxed,” and in the documentaries Joan Sekler’s “Unprecedented.” Author of The Genius of Impeachment (The New Press); a critically acclaimed analysis of the Florida recount fight of 2000, Jews for Buchanan (The New Press); and a best-selling biography of Vice President Dick Cheney, Dick: The Man Who is President (The New Press), which has recently been published in French and Arabic. He edited Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books), of which historian Howard Zinn said: “At exactly the time when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift–a collection of writings, speeches, poems, and songs from throughout American history–that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country.” Of Nichols, author Gore Vidal says: “Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert, John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest.”
PAUL BOOTH, Advisor
Executive Assistant to AFSCME President, Gerald McEntee, Paul Booth was a leader in the 1960s at the beginning of the student movement as National Secretary of Students for a Democratic Society, the largest organization of the emerging youth movement. In 1965 he directed the first march on Washington, D.C against the War in Vietnam and issued the statement to “build not burn” and organized the first sit-in at the Chase Manhattan Bank exposing it as a “partner in Apartheid.” As an organizer, he led the campaign to unionize the Chicago’s city workers.
Our partnership with Public Interest Pictures
By Amie Williams |October 25, 2011·
Public Interest Pictures is a producing partner of “We are Wisconsin”.
Public Interest Pictures produces award-winning documentary films that inform the public and foster social change. Using true stories to start discussions and open minds, our modest films have won festival honors and an Emmy nod. Our documentaries have aired on HBO, [...]
Public Interest Pictures is a producing partner of “We are Wisconsin”.
Public Interest Pictures produces award-winning documentary films that inform the public and foster social change. Using true stories to start discussions and open minds, our modest films have won festival honors and an Emmy nod. Our documentaries have aired on HBO, Sundance Channel, and other networks both domestic and international. PIP has partnered in production and outreach with organizations such as NAACP, ACLU, and People For the American Way, and our films are widely used in classrooms. Public Interest Pictures is not just a documentary company — documentaries are an extension of our activism.
Margery Tabankin, founding partner of Public Interest Pictures and Executive Producer of ”We are Wisconsin” graduated from UW Madison in 1969 and was featured in the Academy Award winning documentary “The War at Home”.
Happy 4th of July Wisconsin
By Amie Williams On July 5, 2011
These are clips from the film WE ARE WISCONSIN, featuring the “People’s Microphone” set up inside the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda during a 26-day occupation in February/March 2011, when Wisconsin residents and friends, challenging their Governor’s anti-union and anti-democracy legislation. We made this short video to celebrate Independence Day.