Local Talent

Filmmaker Mary Sweeney looks to Baraboo

For most of the year, Los Angeles is home for acclaimed filmmaker Mary Sweeney. It’s where she works, both making movies and teaching at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

But when summer arrives, the Madison native comes home. It’s an annual transition she eagerly anticipates. “In addition to the weather change, it’s a fantastic cultural change,” she says. “I have a simpler life.”

Maintaining a foot in each world has allowed Sweeney to represent locations and characters of the Midwest with an authenticity many filmmakers lack. “My hope is to make people very real and three-dimensional,” she says. “L.A. and New York are much sexier—but not to me, of course.”

Her latest project, Baraboo, let Sweeney put her philosophy into action. Shot in Devil’s Lake by a Madison crew, the film features actors from Madison, Milwaukee and Spring Green who play six eclectic permanent residents of a Baraboo lodge.

“It’s a quiet drama about regular Wisconsin people,” she says.

The film represents a first in Sweeney’s thirty-year career (which includes work on Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks): In addition to writing, producing and editing the movie, she’s also directing it. “It’s flat-out, no doubt about it, my movie.”

While Baraboo won’t be part of this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival, a wide range of movies will be screened at downtown theaters April 2–5. For the schedule, visit wifilmfest.org.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine. Read her A&E blog Liberal Arts.

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